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Preview: Bengals at Green Bay Packers

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The Cincinnati Bengals looked like an up-and-coming team back in 2005, during their first trip to the playoffs in over 15 years, but those heady days are long gone. They were awful during the 1st half of the 2008 season, and needed a 2nd half rally to reach 4 wins. And it was a rally not from their offense, who scored no more than 21 points in any of their final 8 games, but their defense. 

In that regard, the Bengals might be catching the Packers at a good time. The pass protection fell apart during the 1st half last week against the Bears, and the offense isn't in sync. Their best chance is to keep it a low scoring game, and hope the ball is deflected their way this time.

I don't believe the coaches handed RT Allen Barbre the starting job if he was really that bad. He'll get another chance to start on Sunday, and I don't expect he'll disappoint. Once the pass protection is improved, the pass offense should be back on track.

My full preview is after the jump. Packers 24, Bengals 10. 

Here's the replay of the deflected TD pass that lost the Bengals the game last week:


Here are the team rankings based on yardage from NFL.com for both teams in 2008:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 17 8 26 12
Bengals 29 30 21 15

RB Cedric Benson averaged 3.5 yards/carry in 2008, and averaged 3.6 in his first game of 2009. And that was against Denver which had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last season. They're playing with four new starters on the offensive line in 2009, but they're not showing any major improvement yet. RB Ryan Grant looked good against the Bears, although he still doesn't look like the same player he was in 2007. Either way, the Packers should be much better running the ball then the Bengals.

As long as Barbre is straightened out in practice this week and WR Greg Jennings wrist injury isn't serious, Mike McCarthy says their just being cautious, the Packers passing attack should do much better against a weaker Bengals unit. The return of QB Carson Palmer alone should improve their passing attack, but his offensive line didn't provide much protection last Sunday, and they lost WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency. His free agent replacement, WR Laveranues Coles, was drop-tastic in his first game as a Bengal. 

The Packers fielded an awful run defense last season, but shut down fantasy football star RB Matt Forte last week. The Bengals didn't look much better in 2008, but this is based on yardage and their opponents ran the ball against them a lot last season. They held the Broncos to 75 yards on 20 carries last week. The Bengals run defense is the better unit, but overall it might be a push since the Packers D has to stop the lesser running back.

The pass defense looks close, but it's based on yardage which ignores that the Packers had 22 INTs compared to only 12 for the Bengals, and 27 sacks vs. 17. The Packers' opponents had a 71.9 QB rating while the Bengals allowed an 87.3 rating. The Bengals held QB Kyle Orton in check, until the fluke play to WR Brandon Stokley, while the Packers dominated QB Jay Cutler. The injury to S Atari Bigby doesn't help the Packers, but the step down to S Aaron Rouse isn't very big.