One of the major themes this week heading into Cincinnati's third game of the season is how the Bengals defense will react to Green Bay's offense. Coming off a 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins, the Packers set a franchise record with their first 450-plus yard passer (Aaron Rodgers, 480 yards), and 125-plus yard rusher (James Starks, 132 yards) in the same game.
How will the Bengals ever win against the undefeated Aaron Rodgers offense? It's over. Everyone says that it's over. Predictions favor the visiting team because of it. The Cincinnati Bengals defense isn't good enough to neutralize Aaron Rodgers and his god-like roster of wide receivers.
Of course that's ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong, they're good. Rodgers is on a completely different level than Andy Dalton, or any quarterback we've seen against Cincinnati's defense this year.
For all of the concern building around Green Bay's offense, the Bengals actually have a defense with the potential to neuter Green Bay's potent scoring machine. In the past 18 regular season games (since the start of 2012), the Bengals defense has allowed 300 yards of total offense eight times and 400 yards three times. The opposing offense has converted 50 percent of their third downs once in the past 10 games, and less than 24 points in the same time frame.
No, they've never faced a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers -- at least since Peyton Manning in week nine last year. On the other hand, Cincinnati's defense hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer in 17 consecutive games, thanks to a tremendously effective pass rush and very good cornerbacks on the edges. Where Cincinnati's defense has struggled against the pass, what could be the greatest concern, were throws made over the middle in the region assigned to the linebackers and safeties. Chicago's Jay Cutler completed 8 of 11 passes ten yards off the line of scrimmage down the middle of the field for 107 yards passing during kickoff weekend.
Where the Bengals defense could face greater adversity, rests behind Leon Hall and Terence Newman on the team's cornerback depth. Adam Jones is questionable with an abdominal injury and may sit out (he struggled against Pittsburgh, when he initially suffered the injury. Dre Kirkpatrick is doubtful with a hamstring and Brandon Ghee is still undergoing concussion protocols. As it stands, Leon Hall and Terence Newman will have Curtis Marsh (signed earlier this week off the street) and Chris Lewis-Harris (promoted from the 53-man roster on Saturday) behind them on the depth chart. Green Bay has three receivers with over 11 receptions already and four players on pace to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
If the Bengals can generate a pass rush, it would be the John Stockton-like assist that Cincinnati's secondary needs. Since 2011, when Aaron Rodgers is under pressure, he's completed less than half of his passes (47.1 percent) for a very average passer rating of 82.8 with 101 quarterback sacks. The last time that these two teams played, Rodgers was sacked six times (five by Antwan Odom) and completed 21 of 39 passes for 261 yards and a passer rating of 83.4. It wasn't just the sacks either. Rodgers was hit 11 times during 49 drop backs (and four times he was forced to scramble).
Concern for the Packers offense is warranted. They're good. Imaging them as not is simply delusional thinking that's setting the table for more frustration than realistic anticipation. But the Bengals defense is good too, and if they can generate a pass rush against Green Bay's offense, this game will knock those heavy Packer predictions over like a James Harrison strike on the lanes.