Key to Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers is undoubtedly how Cincinnati's defense responds to the Packers passing game. If the Bengals pass rush helps Cincinnati's ailing secondary to prevent Aaron Rodgers from picking apart the Bengals troubled secondary depth, the greatest battle being waged during the young '13 season could be neutralized.
But for Cincinnati to beat the Packers, those discussions may land on how well Cincinnati's offense plays. The pieces are there; the threats exist, and the Bengals offense has every potential from being a 20th ranked offense (ala, '11 and '12) to one of the league's most efficient powerhouses.
The running back dynamics are set with the short-yardage monster BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who virtually guarantees every third and short situation, teaming up with rookie Giovani Bernard, who was the offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Monday Night. Cincinnati's wide receiver roster is combined with the vertical threats in A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, while Mohamed Sanu adds the big-body dynamic to post receptions with nice body control and soft hands (well, more sure-handed against the Steelers). And the dynamics with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert in Tiger formation (duel-tight formation with one running back) could develop into one of the league's best tight end duos.
But it's never been about talent.
Rather, it's consistency.
Against the Chicago Bears, the Bengals ended their six first half possessions with two interceptions, two touchdowns and two punts. During their final four drives of the game, the Bengals scored a touchdown, lost a fumble and punted twice on three-and-out. Against the Steelers on Monday Night Football, the Bengals punted on five of their first seven possessions and during the second half, they went punt, touchdown, punt, field goal, punt.
However, their second half game plan against the Steelers highlighted a philosophy that could literally dominate any opposing defense. Ditching the pass heavy game plan in the first half, the Bengals balanced out, which helped them generate 11 first downs and a 50 percent third down conversion rate in second half.
Keep the balance with an increasing workload for Giovani Bernard (65 yards and two touchdowns last week against Pittsburgh) and Tyler Eifert (61-yard reception was the first big play against the Steelers), and the offense will generate momentum by sustaining possessions and giving the team's defense an assist by keeping Aaron Rodgers and his god-like receivers on the bench.
Furthermore, Andy Dalton may have the opportunity to really set the stage for a career-like game against the Packers. Green Bay's defense is averaging 366 passing yards allowed in two games this season (31st in the NFL), a 67.1 completion rate (23rd), and a combined six touchdowns allowed (only one defense in the NFL has allowed more). And Dalton will do that as Green Bay is dealing with their own injuries in the secondary. Starting safety Morgan Burnett is already out, as are backup cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush, leaving four healthy cornerbacks and three safeties on Green Bay's roster.
The key match-up will be the Bengals defense holding their own against Green Bay's offense. But it's the Bengals offense that could dictate the game's outcome.