Cincinnati at Baltimore, Week One
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Sunday, 1 p.m.
On one side we have Ocho Cinco. On the other we have Oh-No-Flacco.
With his legal name change to Chad Ocho Cinco, the former Chad Johnson's year-long fly route from entertaining to boorish has buttonhooked. Johnson's latest, zaniest publicity stunt is lovable if for nor other reason than forcing the NFL, which so relentlessly and humorlessly polices its players' on-field appearance, to license jerseys that bear a made-up name written in pidgin Spanish.
Less likely to be laughing is poor, put-upon Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis, who has grown so frustrated with his star wideout that he has referred to him as "Ocho Psycho." This on top of losing starting fullback Jeremi Johnson for the season to a knee injury suffered earlier last week (converted tight end Dan Coats will start at fullback against Ray Lewis and Co.); cutting former workhorse running back Rudi Johnson; and owner Mike Brown's support of the recent re-signing suspended wide receiver Chris Henry against Lewis's wishes.
There are far fewer hijinks in Baltimore, at least until the offense takes the field. Joe Flacco will start at quarterback in his NFL debut, even though he didn't win the job, he simply made it through training camp: veteran Kyle Boller's career with the team might be over after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and second-year Troy Smith came down with a tonsil infection. That leaves Flacco, who so far has looked for the most part like your average overwhelmed rookie.
Flacco will be protected, or at least warned, by an offensive line that was hamstrung by injuries during the preseason and has yet to find a suitable replacement for retired tackle Jonathan Ogden (though free agent Willie Anderson, a former Bengals Pro Bowler, agreed to a contract yesterday). Flacco also faces uncertainty behind him, as running back Willis McGahee has practiced little since knee surgery last month and could be a game-time decision.
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