The most ridiculous statistic was predictably achieved a week before Cincinnati's game against the Green Bay Packers. Stats LLC released that Packers receivers generated 295 yards receiving... after the catch. It's the second-most in NFL history, behind the 1992 Houston Oilers who went for 348 yards against the Minnesota Vikings.
Now let's be real: I don't see the Bengals shutting down Green Bay's passing game -- who have recorded zero drops this season so far with Rodgers completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for the first-ranked offense. It'll be a matter of containing them, stopping receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones from advancing the football after the reception.
Aaron Rodgers recognizes how much the receivers make him look good.
"There’s been multiple times in the first two weeks where they’ve made some exceptional catches," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said via the Journal Sentinel. "I hope we don’t get so used to those that we don’t recognize them all the time. James Jones had some incredible ones last year, Jordy makes them look easy at times, Randall as well, picked a couple balls off the shoelaces. Those are impressive plays that not every guy at their position can make, so I’m ecstatic, it makes me look good. It does look like perfect passes in the stat sheet."
It comes down to this.
If the game turns into a track meet between Rodgers and Andy Dalton, then Cincinnati will be in trouble.
Don't sleep on the run
If the Bengals sit back in multiple nickel formations featuring five, if not six, defensive backs, ideally the Packers should check out of the pass, attacking the Bengals rush defense -- which is what they'd want. However, when Eddie Lacy was concussed against the Washington Redskins, backup running back James Starks entered the game and posted 132 yards rushing. Not that the Redskins hold a defensive candle to the Bengals, there is enough confidence in Green Bay's running game.
"Last week they didn’t expect Starks to play a whole lot, but due to injury to (Eddie) Lacy he came out and had a great game with (132) yards rushing," Maualuga said via Bengals.com. "Who knows? If we stop the run, they can hurt us with the pass. If we stop the pass, they can hurt us with the run. We’ve just got to make sure to be on our game and execute every single play."
But that's not just the Bengals defense.
This applies to the offense as well.
The Bengals have won six of the past eight games when the team collectively generates 100 yards rushing or more. And when Cincinnati highlights a 100-yard rusher, they're 7-0 since 2011 and haven't lost a game with a 100-yard rusher since the 49-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 21, 2010.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard combined for 113 yards rushing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with most of Green-Ellis' 22 carries coming in the fourth quarter when the offense consumed 10:03 to secure the eventual win. Keeping Rodgers off the field might be the best game-plan and that would be the offense's responsibility.
Sustained possession and the Red Zone
When the Bengals lose their collective minds with Bob Bratkowski impressions, Cincinnati struggles. Despite many memorable A.J. Green touchdown receptions over the years, the Bengals are not a quick-scoring offense. They need to build and sustain momentum through balance. One critical aspect that seems to plague Cincinnati is mental mistakes, usually in the form of presnap fouls. Holding calls are frustrating but statistically, they're not holding more than any other team in the NFL.
Cincinnati has to take advantage of their red zone opportunities, especially against a team that's averaging 33 points per game (granted, two whole games). Comparatively speaking, the Bengals have scored three touchdowns on four red zone opportunities. On the other hand, the Bengals defense has allowed the opposing offense to score a touchdown during every red zone appearance.
Defensive pass rush
The Bengals pass rush has been decent, but the team didn't dish out millions over the offseason for a "decent" pass rush. Now, with the Bengals infirmary filling up with cornerbacks in Dre Kirpatrick and Brandon Ghee, and a layover stay on Wednesday from Adam Jones, the Bengals cornerback depth is fragile right now. Jones is fighting through an abdominal injury, which we hope accounts for his mediocre showing against the Pittsburgh Steelers (four of six completions allowed, and a team-high 64 yards after the catch).
To compensate, the Bengals have to go from a decent pass rush with two quarterback sacks this season, into the defensive stalwarts that they were designated to be. And it would give Cincinnati's defense their best path to help the Bengals beat the Green Bay Packers. During plays that Aaron Rodgers is under pressure, his passer rating is 54.9. Without a pass rush, the Bengals coverage scheme won't even matter. Rodgers passer rating without pressure explodes to 145.4.
WHY THEY WIN
Bengals love playing the NFC
Despite losing to the Chicago Bears during opening weekend, for whatever reason, the Bengals enjoy playing the National Football Conference. In three of the past four seasons, the Bengals are 3-1 against the NFC and were nearly swept the NFC East last season but the Cowboys outscored Cincinnati 10-0 in the fourth quarter to win by one point on a 40-yard field goal as time expired.
In his last six games against the NFL, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has posted 13 touchdowns and a passer rating of 100.5.
Paul Brown Stadium becoming homefield advantage
Dating back to last season, the Bengals have won four of their previous five games when played at Paul Brown Stadium -- again, those damned Cowboys. And of the games that the Bengals have lost at Paul Brown Stadium, they haven't been defeated by more than a possession since losing 49-31 to the Buffalo Bills.
Paul Brown Stadium hasn't been homefield advantage for the Bengals, but trends are slowly shifting.