CINCINNATI — If Limas Sweed holds onto the ball in the end zone or Joe Flacco hits his wide-open receiver down the sideline, nobody is talking about the Cincinnati Bengals as a surprise team. They'd be back in the pack, trying to catch up to the big boys.
Sweed dropped it. Flacco overthrew it. And everyone in the AFC North is chasing Cincinnati, a team that's sitting in first place because of a newfound knack for living on the edge.
The Bengals (4-1) have been the NFL's ultimate high-wire act. Every one of their games has come down to the final 22 seconds. All but once, the final ticks have gone their way. A 17-14 victory in Baltimore on Sunday left the Bengals in sole possession of first place with their best start in four years.
Real? Or mirage?
The Bengals acknowledge that there's luck involved. If Sweed catches the ball in the third quarter, the Steelers are in control and likely headed for another win. If Flacco gets the ball to Mark Clayton with less than three minutes left on Sunday, there's no room for Carson Palmer's brilliance.
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KENT, Ohio — The majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers is defending a plan to put casinos in four Ohio cities.
Dan Gilbert is a chief investor in the proposal. He will face an opponent during a televised debate Monday at Kent State University.
Rob Walgate, vice president of the Ohio Roundtable policy group, will represent opponents of Issue 3, a ballot issue that if approved would change Ohio's Constitution and allow one casino in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
The debate will be taped at 4 p.m. and will air at 10 p.m. on ONN-TV, a news station that is available on cable systems in most Ohio counties.
Supporters of the November ballot amendment say casinos will create 34,000 jobs, while opponents say it will also cause jobs to be lost and would establish a lower tax rate than other states have for their casinos.
MINNEAPOLIS — A packaged ice company has agreed to pay a $9 million criminal fine for allegedly conspiring with a competitor to divide up the ice market in the Detroit area and southeastern Michigan.
The Justice Department says St. Paul, Minn.-based Arctic Glacier International Inc. is the second company to plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from an ongoing investigation into the packaged ice industry. Home City Ice Co. of Cincinnati pleased guilty in June 2008.
The Justice Department says three of Arctic Glacier's former executives also reached plea deals.
The charges against Arctic Glacier and the three former executives were filed under seal Sept. l0 and unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Cincinnati.
FAIRFIELD, Ohio — Police say a man and woman found dead in an SUV parked at a southwest Ohio day care center had both been shot in the head.
The bodies were discovered by a lawn care worker inside the vehicle outside Jelly Bean Junction Learning Centers at around 9:15 a.m., about three hours after the day care center opened.
Fairfield police Lt. Kevin Haddix says there were no other injuries and all the children are safe at the center some 20 miles north of Cincinnati.
The SUV was parked next to a trash bin about a dozen spaces from the front door and in front of a playground. Parents are allowed to pick up their children, but others are still at the center Monday afternoon.
The victims' identities haven't been released and it's not clear if they had any affiliation with the day-care center.
NEW YORK — The Big East now has a bowl in its backyard.
A Big East team will face a team from the Big 12 at Yankee Stadium in a new bowl game after the 2010 season.
The conferences and the New York Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to a four-year deal to play the first bowl in the Bronx since 1962.
The Big East, which has always considered New York its home turf, will send either its third or fourth selection to the yet-to-be-named bowl game. The Big 12 will send its seventh selection to play in the new $1.5 billion stadium.
If the Big 12 does not have enough bowl eligible teams, Notre Dame has agreed to take its place, providing it is available.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is once again trying to clarify what the long-established Miranda rights require the police to do, with the justices on Wednesday agreeing to decide whether officers can interrogate a suspect who said he understood his rights but didn't invoke them.
The high court agreed to hear an appeal from Michigan prosecutors who had their conviction of Van Chester Thompkins thrown out by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because police kept talking to Thompkins after reading him his rights – despite Thompkins not verbally agreeing to invoke or withdraw his Miranda rights.
Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.
The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering "yes," "no," "I don't know," nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for "shooting that boy down," Thompkins said, "Yes."
He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.
If your normally reliable fantasy football stars are struggling, you can probably blame somebody who wasn't on any preseason draft board: linemen.
The early season failures of this normally anonymous bunch is getting the notice of fantasy geeks everywhere, especially owners of Aaron Rodgers. He's been sacked an NFL-worst 10 times and hit a bunch more. Kurt Warner was flawless against the terrible Jags, but the week before his line couldn't stop anybody. Numerous others have looked far from comfy in the pocket.
It's not just quarterbacks who've been regularly confronted by unblocked defenders. First-round picks Steve Slaton (51 yards, 2.0 yards per carry) and Matt Forte (84 yards, 2.2 yards a carry) haven't sniffed the end zone. Willie Parker has 66 yards while tiptoeing for 2.4 yards per carry. Kevin Smith was decent last week, bringing his average up to 2.6 yards a pop.
The good news is, this surely can't last. After all, many struggling lines are the same ones that did well last year and their coaches should adjust. By now coaches are figuring out which 350-pounders need more help or need benching, so it seems safe to assume most of them will fix the problems.
As you wonder how much longer Rodgers can remain upright, here are some players to start and some to avoid in Week 3: