When writers, talking heads, columnists, and fans (especially fans to the south and west of Wisconsin’s borders) predicted doom and gloom and the playoffs missed this season, I didn’t understand. I still don’t. I touched on this a little but, but here’s the deal, folks: the Packers don’t lose at home and they don’t lose division games. The Packers are going to go either 11-0 or 10-1 in home games/division games. It’s going to happen. Just watch. All the Packers have to do is win one road game against a team that’s not in the division to guarantee entry in to the playoffs. One. These games are @ Cincinatti this week, in Baltimore, in New York (Giants), in Dallas, and the loss at San Francisco. One those chances, or one of those “swings”, if you will (and I will) is this week’s game against Cincinnati.
The other reason that Sunday’s game could be referred to as a “swing” or a “shot”, is man would it be stealing one from the football gods. By all accounts, the Bengals are one of the best teams left on Green Bay’s schedule. Whether or not I believe that is a separate issue that will be addressed. The thing is, if the Packers can go into Cincinatti and beat what everyone believes to be a playoff team on the road, they could be scary good when they come back to play the Lions in 2 weeks. Eddie Lacy will return, Morgan Burnett will return, Casey Hayward should return. If the team can get to the bye week at 2-1 the rest of the season could fall extremely well for them. I understand that there was a lot of consternation about the early bye week, but the Packers have actually happened upon a very even schedule, considering that the Packers play 2 teams that they own in a span of 5 days followed by a 10 day break (they play the Vikings at home and then the Lions on Thanksgiving). This acts as a second bye week and a second opportunity to get guys ready for the home stretch.
Why the Packers Will Win: Well to start, they’re a better football team. They have better players. The Bengals offense is basically AJ Green and what I believe to be a very talented Gio Bernard. The Packers are a multifaceted offensive attack that seirously might score 500 points this season. The Bengals defense is better than the Packers, but with their newfound ability to shut down the opponents running game (when the games are actually in question) the Packers D is not far behind. I’m not sure Pacman Jones is going to play in this game, which is going to leave the Bengals defense with the unenviable task of covering the Packers WRs with Leon Hall (who is fantastic), Terrence Newman (who is not fantastic) and Dre Kirkpatrick (who isn’t good yet). If Morgan Burnett is not able to play, and it doesn’t really look like he is, I would seriously throw House and Jennigns on AJ Green in every possible passing situation and just play 9 on 10 from there. I do not fear Mohamed Sanu or any of the rest of that mess. Eifert and Gresham are nice pieces but after the Packers got murdered by Vernon Davis in week 1, they handled the Redskins combination of Jordan Reed and Fred Davis very well. I didn’t like the way the Bengals played against a bad Steeler team, and if Andy Dalton can’t keep up with Aaron Rodgers it’s going to be ugly for the Bengals.
Why the Bengals Will Win: there are a couple of different ways that this one could break in favor of the home team. There are two strengths of the Bengals that do match up well with conceived weaknesses of the Packers. First of all, Geno Atkins is one of the best DTs in the NFL, and Packers fans have got to consider Evan Dietrich Smith as one of the biggest question marks on the offensive line. Also, the “soft underbelly” of the Packers defense that has a hard time with backs and tight ends just might have difficulty with young stud TEs Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. The Packers are still missing Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward. There is also the chance that AJ Green completely takes over the game and just embarrasses the Packer defense. This will be a big test for the front 7 of the Packer defense as well as their offensive line.
Fantasy Packer to Start: James Jones- after last week, this might sime like a little bit of cherry picking, but here’s my concept: the Bengals have one guy who can really, really cover. Leon Hall is a very good football player. I’m not saying that Rodgers won’t throw in that direction, but he might not throw at Hall unless he absolutely has to. I’m not sure whether or not Hall will play the left side of the defense or what he’ll do but if he follows someone around all day it’s not going to be James Jones. AR does a fantastic job of exploiting the mismatch for his offense, and I think it’s going to be Jones more often than not. Side note: I’m not going to take any responsibility for you getting 1 point out of Eddie Lacy after I told you to start him. I am not Brandon Meriweather, I did not senselessly launch my cranium at Eddie Lacy. Considering what James Starks did (and no disrespect to him) Eddie probably would have ran for a buck and a half.
Fantasy Packer to Sit: James Starks- do what you can to avoid starting Jimmy this weekend. Starks had a career day on Sunday and ran wild on the Redskins. I’m not saying that he’s not capable of running wild, because his question has never been talent, it’s actually been about staying on the field. Talent-wise, the Bengals front 7 is probably somewhere in between the elite unit of the San Francisco 49ers and the disaster that is the Washington Redskins defense. I project somewhere between 50-70 yards from Starks but I have a hard time believing that the Packers will score a rushing TD in this game.
Packers Stat of the Week: Of QB Aaron Rodgers 480 yards, the Packers pass catchers had 283 yards after the catch (YAC) against the Redskins. That number is absolutely staggering. That number is also more yards than starting quarterbacks Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Chad Henne, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith, Geno Smith, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Freeman, and of COURSE Christian Ponder THREW for!
Bottom Line: The Bengals as they sit right now are not in the same category as the Packers. I have the Packers as the 4th best team in the league right now. On a neutral field I think that they lose more times than they win against the 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks (and I’m not really sure about that either). I understand that this is a road game, but Mike McCarthy has done such a fantastic job getting this team up and ready for “business trips” over the last 3 seasons that I don’t think it really matters. The entire Super Bowl XLV run was on the road, and he has a very impressive 11-5 record on the road over the last two seasons. AJ Green is going to get his, but I don’t think the Bengals are going to be able to put enough pressure on Rodgers to slow down the offense. I mean they couldn’t sack Jay Cutler once in week 1, and everybody sacks Jay Cutler. Packers: 31 Bengals: 24