It is thought by many that it takes an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl. While there have been a couple notable exceptions sprinkled in over the years, this argument generally stands up in the face of statistics.
The definition of elite obviously varies, and has been rigorously debated in countless football circles, but for me, an elite quarterback is a sure-fire hall-of-famer. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and both Manning brothers. Yes, Eli Manning straddles that fence, but I have seen him be great too often in too many important games to discredit him at this point, go ahead and disagree if you must. Nonetheless, all of these men have won Super Bowls.
Yet last year, a fella named Joe Flacco won his first championship, raked in a mega-contract and declared himself among the best. If he continues to regularly make and win playoff games while his team undergoes a rather stark transformation, I will agree, but for now I cannot. In fact, to me, he shows that the threshold of a Super Bowl victory resides in mere mortals and not just the legends.
Aaron Rodgers is a legend. He fuels the Packers to the ranks of Super Bowl contenders every season with his presence alone. It is assumed that he will make his team into better players no matter what their names are or where they were drafted. He's the cheese boss.
This Sunday he brings his cheese to the Nati, hoping to shred it on the Bengals defense like they were a coney. Last week the Redskins were filleted for nearly 500 passing yards, and the Pack had the game won in about a quarter in a half. It may be safe to say that he's into something of a groove.
Fear not, my striped brethren, he is but a man and he too has weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The Zim Clan will find those weaknesses and he will be stunned at their proficiency.
For the Cincinnati defense, this is the third quarterback in a row who enjoys leaving the pocket and making plays. Rodgers has a quick delivery, a strong arm and accuracy on the move. He likes to buy extra time by moving around and letting his receivers find openings on the field-much like Ben Roethlisberger and like Jay Cutler do. Therefore, like he would against Pittsburgh or Chicago, one might imagine Mike Zimmer telling his defensive line to contain Rodgers in the pocket and keep their hands up to knock down passes rather than just wildly attack him like crazed hyenas.
The Green Bay offensive line is not worry-free by any means. They led the league in sacks given up a season ago and their man was taken down four times last week. The renown Bengals pass rush has been somewhat quiet, but pretty effective thus far. Sacks, however, should be secondary to containment this week. After all, if Rodgers is stuck in the pocket long enough, the sacks will come.
The Bengals corners are a different matter altogether though. While the d-line can afford a loss of the likes of Robert Geathers for the year, the secondary feels older and more shallow than ever. With the complete inability for youngsters like Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee to remain healthy while playing football, the aged veterans find more snaps on their plates which means more running and, even worse, more tackling. How long can Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman hold up in all this mess?
Those old bones are to be tested vigorously this week against the Green Bay spread formations. It's imperative for the defensive backs to make their tackles in this game. The Washington secondary regularly took bad angles that allowed first downs into touchdowns. Being physical at the line of scrimmage with effective jamming of the routes seems like a sensible approach, but that typically doesn't fit into the Zimmer scheme. Either way, soft zone coverage that lets the Packer receivers run freely will not do. The corners must play like tough guys if they want to keep the score under 30 points.
For as gilded-edged as the Aaron Rodgers profile is treated, Andy Dalton's is much more, shall we say, pedestrian in the world of quarterbacks. He is a shrug to most people, conveying that he functions competitively but isn't likely to overly impress. The overall opinion is that he's not good or bad, he just kind of...is.
And sometimes it's hard not to agree. For as sterling as he looked in Week 1, his accuracy in Week 2 appeared to still be in Chicago, languishing behind in the Windy City's finer hotel rooms in a fancy robe and growing stubble. He will need it to return to his arm soon if the Bengals are really a big shot team. No matter how strong of a fan you are, one must admit he remains firmly mediocre until he can step it up with regularity. He doesn't need to be an Aaron Rodgers, but he has to at the very least be a Joe Flacco.
It was discouraging to watch Cincinnati ignore the run so blatantly in the first half last week, despite the good totals the limited carries did produce and also despite an ugly Dalton performance early. Finally the adjustments were made and Giovani Bernard sparked the team to the win. While Jay Gruden has been an excellent upgrade from his play-calling predecessor, his faith in the passing game with Dalton at the helm may be a tad too emphasized, especially when this team appears to be a decent running team.
This week is a good chance to go a bit heavier on the ground attack. Alfred Morris trucked his way to a nice game with big chunk runs last week. The Packers defense isn't what it has been in the last three or so years and they look smallish and weak. Clay Mathews is a fast, effort guy that brings it on a regular basis, but there simply isn't a stockpile of talent on that side of the ball. The Bengals should try to establish a credible run game to keep the ball in their hands and keep Rodgers on the sideline. Cincinnati has put up nice yardage totals on sustained drives, yet the points that should correspond to such totals are coming up short. Twenty points a game won't win you a playoff bye week and that should be a long-term goal for this team.
As long as Gruden calls the correct type of running play for the appropriate back, this offense could become one of the more successful ground games in the league. I have read Gruden's statements that he feels both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard can make the same kinds of runs, but I couldn't disagree more. I know the Law Firm had some big runs on stretch plays last year, but he simply is not an east-west runner. The stretches to him, the pitch-plays to him, they just aren't suited for his skill set. The straight ahead runs are his forte.
Bernard on the other hand, is perfectly designed for outside runs. His quickness is palpable, and he runs with strength and power. The Bengals and then the world will find it impossible to ignore this young man's ability and his emphasis in the play-calling should continue to increase.
Time of possession is vital in tomorrow's game and more points must come with all those yards.
The Bengals have a real chance to tear off a big win streak and make some loud noises in the AFC. They still look like an adolescent male struggling to become a man but they are so close to full maturation. This is a chance for a real statement. Just how good are these Bengals?
Bengals 34, Packers 24
Mojokong-on top of the dirt.