For the third time in as many weeks, the Bengals face an NFC North foe. The past two games have been utter embarrassments, with Cincinnati losing by a combined margin of 67-14 margin, but the team has a chance to end the season on a positive note.
For those who have played and/or coached sports, winning games is always what it’s about—even when the season has officially spiraled out of control. Most fans want the team to lose out for draft status, but let’s still examine the keys to the team getting its sixth win of the year.
The patchwork offensive line needs to keep Andy Dalton alive:
Andre Smith, T.J. Johnson and Jake Fisher have landed on Injured Reserve, while Cedric Ogbuehi is also injured. That means that guys like Eric Winston, Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond might be called on for action.
Dalton has been under duress frequently this year, and it looks especially tough this Sunday. These guys will need to give Dalton enough time to dole out quality passes, while also paving the way for the running backs.
Young guys need to mature quickly:
Cincinnati is suffering from the injury bug. Yes, it has contributed to their wreck of a season, but it isn’t the only reason as to why the team sits at five wins with two games to play.
This week, Cincinnati will be giving a number of young and/or unproven guys a shot, so they’ll need to prove that the Bengals’ trust in their depth is grounded. Guys like the newly signed Justin Murray, Hardy Nickerson and others will be looking to prove themselves as long-term NFL players and that starts this week.
Murray comes to the Bengals from the Saints' practice squad after the team brought in a host of players for tryouts this week.
Will someone other than A.J. Green step up?
Tyler Eifert, John Ross, Jeremy Hill and many others are on Injured Reserve and the offense has struggled to find capable ancillary weapons. It’s why the Bengals have the No. 32 overall offense and are 28th in passing.
Green has made his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, but there have been inconsistencies from other players. Tyler Kroft has stepped up nicely in Eifert’s absence, but he has been a little inconsistent. Cincinnati’s offense will need more than Green to aid in the passing game if they want to win.
Field players willing to give effort:
If the past two weeks have taught us anything, it’s that a majority of the veterans have given up on the rest of the season. Yes, they fought hard against the Steelers and have since been sorting through a multitude injuries, but the effort just simply hasn’t been there.
Now, because of so many players appearing to be out of the lineup this week, it’s up to a lot of aforementioned young players who are interviewing for jobs, so to speak. For that reason, even if it still results in a loss, Cincinnati will have the best chance of winning when fielding players who actually want to tackle, make catches and the like.
Put William Jackson on Marvin Jones:
The former Bengals wideout is relishing in his role as the often-go-to-guy in Detroit. He is showing the same big-play ability that he exhibited in Cincinnati, as his 54 catches have gone for 970 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s good for just 10 yards fewer than Green has for the Bengals this year and the same amount scores.
As it currently stands, it seems as if the Bengals’ second-year cornerback is the best currently active cornerback on the roster. Even though he’s been buried on the depth chart this year, Jackson has shined against great competition and his speed should be a good counter attack to Jones’ abilities.
Cincinnati's William Jackson is the only CB in the league to allow fewer than 40% of passes thrown his way to be caught this year.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) December 21, 2017