The last time the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers played, the Packers led 30-14 late in the third quarter, before the Bengals stormed back for a 34-30 victory, capped off by a Johnathan Franklin fumble on fourth and one, which was returned for the game-winning touchdown by Reggie Nelson.
This time around, instead of focusing on scoring three touchdowns in the final 20 minutes, many would like to see the Bengals score at least one touchdown somewhere in the 60-minute span of the game, which is a feat they have failed to accomplish so far this season.
After a pair of games played at home, the Bengals have to travel to Green Bay in an attempt to score their first touchdown on 2017, and even secure their first victory. Can they finally do it? We spoke with Jason Hirschhorn of Acme Packing Co., SB Nation’s Packers website, to see what chances the Bengals have for success in Week 3.
Scott Schulze: Aaron Rodgers has passed for over 300 yards in the first two weeks, averaging 46 passing attempts per game. If Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are out this Sunday, do they stay with the pass-happy offense or focus more on Ty Montgomery and the ground game?
Jason Hirschhorn: Unless the Packers run out of receivers or an injury sidelines Aaron Rodgers, their offense will focus primarily on the passing game. With the quality of their quarterback and -- when healthy -- their pass protection, it simply makes more sense than to grind out yards on the ground. Even against a defense like the Bengals which ranks ninth in DVOA against the pass and 19th versus the run, expect to attempt 35 or more passing plays.
As for the receivers you mentioned, Jordy Nelson practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday which suggests the Packers will have him in uniform on Sunday. Randall Cobb has not practiced during the same time frame despite the team describing his injury as less serious than Nelson's.
Scott Schulze: Speaking of Montgomery, he had a breakout year in 2016 transitioning from wide receiver to running back, averaging almost 6 yards per carry. This year his rushing average is about half of that. What seems to be the big difference with him this season?
JH: Part of that relates to the opponents Ty Montgomery has faced so far. The Seahawks appear to have their usually stout defensive line, perhaps even better with the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson. The Falcons also performed well with their Dontari Poe-anchored front.
That doesn't entirely explain the low yards-per-carry average, however. The Packers' offensive line lost top guard T.J. Lang this offseason, replacing him with the capable-if-unspectacular Jahri Evans. The line took more hits each of the first two weeks of the season at tackle, with Bryan Bulaga missing both games and David Bakhtiari joining him on the sidelines in Week 2. That depleted blocking has had a noticeable impact on how quickly defenders have met Montgomery, too often at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Scott Schulze: The Packers have faced two pretty good QB’s this year with Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, yet have only given up one passing TD. Last year the Packers gave up almost 270 yards per game, and 32 passing touchdowns. What has been the difference in 2017 for the Packers pass defense?
JH: I'm not sure we can say the Packers defense does look all that different than a year ago despite the low total of passing touchdowns. The Seahawks have struggled so badly along the offensive line that they have only produced on passing touchdown thus far in 2017, and the Atlanta Falcons favored the ground game when they entered the red zone due to defensive tackle Mike Daniels' absence. In other circumstances, I imagine Matt Ryan would have thrown for a few more scores.
That said, the secondary does look significantly different than a year ago. Cornerback Kevin King -- the No. 33 overall pick and the team's de facto first-rounder -- held Julio Jones without a catch when matched up together last week. He should receive a starter's workload on Sunday as one of the boundary corners.
On the other side of the field, Davon House should start if his health allows, though he has not practiced this week with a quad injury. If he cannot go, either Damarious Randall or Quinten Rollins will take his place outside with the other spending most of his time in the slot.
Scott Schulze: The Bengals offense has been a disaster in 2017. They have failed to score a touchdown after their first two games, and fired their offensive coordinator a few days ago. If the Bengals are going to score their first touchdown, how should they attack the Packers defense?
JH: Especially if Mike Daniels sits on Sunday, the Bengals should probably focus their offense through their running backs. The Packers struggled to contain Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman a week ago, and Chris Carson had some success once the Seahawks turned to him in the season opener. Down so many important players, Green Bay's defense simply doesn't have the horses to stick with good all-purpose backs for long.
Scott Schulze: The Bengals have won the last three games in this series, with the Packers last victory in the series coming back in 1998. Do the Packers break that string of Bengals victories? Who wins this Sunday, and what’s the score?
JH: I never pick scores, but I think the Packers emerge victorious this weekend. It seems likely they have at least one of their starting offensive tackles and top wideout Jordy Nelson back in the lineup and that, along with Rodgers, should supply enough offense to keep the Bengals out of reach.