After last week’s pretty abysmal showing by the Green Bay Packer defense in Atlanta, a good deal of air has been let out of cheeseheads’ expectations for the 2017 season. After all, the defense that was trounced by the Falcons in the 2016 NFC Championship game was trounced once again, leading many to question whether any real improvements had been made over the offseason. If the Packers can’t step up and at least keep things close with the Falcons, their dreams of a Super Bowl berth may already be over.
And then injury was added to insult. A laundry list of defensive starters bit the dust during the game, and the news regarding their statuses for the upcoming week and beyond has been largely bad. On Thursday, it was reported that Green Bay’s most important pass-rusher, Nick Perry, would undergo surgery on an injured finger, which will put him out indefinitely.
Also, as of Thursday’s practice, the Packers’ best defender Mike Daniels did not practice, nor did Davon House, Jake Ryan, or Kentrell Brice. While none of these injuries appear to be too major, it would not be surprising to see some or all of the above players miss a week or perhaps more. It’s terrible timing with the defense reeling from a big loss and needing to gain back some momentum.
However, the scheduling gods may have provided the Packers with at least a temporary medicine. The Packers will host a visiting Cincinnati Bengals team which has thus far been torched by opposing defenses. In fact, the Bengals have yet to score a TD on the season, being shut out by the Ravens in Week 1 and held to just three field goals by the Texans in Week 2.
On the surface, this might be surprising for a usually average to above-average offense. The Bengals are certainly not without a bevvy of talented skill players. Andy Dalton and AJ Green have had considerable success in the past, and Cincinnati also features one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL, Tyler Eifert. Combine the passing threat with the three talented backs in Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and highly anticipated rookie Joe Mixon, and the Bengals should certainly be putting up points.
However, as Packer fans are well aware given the recent injuries at offensive tackle, a good quarterback and a cabinet of skill players don’t mean much if you aren’t getting the job done in the trenches, and that is exactly where the Bengals are struggling. Through two weeks, Andy Dalton has been sacked 7 times and disrupted a whopping 37 times. The result has been the worst quarterback play of his career. Dalton’s QB rating is sitting at 47.2 with 4 INTs and 0 TDs.
This is an offensive line that the Packers can and should overpower and outplay, even if Daniels and Perry are unable to suit up. This will be one of the easiest opportunities on the season for Clay Matthews to return to form, Ahmad Brooks to show that he can still bring something to the table, and Kyler Fackrell to quiet his critics.
The Bengals are better at running the ball, so the Packers will have to shore up the middle of the defensive line if Daniels does not play. However, the defense does not have to be perfect. Aaron Rodgers and company will score points at home, even if they have to play without both starting tackles once again (as they did against Atlanta). It’s unlikely that the Bengals’ TD-less streak will continue, but if the defense can keep them from getting into the endzone more than a couple of times, the offense should have no problem pulling out the victory.
Right now, the Packers are licking their wounds after a defensive thrashing, but the Bengals will provide a perfect opportunity to regain defensive confidence while key players get back to being healthy. A home win puts them back on track; there’s plenty of season left to work on stopping the Falcons if they should see them again in the postseason.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.