- Date: Sunday, October 10
- Time: 1:00 pm EST
- TV: FOX (WXIX 19 Cincinnati, WGRT 45 Dayton)
- Radio: Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham 700 WLW, 1530 ESPN, 102.7 WEBN
This week’s Bengals preview is for a game for which Bengals fans have been waiting a long time. One that could make a major difference. The Bengals and Packers don’t play each other often. These teams rarely finish in the same spot in their division, so typically they only play once every four years.
That said, in recent years, the Bengals are 3-1 all-time against Aaron Rodgers. That history won’t make much of a difference this time around as only P Kevin Huber and LS Clark Harris were around last time the Bengals beat the Packers in 2013.
Both teams currently lead their division, but only one was supposed to be here. That team, the Green Bay Packers, enters the game as 3.5 point favorites on the road. This Bengals preview, on the other hand, covers a team looking to prove themselves with a win over a team many consider to be a Super Bowl contender.
The Story So Far:
At 3-1, the Green Bay Packers have largely overcome their disastrous Week 1 blowout by the hands of the New Orleans Saints. Since then, the Packers have trounced the Detroit Lions, survived a comeback attempt by the San Francisco 49ers, and handily beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through those games, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions, and has posted an average passer rating of 118.2.
The Cincinnati Bengals are still looking for respect across the NFL, despite the same 3-1 record as the Packers. Fair or not, the national audience is still not sure what to make of them, considering their strength of victory so far. The opponents the Bengals have defeated are a combined 2-10 right now, and the one team they lost to is a very sketchy looking 2-2 Chicago Bears team. No one is going to blame the Bengals if they lose this week, but they’ll need to win to legitimize their record in the eyes of many.
Green Bay Packers
Strengths: As long as the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, they’ll have a strong offensive attack. Both players have a strong argument as the very best players at their respective positions. The two have combined for an average of 93.3 yards per game, 19 first downs, and a touchdown. Rodgers, in particular, seems to have a sixth sense about him when pressure is coming in the backfield, so actually bringing him down before he makes an insane throw could be difficult whether the Bengals’ defensive line gets pressure or not. Their pass rush has also been above average this season, totaling 33 quarterback hurries on the season.
Weaknesses: The Packers rank near the bottom of the league in passing touchdowns allowed (10), sacks (7), and first down percentage allowed (51.1 percent passing, 30.5 percent rushing). Their rushing game is also not performing particularly well with a measly 3.6 yards per carry and a 20.0 first down percentage on the ground.
Strengths: Quarterback Joe Burrow has been called a young Aaron Rodgers by many. Particularly, by former Packers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who has been in Cincinnati during both of Burrow’s seasons. On the season, Burrow has recorded a 113.8 passer rating with 988 yards and nine touchdowns in just four games. His steely, confident demeanor has been a huge reason why the Bengals have won three of their four games this season, and almost came back to beat Chicago in Week 2. Much like the Packers, the Bengals’ pass rush has also been stellar so far this season. They’ve notched 45 QB hurries and 13 sacks so far.
Weaknesses: Although it has improved from last year, the Bengals’ pass blocking has been inconsistent and downright frustrating at times. It’s a pretty strong emphasis for this Bengals preview, especially with Pro Bowl DT Kenny Clark on the other side. Tackles Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff have generally been consistently good this year, but there is still a lot of inconsistency in the interior. Rookie RG Jackson Carman appears to be able to hold his own in place of the injured Xavier Su’a-Filo, and LG Quinton Spain is starting to come along in recent weeks, but C Trey Hopkins has largely struggled on the year after coming back from a torn ACL in January. There have also been some issues with tackling on the defensive side of the ball. Their 36 missed tackles on the season have been a blight on an otherwise stifling defense.
The biggest injury news for this Bengals preview is the players they are expecting to get back. FS Jessie Bates III, WR Tee Higgins, and CB Chidobe Awuzie all missed last week’s game. But, they have been practicing and appear to be on pace to play against the Packers. LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, CB Trae Waynes, C Trey Hopkins and DT Larry Ogunjobi all have new injuries. But, they also seem to be on pace to play, which is useful information for this Bengals preview.
Unfortunately, RB Joe Mixon is a new addition to the injury report. He’s listed as “Questionable” on Friday’s injury report, but he hasn’t practiced all week. It sounds like they’re waiting to make a final decision on his injury status based on how he does on Saturday, when he is expected to practice. Still, the Bengals are going into this game remarkably healthy, which could be a significant advantage.
Green Bay Packers
Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. The Packers’ already porous secondary isn’t looking good heading into this week. Although they haven’t said whether he’s out for the year, we know stud cornerback Jaire Alexander won’t play this week. CB2 Kevin King was limited with a concussion most of this week, although he is expected to play. Against the Bengals’ elite trio of wide receivers, this could turn into a massive mismatch.
There’s also concerns about injuries to the Packers’ offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Elgton Jenkins missed practice on Wednesday and was limited the rest of the week with an ankle injury. He’s officially “questionable”, but you wonder how effective he will be if he does play. Backup right tackle Dennis Kelly missed practice on Thursday and Friday with an undisclosed illness and is also questionable. Rookie starting center Josh Meyers is officially not playing. It could be a rough week for the Packers at certain vulnerable position groups, especially considering those position groups happen to line up with some of the Bengals’ biggest strengths.
Keys to the game
- Make Rodgers sweat
For as much magic as Aaron Rodgers can make, on the whole he hasn’t performed well against consistent pressure this season. In fact, his passer rating is a pedestrian 85.1 when blitzed and a dismal 39.7 when pressured. Compare this to Joe Burrow, whose passer rating only drops to 70.0 when pressured and actually dynamically increases to 133.3 when blitzed.
- Let it rip
In addition to already being one of the Packers’ biggest weaknesses, their secondary will be missing a key player. In particular – Jaire Alexander, who is currently hoping to avoid season-ending surgery. You wonder how the Packers are going to be able to cover Higgins, Boyd, Chase, Uzomah, and possibly Chris Evans. A strong emphasis on the passing game this week could pay dividends.
- Don’t give Rodgers time at the end
You absolutely can not allow Aaron Rodgers an opportunity to drive down the field at the end of the game. Two weeks ago, the 49ers became the latest victims of his unbelievable clutch gene. If it’s a close game and the Bengals have the ball near the end of the game, they’ll need to make sure they close it out with proper clock management. It doesn’t matter if the Packers need a field goal or a touchdown at the end of the game. Aaron Rodgers will find a way to make it happen the way he has SO many times in his legendary career.
This week’s Bengals preview possible makes the outcome of this game seem more dire than it really is. Nobody is going to blame the Bengals for failing to come away with a win this week against the Packers. That is, assuming they don’t get blown out. But, the Bengals have an opportunity to make an absolute statement this week. Regardless of the injuries, the Packers are a Super Bowl contender. This win would signal the Bengals are for real and the rebuild is paying off. Make no mistake, they don’t have much to lose, but they have so much to gain.