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Five things to watch: Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard
Will Bernard receive enough touches to make a difference on Sunday?
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Joel Beall

Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.

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The FOX NFL Game of the Week features the Green Bay Packers traveling to the banks of the Ohio to face the Cincinnati Bengals. With both clubs harboring playoff aspirations, let’s get the lowdown on each team’s subplots heading into this river city rendezvous.

Click here for five things to watch on the Green Bay Packers

Five things to watch: Cincinnati Bengals

 

Will Giovani Bernard see more touches?

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That’s the disposition of Bengaldom, at least, following the North Carolina product’s electrifying spectacle versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. As dynamic of a component as Bernard is to the Cincinnati offense, this wish will not come to pass in Week 3. The play of BenJarvus Green-Ellis is far from stimulating, yet it is potent and efficient. The Law Firm won’t bust out 20-yard scampers, but he’s a dependable and sound back in one of the few remaining game plans that utilize the terrain attack as an offensive foundation. Moreover, Green-Ellis is coming off a solid outing himself, posting 75 yards against a stout Pittsburgh defense.

Bernard could see further assimilation on passing downs, and don’t be surprised if he siphons touches around the goal line. Nevertheless, Green-Ellis persists as the Bengals’ primary back.

Matchup watch: Cincinnati front seven vs. Green Bay o-line

The Cheeseheads protection was viewed as an Achilles' heel heading into the season, an outlook that was bolstered by the injury of former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga during training camp. However, two weeks in, Green Bay’s offensive line has been serviceable, keeping Aaron Rodgers relatively upright and even paving the way for James Starks’ 132-yard day in Week 2. (Starks’ bounty marked the first time a Packers running back crossed the 100-yard plateau in 45 games. And you thought the Giants had backfield issues…)

In spite of this success, Green Bay’s vanguard will be on notice, as it takes on a formidable Cincinnati unit, one that features All-Pro Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Domata Peko, Carlos Dunlap, James Harrison and James Harrison’s scowl. If the Bengals have any ambitions of knocking off the Pack, such a goal starts with unrelenting pressure on Rodgers.

Over/under on “game manager” references to Andy Dalton: 10.5

To say the Red Rifle’s execution is not the most aesthetically pleasing of feats is like observing that Jon Gosselin has seen better times. Contrasted to Rodgers, whose performance under center is reminiscent of a maestro at work, this feeling will only be amplified. Yet, unless Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert are the matters at hand, overtly negative assertions are rarely heaved from the broadcast booths at signal callers. So how will Joe and Troy kindly remark on Dalton’s overthrows and wayward attempts? You got it – the infamous “game manager” tag. Don’t be surprised if “field general” is employed as well.

How will a battered Cincinnati secondary manage the Packers’ air attack?

Hint: not good.

The Who Deys are currently trotting out 35-year-old Terence Newman and Leon Hall, who has been inconsistent since the departure of Johnathan Joseph, at the corners. Free safety Reggie Nelson has a penchant for making big plays, but his feast-or-famine approach occasionally leaves the deep threat vulnerable. His strong safety counterparts are 2012 fifth-round pick George Iloka and Taylor Mays, the latter whose presence on the gridiron is universally recognized…mostly because the back of his jersey is always spotted as he’s chasing a blown coverage downfield. Last year’s first-round selection Dre Kirkpatrick has underwhelmed and is dealing with a hamstring issue, while Adam Jones is also sidelined due to an abdominal ailment. Throw in weak LB coverage over the middle from Rey Maualuga, and Rodgers could be in for another 400-yard harvest.

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The Bengals will win if…

Rodgers gets lost on his way to the stadium.

Aside from a defective travel itinerary, the Bengals will need Dalton to improve on his accuracy (a meager 55.6 completion percentage versus the Steelers). This precision is not necessarily vital in lighting up the scoreboard, but will be of importance in keeping the Packers offense off the field. Wide receiver extraordinaire A.J. Green could exploit a susceptible Green Bay secondary, and perhaps Cincinnati coerces Rodgers into a fumble or two.

The Bengals will be the underdog on Sunday. However, considering this happened the last time the Packers were in the Jungle, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.

Tagged: Bengals, Packers, James Harrison, Aaron Rodgers, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, James Starks, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton

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