Posted: 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013
By Mark Sandritter
The Packers and the Bengals are both coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and are 1-1 after season-opening losses. One team will get over .500 for the first time this season while the loser of Sunday's game will be forced to dig out of a 1-2 hole.
Sunday's game will be a battle of contrasting styles. Green Bay has had some defensive issues this season, but makes up for them with a prolific offense. While Cincinnati has a capable offense, the strength of the Bengals is their stout defense. The battle of strength vs. strength should make for an interesting game at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati could easily be 2-0 if not for some late-game issues in its Week 1 24-21 loss to Chicago. The Bengals rebounded last week with a 20-10 win against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati's defense played well against the Steelers, limiting Pittsburgh to 278 total yards.
Offensively, Cincinnati could take a major step forward if it improves on finishing drives with points. The Bengals are 12th in the NFL in yards per game, but 18th in points. The Bengals racked up 407 yards against Pittsburgh, but just two of their 12 drives lasted longer than eight plays. More effective games from Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could help that cause. Dalton completed 25 of 45 attempts against the Steelers, and Green caught six passes on 14 targets with tight coverage from Ike Taylor. Green Bay's defense hasn't been as effective as Pittsburgh's, so Green and Dalton may find more success this week.
There aren't many questions about the Packers' offense. Green Bay is leading the league in yards, averaging 482.5 yards per game. Even with rookie Eddie Lacy going down early in last week's game, James Starks filled in and provided a solid rushing attack. If Starks is able to continue that success, the Packers are a defensive coordinator's nightmare.
The question for Green Bay is can the defense keep up? Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers shredded Green Bay in Week 1. The Packers did a better job against Robert Griffin III and Washington last week, but still allowed 422 total yards and 7.3 yards per play. The Packers won't have to deal with the threat of a mobile quarterback this week, we'll see if that's enough to help them stow the Bengals' offense.
Rookie Giovani Bernard scored twice last week and could begin to see an increased role. Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle detailed how that may be a good thing for the Bengals:
Against the Steelers, Bernard touched the football nine times for 65 yards from scrimmage (7.2 yards/play) while scoring the team's long touchdowns. Green-Ellis touched football 23 times for 80 yards from scrimmage (3.5 yard/play), just under half of Bernard's production. The rotation and split participation should help the team later in the season.
Slowing down Green isn't easy for any team. The Packers have had issues in the secondary and Brendan Kennedy of Acme Packing Company said the Green Bay safeties will be key against Green and Cincinnati:
Based on the way the Packers secondary made Pierre Garcon and Anquan Boldin look, fantasy owners of A.J. Green must be salivating at this matchup. Perhaps rightfully so. Green is the Bengals most explosive offensive weapon and both him and quarterback Andy Dalton like to take shots down the field. Because of that, the Packers safeties should see a number of big play attempts come their way this Sunday. And while Garcon and Boldin were fine WR's in their own right, Green is an entirely different beast. If the safeties can keep him from getting over the top, it should go a long way in limiting the Bengals offense as a whole.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Never thought I'd ever tweet this... so here goes. Bengals respond to backlash for Katy Perry's roar http://t.co/Rmvycu5mhL— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) September 20, 2013
Why the Packers MUST take care of business against the AFC North this year: http://t.co/GQLuzvQbGL— Acme Packing Company (@acmepackingco) September 19, 2013
@joereedy - Bengals beat writer
Have to admit, I have a newfound respect for a kicker who gets called for a horse collar tackle— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) September 20, 2013
@TyDunne - Packers beat writer
Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least three touchdown passes in his last five regular season games, going back to last year. It's a good bet that he'll make it six this week. Cincinnati's offense isn't going to match that the way it's playing this season. The AFC North has really turned out to be underwhelming, so far anyway.
The pick: Green Bay
Despite being on the road, Green Bay opened as a 1-1/2-point favorite, according to Odds Shark.
The Bengals will be back on the road, traveling to Cleveland to take on the Browns.
Green Bay will get an extended break following Sunday's game with a Week 4 bye.