The Cincinnati Bengals need to beat the Tennessee Titans this week to hold onto any hope they have for keeping their season alive. If the Bengals are going to do that, these five players need to show up in a big way.
It’s four offensive players and one defensive player on our list, as big improvements are needed from Bill Lazor’s crew. Share your thoughts on who you think needs to step up on Sunday in the comments!
A.J. Green, wide receiver
This week is more of a wait and see for how will Green bounce back after three rough weeks that ended with him being ejected for punching and putting Jalen Ramsey in a choke hold.
Green has seven catches, 74 yards and one touchdown in the last three weeks combined. That line sounds more like one game from him than three. It is obvious this Bengals offense is struggling, and a big part of it is an inability to get the ball to Green. For the Bengals to have a chance this week that needs to change. Let’s hope for a big day from the star receiver.
Joe Mixon, running back
In the last two weeks, Mixon has 23 carries for 49 yards and 1 touchdown. Somehow, he and the Bengals’ offense need to get the run game going to take some pressure off of Andy Dalton and the passing game. The offensive line needs to open holes for Mixon who has the second most negative yardage runs in the league. Mixon can’t simply create running lanes on his own. The rest of the offense needs to play a hand in his success.
The more teams know the Bengals are obviously going to pass the ball, the harder it is for the offensive line to protect Dalton. Mixon needs to break some runs early to instill confidence in this team. That’s something they have been lacking in recent weeks.
Andy Dalton, quarterback
Dalton needs to get in a rhythm early this week. That includes finding a way to get comfortable behind the offensive line and getting confident with his reads. The past three weeks we haven’t seen much of this, and when we do, Dalton ends up missing his throw.
Dalton needs to put it all together this week to keep the Bengals’ hopes for this season alive. The pressure is on.
Vontaze Burfict, linebacker
Burfict will have his hands full in the middle of this defense. He has two very talented opposing running backs that will be running at him all game long. Burfict will have to slow down Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. If he doesn’t, we may have a repeat of last week when the Jaguars converted 12 of 18 third downs. They did so by keeping themselves in third down and manageable.
Burfict may luck out in one regard as Delanie Walker may miss Sunday’s game while nursing an ankle injury. Walker is one of the most talented tight ends in the NFL, and if he does play, he could be a handful for Burfict in coverage.
Andre Smith, right tackle
Smith has been a rotational tackle for the Bengals this season. However, with Jake Fisher done for the season, Smith is stepping into his former role as the full-time right tackle. Smith will be taking on Derrick Morgan for most of the game. Morgan has five sacks on the season, and it will be Smith’s job to make sure he doesn’t get anymore this week. That’s not going to be easy for Smith who has not been playing all that well.
But, Smith was once part of one of the most dominant offensive lines the Bengals have had in recent history back in 2014 and 2015, and he will have to recapture that magic to help the Bengals this week.