Gone are the days of the Bungles, the perpetual high draft picks, and weekly lowlights. No, these cats (ha! see what I did!) are tough, but not just on the defensive side of the ball as we mentioned in yesterday's podcast. They can put up some points, too.
And it's the offense that should really concern the Packers, because Aaron Rodgers and Company have proven they can put up points on just about anybody. The defense remains suspect, and the Packers have a tall task ahead of them.
Making things more difficult is the likely continued absence of Morgan Burnett. He didn't practice Thursday and has yet to appear in a game this year. His leadership in the secondary has been sorely missed, as has the playmaking ability of fellow defensive back Casey Hayward. The Packers have given up huge yardage as these two have patrolled the sidelines, and we can only hope they get back to full health in the very near future.
The Packers best bet at this point might just be hoping to eke out a win this week and hope for more thorough healing during the bye week, because as nice as it would be to have Burtnett and Hayward back this week, the Packers obviously have much bigger plans down the road.
But Sunday isn't "down the road." It's just a few days away, and Dom Capers better be scheming up something nice, because the Bengals are ready to light up the scoreboard.
5 - Giovanni Bernard's yards per carry average so far this season. Sure he's only carried the ball twelve times, but the Bengals seems to have big plans for the rookie, including lining him up at receiver occasionally. And if BenJarvus Green-Ellis keeps averaging 2.8 yards per carry like he has so far this season, Bernard's role will only expand.
4 - Packers receivers with ten or more catches through two games. Randall Cobb leads the way with 16, Jermichael Finley and James Jones have 11 apiece, and Jordy Nelson is slacking off with just 10. The Packers have been doing a phenomenal job getting the ball to their receivers and just letting them work, as we discussed Wednesday. While the four receivers may not all keep up their pace to snag more than eighty passes, it's been fun to watch so far and the Bengals will certainly have their hands full this week.
3 - Sacks by the Packers so far this year. Clay Matthews, Johnny Jolly, and Davon House each have one apiece. It's a far cry from last year, when the defense notched 48 sacks, but the focus of the pass rush has been different so far this season. With mobile quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III on the schedule early, Green Bay's pass rushers have been more devoted to containment than pressure, but that could change this week. Andy Dalton can move, but he's no track star like Kaepernick or Griffin. The Packers should be able to let the dogs loose a little bit.
2 - Receiving touchdowns by Jermichael Finley this year, already equal to his total from last year. Finley has been a bigger part of this year's offense, and definitely seems more focused and intense. Yeah, it's a contract year, but with Mr. Finley finally seeming to realize the full potential of his physical gifts, the Packers' offense is just that much more dynamic. And just like we (again) discussed Wednesday, Finley has been absolutely terrific after the catch. Just ask the Washington Redskins' defense.
1 - Bengals players to record full sacks so far this season. As a team, the Bengals have two total sacks this year, but only defensive tackle Geno Atkins can claim a full sack on his own. Atkins is considered one of the top defensive tackles in the league, and even if the rest of the defensive line hasn't been terribly productive, Atkins is worth keeping an eye on. With T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton both dealing with creaky backs, the battle of the interior could be more interesting than usual.
Last Time - Bengals: 31 Packers: 24 - September 20, 2009
Back when Aaron Rodgers was in the "still figuring it out" phase, the Bengals came to Lambeau Field and pretty much took the Packers' lunch. Despite a two interception game (including one returned for a touchdown) by Charles Woodson, the Packers defense still gave up 31 points and the offense really never got going. But even then, the Packers were within a touchdown late, and had the ball all the way down to the Bengals' ten yard line before coming up short. Here's hoping for a better result this time around.
Meet a Bengal - A.J. Green - 6'4", 207 lbs. - WR - 3rd NFL Season
The 2011 NFL Draft was a good one, with six of the first seven picks (Cam Newton, Von Miller, Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, and Aldon Smith) having already made a Pro Bowl. And within those six, you have two of the best young wide receivers in the game in Green and Jones. The pair will always be linked, since Green went two picks ahead of Jones, but really, you'd be fine if you went with either one of them.
Green is a little bit bigger than Jones, but he's plenty fast too. His best attribute, though, is his length. At 6'4" he's obviously tall, but he also has 34 3/4" arms, according to his Combine measurements. That, combined with a 34 1/2" vertical leap, means virtually no pass is out of reach for Green. Since they currently only have two cornerbacks that measure six feet tall or taller (Micah Hyde at 6'0" and Davon House at 6'1"), Green's size and reach might be a problem for the Packers, who have already been beaten badly by one big receiver in Anquan Boldin.
The Bengals will win if...
....their wide array of offensive weapons proves too much for a Packers defense that's been stretched pretty thoroughly so far this season. In addition to the aforementioned Bernard and Green, the Bengals also have rookie tight end Tyler Eifert, who many thought would be the Packers' top pick this year. Eifert has already been productive (eight catches, 114 yards so far), and he's not even the Bengals' best tight end. That honor belongs to veteran Jermaine Gresham, a 6'5", 260 lb. monster who forms the second half of what might be the NFL's new best tight end duo, since Rob Gronkowski is out hurt and Aaron Hernandez...yeah. Anyway, the point is, they have a lot of talent on offense, and if they can utilize it well, they'll be more than a handful.
The Packers will win if...
...they can make Andy Dalton's day miserable. Having all the offensive talent in the world is useless if your quarterback is buried under pressure all night. Clay Matthews is a notoriously fast starter, but he only has one sack through two games this year. If he can produce consistent pressure and the Packers can come up with a few key stops, this one could go the Packers' way.
The Pick - Packers: 38 Bengals: 35
I think the Packers' defense can do just enough to slow down the Bengals' offense. They'll have to be better in the secondary then we've seen so far, but they'll also have more opportunities to rush the passer this week, which should make things a little easier on the back end. But if they can't get to Dalton, this could be a long day for the Green and Gold.
The Rest (home teams in ALL CAPS)
EAGLES over Chiefs Texans over RAVENS Giants over PANTHERS Lions over REDSKINS TITANS over Chargers SAINTS over Cardinals PATRIOTS over Buccaneers Rams over COWBOYS VIKINGS over Browns Falcons over DOLPHINS JETS over Bills 49ERS over Colts SEAHAWKS over Jaguars Bears over STEELERS BRONCOS over Raiders
Last week: 11-5 (21-11 overall)
Tweet of the Week
Ever wondered how much beer gets consumed at Lambeau Field ever week? Well, now you kinda know. Still glad you asked?