The Green Bay Packers will face a tough challenge in Cincinnati this week. The Bengals have been a Wild Card playoff team the past two years and have a strong core of young, talented players on their roster. Some NFL analysts have even picked Cincinnati to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year.
The Bengals are definitely not a team the Packers should overlook on Sunday. For the third week in a row, the Packers offensive line will face another good pass rushing team. The defense will have their hands full defending Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and the young tight end duo of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. And for the first time this season, the Packers will face a true pocket quarterback.
Overall, the Bengals will be a good test for the Packers.
We asked Jason a few questions about what to expect from the Bengals this weekend, and here is what he had to say.
Enjoy his insight.
Packers vs. Bengals Q&A
1) The Bengals are off to a 1-1 start. They appear to be a young ascending team. What are your expectations of them this year?
I keep my expectations of the team fairly low, considering they typically struggle when the spotlight is on them, and when they enter a season with the kind of hype they were getting this preseason, they often fail to come close to loving up to expectations. At first, I was hoping for the team to finish the year with a winning record and another playoff berth. After seeing the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers take significant steps back this year, I fully expect this team now to rise up and lay claim to the AFC North crown.
Once they do that, they’ll be hosting a playoff game, and it shouldn’t be against anyone that the Bengals can’t overcome at home.
In all, my hopes are that this team can win double-digit games, claim the AFC North, and win a playoff game.
2) What do the Bengals need to do to win on Sunday?
Play almost flawless football. They can’t turn the ball over, and they can’t have over 80+ yards of penalties again like they’ve done through the first two games. They have to convert at least 50% of their third-downs in order to maintain long offensive possessions and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.
Dalton has to play like he did in Week 1 when he torched the Chicago Bears’ secondary while avoiding costly interceptions against a ball-hawking Packers secondary.
They also have to rush for 120+ yards and convert all of their redzone opportunities. They can’t leave points on the field, and have to take advantage of every turnover or good field-position they get to start a possession.
Basically, they have to play mistake-free football against a Packers team among the NFL’s elite.
3) If you were the Packers, what would you do to stop the Bengals’ talented offense?
Double A.J. Green and force Dalton to beat me by throwing to other receivers. B.J. Raji has to hold his own on the interior and help ground the resurgent Bengals running game.
4) Give us a Bengals player on each side of the ball that Green Bay will need to game plan for on Sunday.
Offense: A.J. Green
Defense: Geno Atkins
5) What have been the biggest surprises with this Bengals team in the first two weeks of the season?
The play of the offensive line against two good blitzing teams in the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. The play of Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker is noticeably better than it was last year.
The only disappointment is the teams’ pass rushers only having two sacks through two weeks after nearly leading the league last year.
6) In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this team?
The pass-rush is the greatest strength, though I don’t think they’ve showed their full potential through their first two games. Against a pretty banged-up Packers o-line, this could the week they explode for 3-5 sacks.
Their biggest weakness is their offensive consistency. Against the Bears in Week 1, they scored 24 points, but turned the ball over three times and gave the game away. This past week, they scored 20 points, but that was due in large part to the defense repeatedly forcing Pittsburgh into three-and-outs and giving the offense the ball enough times that they were finally ably to over come the Steelers,
Against the Packers, they can’t expect to hold them down for long, and have to score early and often to keep the pressure of Rodgers to answer every score, and make the PAckers one-dimensional, allowing the pass-rush to thrive.
7) Andy Dalton has had some success early in his career in Cincinnati. What part of his game does he need to work on this season to take that next step?
His deep-ball accuracy needs some work, but so far, A.J. Green is the only receiver who consistently gets open deep. He needs to continue to develop chemistry with Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, all of whom have played less than two years with Andy.
8) Give us your game prediction for Sunday and tell us why you think it will play out that way.
It will be a shootout that sees the Packers take an early lead and control the game throughout. The Bengals fight valiantly and have several opportunities to take the lead, but the Packers have enough answers to escape Cincinnati with a 27-23 win.
I’d like to thank Jason for his thoughts about this week’s game. Stay tuned to Lombardi Ave for more Packers coverage and analysis leading up to Sunday’s game.