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Headlinin': Stories To Watch During The Bengals Game Against 49ers

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The Cincinnati Bengals are headlinin' their fair share of stories this week, mostly negative off-the-field jibber-jabber that's been compounded with wild speculative rumors. It's a tiring task to write and talk about Bengals players that have nothing to do with football; and we've been doing it at Cincy Jungle since The Nine players were arrested during the 2006 season. This time last week, none of these stories existed. Jerome Simpson remained a rising star as the team's starting wide receiver and Cedric Benson and Adam Jones weren't facing possible suspensions based on a deal made between the NFL and NFL Players Association (something we'll dig that bull next week, unfortunately).

In the meantime, let's dig into five headlines heading Cincinnati's early afternoon game against the San Francisco 49ers that kicks off at 1 p.m. in Paul Brown Stadium.

+ Will Jerome Simpson play and how will Andre Caldwell fair if he doesn't... It's a long-shot at best that Jerome Simpson will play Sunday and the only reason we bring it up is Marvin Lewis' long-standing tradition of indecision. It took Simpson nearly three full seasons to be trusted enough to post significant snaps during a regular season game, due to Lewis' indecision (and lack of confidence) on the wide receiver to know the playbook. Now Simpson is the focus, at least that we know, of an investigation regarding a drug operation.

We're digging into our probability machine, fully aware that predicting the future isn't some mythos or Force technique. It's science. By accounting for every constant and variable in the known universe, it's entirely possible to predict the future; the explanation of it is slightly more complex than a brief reference on a Bengals website. And knowing that Marvin Lewis would only add to the distraction facing this team by playing Simpson and answering a billion questions about it until a substantial update surfaces (like Simpson's arrest warrant or being cleared), and considering that Simpson was excused from two practices, Andre Caldwell will make his first start.

How he plays will be of interest considering we've witnessed two completely different versions. In 2009 Caldwell struggled to create separation against the defense, rarely posting any yards after reception. During the final three games in 2010, that's all he did posting 270 yards receiving and a 13.8 yard/reception average. So we know he can do it, but not confident enough he'll do it consistently.

That being said, expect Jermaine Gresham's performance to be more like Cleveland (six receptions, 58 yards receiving, TD) than Denver (two receptions, eight yards receiving).

+ Improved Second Quarter... In two games this year, the Cincinnati Bengals haven't appeared to be a first half team. Sure they posted 10 points in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns during the regular season opener, but combining the second quarter against Cleveland with the first half against the Broncos, the Bengals have posted six points. Additionally Cincinnati's offense has only 77 yards combined in the second quarter this season.

The second quarter is also Andy Dalton's worst by far, posing a passer rating of 71.4 and an average completion of 3.71.

First Quarter 7 70 77.8% 7.78 1 136.1
Second Quarter 11 63 64.7% 3.71 0 71.4
Third Quarter 11 140 73.3% 9.33 1 124.3
Fourth Quarter 8 140 53.3% 9.33 1 107.6

Defensively the Bengals have allowed more point in the first half (24) than the Houston Texans (20) and the Detroit Lions (23) have allowed all season.

+ Sustained Success of Andy Dalton And A.J. Green... Let's face facts. If not for the promise of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, our spirits would be further into the preverbal toilet right now. Dalton's passer rating of 105.7 is ranked eighth in the NFL right now; that's better than Matt Schaub, Michael Vick, Phillip Rivers and what the hell, Carson friggin' Palmer.

Along with the intangibles blossoming during the team's almost-come-from-behind win last week against the Broncos, Dalton completed 19 of 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. During the final two quarters last week, A.J. Green caught seven passes 101 yards receiving with an unbelievable touchdown reception.

How will Dalton follow that up? Will Cincinnati reaffirm their running game to control the line of scrimmage and waste some clock? Or will Jay Gruden elect to go pass-heavy, knowing that Cedric Benson's appeal could go badly enough that Cincinnati will be without their feature back for a handful of games? So what the hell, pass a lot and get Dalton more repetitions. It actually makes sense.

+ The San Francisco defensive trio... hasn't been terribly impressive to start their Bengals careers. Taylor Mays has been hurt and unavailable. Nate Clements has allowed big plays and an opposing quarterback rating of 142.1 on passes thrown to targets he's covering. Manny Lawson, of the team's starting linebackers, is clearly the least active, participating just over half of the team's defensive snaps.

Mays will return against the 49ers on Sunday, giving the team a full compliment of defensive players that played in San Francisco last season. And maybe there's a chip on their respective shoulders.

Here's hoping two forces are at work. All three are playing their first game at Paul Brown Stadium that'll probably be two-thirds full, against their former team. Sure would be nice if they could start making a significant contribution this weekend.

+ Week Three could be Bernard Scott's heaviest participation of the year... Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis took the blame on his shoulders for Bernard Scott's lack of participation during Cincinnati's first two games this season. With Cedric Benson possibly missing next week's game, based on how his appeal goes, does this make the perfect storm for Scott to receive his heaviest participation of the season?

Lewis' self-blame is on the table while Benson's suspension is coming. Considering that they're not wizards of foresight, the Bengals may work towards giving Scott some work for two reasons. To get us annoying Bengals fans and the media off his back and to establish some rhythm with the team's backup running back and heir to the feature back role if Benson goes bye-bye for a little while.