Early Bird Breakdown Week 3: Packers @ Bengals
Early Bird Breakdown Week 3: Packers @ Bengals
Continuing the on-going series of early morning Packer game previews, we first take a quick look back at last week’s contest:
The Good: The Offense
A cop out? Not when James Jones goes from zero catches against San Francisco to eleven for 178 yards. Or when James Starks snapped a 44 game streak for Green Bay without a 100 yard rusher, running it 20 times for 132 yards. And on top of that, Rodgers tied the Green Bay Packers record for most yards in a game. It was also the first time in Packers history they had a passer throw for four hundred and a runner rush for 100. Throw in another 100 yard game and a touchdown for Cobb, two touchdowns from Nelson, and even Finley getting into the end zone and it is pretty apparent the whole offense was in rhythm.
The Bad: RGIII in the first half
Robert Griffin III’s final numbers are actually good against Green Bay. A QB rating of 104.2, 320 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception is normally a pretty good day. Where the numbers lie though is that RGIII did most of his damage after the game was far out of hand. His play was sloppy in the first half, leading to a 24-0 half time deficit. Part way into the third quarter down now 31-0, a combination of the defense loosening up and RGIII turning on the switch created a slight come back. The redskins began moving drives and finishing with touchdowns but it was too little too late for them. RGIII does not look mentally 100% after coming back from that knee injury.
The Ugly: More injuries
Speaking of injuries, as if the loss of both Burnett and Hayward were not enough, second round pick Eddie Lacy went down on his first carry of the game to a concussion. Ultimately, Starks carried the team to victory but at the time looked like the Packers could have been in a more one-dimensional mindset when he went down. Before the season the week four bye week seemed like a curse, now seems a blessing as the Packers could use a week of rest.
How I did:
“31-24 victory.” – that was my prediction for the game last week. I gave Washington a bit too much credit it seems, as I thought RGIII would keep pace with Rodgers more than he did. Hopefully, I can continue to make good (or lucky) guesses to make me appear somewhat intelligent.
Cincinnati rebounded Monday night against the Steelers after a difficult loss in Chicago where they essentially choked the game away. The fierce Cincinnati front terrorized Roethlisberger all game, though only managed to bring him down twice for a sack. Offensively, Cincinnati still has not fully clicked. Boasting arguably the best tight-end combination in the game, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham, along with one of the three best wide receivers in the game, AJ Green, the team should be firing on all cylinders. Andy Dalton is playing fine, so it isn’t necessarily due to quarterback play but I feel this offense could be a powder keg waiting to explode.
Packers Offense vs. Bengals Defense:
The entire offense was on fire last week, and they will need to keep the momentum going into Cincinnati, but this defense is much closer to San Francisco’s than Washington’s. Led by star defensive tackle Geno Atkins, this is probably the best collective defensive line in the NFL. The outsides are manned by two freakish athletes in Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, and defensive tackle Domata Peko would be most teams’ top defensive lineman but next to arguably the best tackle in Atkins, he plays second fiddle in one heck of a string band. Adam “Pacman” Jones has been on fire in his fourth season in Cincinnati. And last year undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict lived up to his pre-senior season hype by being a force in the middle for Cincinnati. In 2012 while Burfict was on the field, opponents were held to 3.1 yards per carry (4.5 when he was off).
Basically to summarize, the defense is loaded at all levels. This will be a difficult test for the offensive line most of all. As good as Cincinnati’s corners are playing, the Packers receivers are hotter and most likely Cobb won’t be matched against either of the two top dogs. The linebackers will look for the Packers to start a new streak of keeping a rusher below 100 yards but are not quite as adept against the pass leaving openings for Finley and Cobb. If Green Bay can keep Rodgers upright, he will get Green Bay multiple touchdowns; this defense lives and dies on its pass rush.
Packers Defense vs. Bengals Offense:
Green Bay is still recovering from Anquan Boldin’s monster day two weeks ago and Washington’s top receiver Pierre Garcon had a great game (8 catches, 143 yards, and 1 TD) against this secondary. AJ Green is probably going to have his way with the Packers, and recent trends say there isn’t much the team will do about it. What Green Bay can do though is force Cincinnati to be one dimensional. The Bengals have not been particularly good or efficient this season running the ball. Alfred Morris had a great game against Green Bay but Alfred Morris is a very good back, Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard has shown flashes but no one has been consistently great and Green Bay has a chance to be as dominant against the ground as they were against San Francisco. This is also the first time all season the Packers are not playing a mobile quarterback, though Dalton can escape the pocket for decent yards if it is open.
So far this season, the Packers pass rush, namely Matthews, has been very strong at getting to the quarterback but Andy Dalton has been pretty spotless thanks to the Bengal’s offensive line. He has been sacked just once all season. Green Bay will need to get some hits in on Dalton to throw off his timing to his freakish tight ends or his dynamic receiver.
The Weather Factor:
The game looks to be played in perfect conditions. The sun is supposed to be shining, the temperature in the low-to-mid 60s. Outside of the turf, it will feel like playing in a dome for Rodgers, which is when he is at his best.
Cincinnati is a very good team. They have a top-tier defense, a good quarterback with great weapons, and a good offensive line. Green Bay should have a better showing against the run, forcing Dalton to win the game with his arm. AJ Green will give the Packers headaches and keep the game close. For Green Bay, I see Rodgers continuing from last week and distributing the ball to the whole group. Cincinnati plays a tight man-to-man defense and if the Packers line gives Rodgers time, the receivers will squeak tiny openings that Rodgers will fit the ball into for some long drives to work the clock. Starks (or if healthy Lacy) will churn out probably about 65-75 yards rushing on twenty carries to give the team enough balance (and the team overall around 100) to keep Cincinnati honest but the Burfict and crew will not let Green Bay run wild like last week. This is going to be a tight one throughout but in crunch time Rodgers will get it done more likely than Dalton. Final score, Green Bay 28-Cincinatti 20.