At 8-6, the Lions still have life in the NFC playoffs, but a loss could end all of that very quickly. Here are the five Bengals who need to play well for the Bengals to upset the Lions.
Running back Joe Mixon
Mixon seems to be on track to return to playing this week, and the team really needs him. When he was out the offense fell off a cliff as they scored a combined 14 points over two games.
Giovani Bernard filled in pretty well, but it just seemed like the offense was so limited in those two games. Mixon brings a little more power to the positions as well, and the ability to move a pile. His return should come at a pretty nice time with the Lions defense coming to town. If the Bengals are going to pull off an upset then Mixon will have to be running wild.
Wide receiver A.J. Green
I mean it is almost a given at this point that you should be watching Green. He is the offense at this point. He will be matched up with Darius Slay who leads the NFL with seven interceptions.
This should be a fun matchup to watch as Slay has really played well this season, and he loves to take chances and jump routes. That means the Bengals could potentially take advantage of that on game day.
Either way Green should secure his sixth 1,000 yard season of his career. Even in a down year for the Bengals Green has managed to keep up his consistency. It may not be quite up to his standards, but considering that no one around him on the offense is a real threat, it makes his stats far more impressive.
Edge rusher Carl Lawson
Lawson hasn’t played much in the last two games, and he is now second on the Bengals in sacks with 7.5 after Geno Atkins passed him. Lawson is still 1.5 sacks away from tying Carlos Dunlap’s rookie record for sacks in a season at nine. The Lions present the perfect opportunity to get closer to that record.
The Lions throw the ball an insane amount, and that makes it easier to play Lawson. The Bengals don’t like throwing him out there on possible running downs, but the Lions hardly run the ball anyway. With all that in mind, Lawson should have a good chance at getting closer to Dunlap’s record this week.
Corner William Jackson
Dre Kikrpatrick seems to be returning from his concussion this week, but Jackson should still have a ton of playing time against a Lions team who loves to spread out a defense. In fact having Jackson, Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard out there will be a pretty good preview of what next season’s secondary might look like.
Jackson has played very well this season against some of the best receivers in the NFL. He will be tested again this week with Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate coming to town. Both guys are very different in their approach on how to beat their defender, so Jackson should be able to prove his talents again this week. It should be fun to watch him all of next season.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict
Burfict missed the last two games with a concussion caused by one of the dirtiest plays in the Bengals and Steelers rivalry. His absence has had a clear affect on the defense as both the Bears and Vikings attacked the Bengals’ thin line backing corps on their way to putting up over 30 points each.
Burfict had been playing well before his concussion, and the Bengals will need him to step back in and play at that same level. The Lions love to trow to Theo Riddick out of the backfield, and it will be Burfict’s duty to cover him most of the time. Whether he is able to cover Riddick or not will have a huge impact on this game.