CINCINNATI -- With the regular season now in its final act, we've been examining each Friday since Week 14 just what we'd like to see particular Cincinnati Bengals players or position groups do with the remainder of the season.
We started three weeks ago by offering four things we'd like to see receiver A.J. Green do over the season's final four games. The Friday after, we looked at the three things we wanted to see quarterback Andy Dalton do across his final three games. Last week, we talked about the defense. This week, it's all about linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Upon a quick review of the nine things I've so far said I wanted to see before the regular season ended, five have happened (Green has had another multi-touchdown game, he has dueled with Ike Taylor, Dalton has played more consistently and has found Green more regularly, and the defense will finish the year with three -- or more -- interceptions in the final two games) and another two still have a chance to take place (Dalton is one game shy of the two additional 300-yard passing performances that were requested, and the Bengals' defense is one game shy of holding another team under 300 yards of total offense). OK, so some of those are subjective and not absolute, but it's hard to claim Dalton hasn't played better lately and that Green's second round with Taylor went better than the first.
All of that aside for now, though, here is the one thing I'd like to see Burfict do in this final regular-season game:
Record 13 tackles. OK, first things first. There is a little uncertainty this Friday about whether Burfict will end up playing in Sunday's game. He missed nearly all of the week with a concussion that he picked up late in the third quarter last week. Friday's practice was the only one in which he was cleared to go through in a full capacity. Even still, he was listed as questionable on the injury report the Bengals provided Friday afternoon. So, having said that, it could be a challenge for Burfict to even get on the field to see this request this to fruition.
Still, knowing Burfict, one has to almost assume that he'll be taking the field with the rest of the Bengals on Sunday. He's been banged up before this season (even though concussions are much different deals than nagging injuries), and he's found a way to will himself to play through the pain anyway. As long as he's not under protocol, expect to see him play. If he plays, the one thing I'd like to see out of him is a 13-tackle day. Yes, that's a lot, but that's what makes this one thing, one game post fun.
If Burfict hits 13 tackles, he'll finish the regular season with 170, according to ESPN's stats module. He already has set a franchise record with the six he had last week against the Vikings. Since the tackle was first tracked in 1976, the Bengals had only had one other player top 150 in a single season in their history. Tim Krumrie had 151 in 1988, the last year the Bengals went to the Super Bowl. Burfict entered last week's game tied with Krumrie.
Can Burfict, healthy or not, get the 13 on Sunday? Absolutely. Here's why.
Through 15 games, he's averaging 10.5 tackles a game. He's had 13 or more tackles five times this season and boasts a 10.5 tackles-per-game average. His 157 tackles comprise 18.2 percent of all the Bengals' stops this season.
The only real stumbling blocks for him are his injury and his comparatively lacking play two of the last three weeks. The key word there is "comparatively." By his standards, the eight tackles three weeks ago against Indianapolis were too low, and the six last week against Minnesota were, as well. His double-digit average, makes it seem like anything less than a 10 in the tackles column after a game is an insult. For most people, six or eight tackles in a game is admirable.