Friday, September 20, 2013

Preview: Packers at Bengals

This is an interesting bit of trivia, and it started a tremendous run of success for the Green Bay Packers, but once it's over I'll go back to writing about the upcoming game.
The Bengals are in the AFC's middle class, they've made it to the playoffs and lost in the first round in each of the last two seasons, and they have the potential to become a Super Bowl contender. But after a road loss to the Bears and a home win against the Steelers (who have major issues on offense), I'm not sure where that leaves them. They have Wild Card potential but I'm not sure whether they're good enough to beat a playoff caliber team. Here are the team rankings courtesy of Football Outsiders:

Team Pass Offense Pass Defense Run Offense Run Defense
Packers 2 32 3 16
Bengals 13 19 8 11

I expect everyone saw RB James Starks run all over an overmatched Redskins' D last week, and of course QB Aaron Rodgers is outstanding. However, I'm not expecting a repeat performance from Starks next Sunday. The run defense is mediocre, but the big problem is their pass defense. While the advanced stats rank them as the worst, it's not much better with the traditional stats; the Packers have a QB rating of 116.6 against them. Too many touchdown passes allowed, far too few INTs (only Mike Neal, MIKE NEAL, has an INT this season) and only three sacks.

Outside of LB Clay Matthews against the 49ers (he struggled against Trent Williams last week) the Packers aren't getting any pass rush. Something has to change, and Matthews might have a relatively quiet game again this week because Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth is pretty good. The pass defense shouldn't expect the return of either S Morgan Burnett or CB Casey Hayward, but hopefully we've seen the last of the poorly designed zone scheme in Week 1 and the play everyone on the roster in the secondary strategy of Week 2. Plus, a lot of CB Tramon Williams on WR A.J. Green might have the same effect of slowing him down as the Steelers had last week with CB Ike Taylor on him.

I'd be a little bit more concerned about the Bengals running game, but they keep giving most of the carries to RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead of dynamic rookie RB Giovani Bernard. Hopefully that trend keeps up for another week.

While the Bengals defense gets props for having players like LB Michael Johnson and DT Geno Atkins, it's rankings are average considering they've only played against one decent offense. Johnson has been on a tear over the first two games, so hopefully the offensive line can continue it's streak of one good game in a row that began last week. The optimist in me sees a line that's been completely re-shuffled, no one was starting or starting in the same position they were in a year ago, and their communication on stunts and blitz pickups should only improve during the year.

This seems like the perfect place for a let down game, on the road against a quality team right before the bye week, so I'm not as confident as usual. Even if the Packers get the early lead, the Bengals have enough fire power to comeback, so I expect it will be a close one.

Packers 23, Bengals 21.

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