It’s always interesting to see how NFL teams try to evolve and get out of certain patterns they’ve gotten used to, making the meeting between the pass-happy Green Bay Packers and the always solid-but-not-spectacular Cincinnati Bengals extremely interesting.
Both teams have started the season 1-1, with week 1 losses that could have been avoided. But there’s a huge difference in how these teams get their points, and who they look up to. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 480 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-20 win over the Redskins last week. Rodgers is above everyone else in terms of importance and ability, while the rest of the team tries to keep up.
The Bengals? Andy Dalton is a good quarterback, but the fear in Cincinnati is that it’s not going to get much better than this. Dalton has already thrown two interceptions this season, and so far what’s doing most of the work for the Bengals has been the defense, allowing only 63 rushing yards per game while gaining only 279 yards of offense so far per contest.
The big key for the Bengals is their ability to hit the quarterback. They’ve had only two sacks this season so far, both against the terrible Pittsburgh Steelers O-line, but last season they were sixth in the NFL with 51 sacks. The Green Bay Packers might be doing a better job in protecting Aaron Rodgers both with an improved offensive line and a running game that was discovered against Washington (James Starks running for 132 yards), but they still gave up 51 sacks last season.
Another issue for the Bengals is matching up with Green Bay in terms of offensive variety. There’s A.J. Green, becoming one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but there’s also Tyler Eifert the tight end (113 yards, 8 carries) and running back Giovani Bernard, who scored two touchdowns against the Steelers and just might be the best offensive rookie to take the field this season.
Prediction – Very few teams can go toe to toe with the Packers on offense, and the Bengals, despite improving from last season and having a strong defensive front, won’t be able to keep up with a quarterback who barely makes mistakes and is slowly finding out he might have a good enough team to do better than in the last couple of seasons.