Rarely ever is a Week 3 do-or-die for a team’s playoff hopes, but such is the current case for the Cincinnati Bengals. The talent is still apparent on the roster, but a lack of unearthing that potential has the coaching staff scratching their heads, while fans are pulling their hair out as the team travels to face the Green Bay Packers.
As they head to Lambeau Field, here are the five keys to a Bengals victory on Sunday afternoon.
Continue sound play from defense and special teams:
In the last two games, two steadfast and reliable facets the Bengals have provided are on defense and the special teams units. Solid returns, perfection on field goal attempts and holding the opposition to just 16.5 points per game usually provides a recipe for success, even when the offense has given up the ball six combined times (including two more turnovers on downs).
Just because the Bengals made a change at offensive coordinator, it doesn’t mean that there will be vast, immediate improvements. Keeping the tenacity on defense, while also maybe adding some more turnovers, as well as solid contributions continuing on special teams should keep the game within reach for the offense.
Take A.J. Green’s advice and feed the offensive playmakers:
The Bengals have spent significant capital to draft and retain a number of exciting players at the offensive skill positions in recent years, but we haven’t seen many explosive plays this year. There’s a fine line between forcing the ball and making wise decisions though, and Andy Dalton will need to be far more controlled with his aim than he has been the first two weeks.
Still, there are way too many weapons for this team to not put up a single touchdown in two games — especially at home. Regardless of how poor the protection may be, Bill Lazor will need to make needed adjustments and form a game plan to get the football in the hands of the myriad of talented players.
Play loose and have some fun:
Essentially, the Bengals need to view Week 3 as a new start to the season. They made what seems like a much-needed change at offensive coordinator and have a week and a half to delve into everything needed to do a one-eighty for the rest of this year.
Things haven’t been right with the club since their loss to the Steelers in the 2015 Wild Card. Since, it seems as if some weird combination of having a hangover, complacency and playing too tight have led to a 6-11-1 in the following 18 games. Let loose, get creative and play with a smile this week, despite the 0-2 record.
Have some big breaks fall their way:
Sometimes being lucky is better than being good, right? The Bengals might need some calls go their way on the field and/or get some unlikely big plays in rare areas. And, an unlikely bounce a team’s way can snowball into other positive effects.
Remember the wacky contest at Paul Brown Stadium the last time these two faced off in 2013? Reggie Nelson recovered a fumble on a fourth down run by then-rookie Johnathan Franklin, only to have it knocked out and fall into the loving arms of Terence Newman for the game-winning touchdown. To get a win against an angry Packers team who just lost on Sunday Night Football, these types of plays will need to happen for Cincinnati on Sunday.
Yes, I said playing loose and having fun above, but also playing with a simultaneous chip on their shoulder couldn’t hurt either. For two weeks, every Bengals player heard about how awful they are and how the team is in disarray. They also have been hearing how they have no chance in going into Green Bay and coming out victorious.
Sure, the X’s and O’s will for sure matter in this contest, but both emotion and momentum are huge factors in the game of football. The Bengals have seemed to play the game like bland, ineffective robots since that January 2016 loss, but they’ll need to start playing with passion if they want to turn things around.