It is Week 1 of the regular season, which means half of the teams in the NFL will be starting off the season on the right foot, while the other half will be behind the eight ball.
1.) Get Joe Mixon going
It is no secret that a good running game makes any offense better. The more a team runs the ball efficiently, the more the defense will have to make sure they key in on that. Mixon didn’t have a great preseason running the ball. He only averaged 1.8 yards per carry behind the Bengals new offensive line.
In order for the Bengals to take some wind out of the Colts’ sails, Mixon will have to be able to grind out some yards. The Bengals may also consider some throws to their young running back out of the backfield.
Mixon averaged 16 yards per reception during the preseason, which included a 24-yard touchdown. The Bengals just need to get Mixon into the open field and let him do the rest.
2.) Give Luck a welcome back party in the dirt
The Bengals had an outstanding preseason rushing the passer, and it is hard to imagine that changing much in Week 1. The Colts have tried to improve their offensive line over the seasons, but it still isn’t anything that should be able to slow down the likes of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson.
The more pressure the Bengals can get on Andrew Luck — who is playing in his first regular season game in over a year — the better.
3.) Big plays to John Ross
I could sit here and write how the Bengals have to get the ball out to A.J. Green, but that is basically a given with this Bengals team. What would really secure a win is a guy like Ross having a few big plays. The second-year receiver was extremely hot and cold in the preseason. He had a few big plays, but he also had some plays where he dropped easy catches.
For the Bengals to get the win, Ross needs to take advantage of the Colts’ weaker secondary for a few drive-changing plays. Also, just get his first NFL catch out of the way.
4.) Protect Andy Dalton
I know the Bengals have made a few improvements to their offensive line this offseason by bringing in Cordy Glenn at left tackle and drafting Billy Price to play center. There is still a huge question mark regarding whether Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart are the answers along the right side of the offensive line.
It is pretty simple with the Bengals. They have all the offensive weapons to make Dalton look good, but if they allow the defense to rattle Dalton, then the results won’t be that much different from last season.
5.) Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers
Usually. this would be classified as a generic key to victory. We have all heard “if you win the turnover battle then you win the game.” The reason as to why this important for the Bengals is because they were so bad at this last season. The only team to create less turnover last season was the 0-16 Cleveland Browns.
In fact, a turnover is what decided the last meeting between the Colts and Bengals last season. Dunlap batted a pass at the line of scrimmage, intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown.
It would make new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin extremely happy to see his defense generate some turnovers after making it an emphasis this offseason.