While I am definitely NOT a believer that the Bengals are as good of a team as many football pundits seem to think – I am finding after a couple weeks that I may need to revise my preseason picks for the AFC North. I picked Pitt to win the division – what is going on there? (I do think they’ll win this week though.) Balt to finish second – they don’t even resemble last year’s Super Bowl champion team. The Cleve third – they’ve clearly given up on the year already, dealing Trent Richardson like that. And then I picked Cincy to finish last. While I’m not sure as of this moment that I truly believe Cincy will finish last, I do think they are only playing OK now because everyone THINKS they are supposed to be good, not because they really are good. Soon the real Bengals will come out and mediocrity with reign.
For as long as he’s been a head coach, I have believed Marvin Lewis is one of those guys with a limit as to how far he can take a team. In this way, I think of him like I thought of Norv Turner, Wade Phillips, Lovie Smith and Mary Shottenheimer – for the entirety of their careers I never once believed they could win a championship. (Sorry, just learned that Shottenheimer did win a championship – the 2011 UFL Championship, as coach of the Virginia Destroyers…after playing a shortened 4 game regular season for which Shottenheimer got paid $0 despite a personal guarantee by the team owner of a $1.1 million salary.) But what makes the situation in Cincy particularly odd, is that I see Andy Dalton as the opposite of Marvin Lewis – a guy with the tools mentally and physically to win championships. Maybe I just can’t let go of how incredibly poised and effective Dalton was in his dismantling of the Badgers in the 2011 Rose Bowl. I’m not sure. But the bottom line is that I can see Dalton winning a Super Bowl some day, but I absolutely can’t see it happening with Marvin Lewis in charge.
The Bengals didn’t look especially good last Monday vs the Steelers. Neither team in fact looked good. Ugly game.
Dalton relies too heavily on AJ Green. The guy is super talented and a great option and he may quietly be the league’s best WR. But in the first two games, Dalton has thrown to Green 14 times and 13 times respectively – for a total of 27 targets. That is a lot of targets in 2 games. When there is a nearly 35% chance Dalton’s going to throw to Green, a defense should be able to do SOMETHING to slow that down.
The above point made, the TEs for Cincy are also quite involved in the passing game. Jermaine Gresham has had 14 targets in 2 games and promising rookie Tyler Eifert has had 10 targets – for a total of 24 TE targets. So if he’s not throwing to Green, Dalton will probably be throwing to his TEs.
Interestingly, Dalton does not appear to be interested in throwing to his RBs (Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard), as they have a total of 4 catches in 2 games.
Dalton has thrown the ball 78 times in 2 games to 48 rushing attempts – so the balance of plays definitely favors the pass.
I think the Packers need to jump out to an early lead again in this game. I keep saying that I know but I just think for this particular Packer team, playing with the lead is WAY more important than it has been for years. Playing catch-up, even with Rodgers at the helm, will be a particular problem for our defense.
I would like to see James Starks go nuts Sunday. Yes, last week was nice and he totally deserves all of the praise thrown his way for being the team’s 1st 100 yard rusher in what seems like decades. But to me, this week is the true test. I think strange/outlier type things can happen once in a great while but to go right back and duplicate his effort would indicate something legit may be brewing. I never thought Starks was a BAD running back, but I’ve just never thought he has the moves to set him apart from the “just another guy” category. If Starks can go into Cincy and do some damage on the ground for the second week in a row, we could be seeing the start of a very important development for this team – the addition of a long-missing offensive dimension.
I think Cincy will do well putting pressure on Rodgers but I also think in the end, Rodgers will carve them up.
The Bengals do have a couple CBs who can play (or at least have shown they could play in the past) in Terrance Newman (former Cowboy) and Leon Hall. But with 4 Packer receivers/Finely to have to worry about plus now Starks catching some balls – I think the Bengal defense will be overwhelmed.
I worry some that if Cincy gets its running game going and can manage to control the clock (assuming they are not TOO far behind), they could pull out a victory.
But I don’t think that happens. While I’m still iffy on the 2013 Packers, I’m far iffier on the 2013 Bengals.
I think the AFC North is turning out to be one of the worst divisions in the league this year (along with the NFC East). The Ravens barely beat (at home) a pretty bad Browns team. The Steelers are surprisingly bad, and the Browns have clearly (already) given up on the season. I think it’s probably going to fall out Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Browns, with probably only the division winner going to the playoffs.
Offensively, the Bengals have been pretty one-dimensional. Take away A.J. Green (and to a lesser extent Gresham) and their passing game dries up. Stop BJGE as well, and their ability to move the ball at all is gone.
In spite of the fact that the Bengals have (at least for now) emerged from their long funk of awful football, I still think they’re on the lower tier of playoff caliber teams (possibly, as you say, because M.Lewis just can’t take them any further). I think it’s likely the Packer offense can pick apart the holes in their defense, and this game has the potential to be over by halftime.
1. I’d be surprised if Starks averaged over 3.5 yards per carry. I just don’t see our offensive line opening holes and getting to the second level against this Bengals d-line line they did against the Redskins.
2. I’d be surprised if Dalton doesn’t throw for over 300 yards. Green is a top tier target and they have two TE’s that will eat up our ILB’s and back-up safeties. The Packer D would need a tremendous amount of pressure on Dalton to prevent a big passing day by him. Nick Perry and Datone Jones….it is time to show your value.
3. I’d be surprised if our offense puts up over 30 pts. This Cincy defense is well coached, talented, and plays well at home. Couple all that with a balanced Bengals offense that can chew clock and I just think 30 pts might be tough.
Things in the Packers favor: Cincy on a short week and a bit banged up in the secondary. Dalton a bit clod footed and good for one bonehead play a game. I’m expecting a close game. Turnovers and field position will be huge. Packers in a squeaker….27-24 in OT.