Pregame: Bengals Packers 2017 Week 3

After a couple of premier matchups against predicted in-conference division champs, we swing to the AFC slate against a struggling Bengals club. Here’s the big factors we’ll be watching.

Injuries
We’ve already harped on the impact this can have, but it’s because they make such a big deal. Packer Doubtfuls are Daniels, Bakhtiari, Perry, Cobb, House, Brice, and Ryan. That’s a big deal. On the bright side, younger guys are getting reps, which should pay dividends in December and January (and hopefully February). I truly believe this is part of the reason why the Packers are so conservative with injuries under McCarthy – it’s a chance to rest guys, but really a place to develop the middle of the roster.

Hey, Other Teams Get Injuries, Too!
Super tight end Tyler Eifert and speedy rookie John Ross have both been ruled out for the game. Those are a couple of unique chess pieces that the bad guys will be missing. Geno Atkins was limited in practice (but I expect him to play at his usually high level).

…And They Get Suspensions
Vontaze Burfict looked like a gifted, troubled player coming out of college. The latter made him go undrafted, but the former made him one of the best ILBs in the league. He’s just on the other side of that line that Mike Daniels gets right up to and sometimes it costs him. This time, it cost him three games (although the hit in question hardly looks worth a suspension – but hey, we know the NFL doesn’t always get it right, don’t we?). Right or wrong, we won’t have to face him.

Interior Line
Jahri Evans has looked like an aging superstar more than a former All Pro (and there certainly worse things than that) and the whole of the interior line got posterized last week. This week, Geno Atkins comes to town and the guards will need to really have their guard up (see what I did there?) to handle the interior pressure. Rodgers does not seem to have found his comfort zone with his magical footwork yet this season – hopefully he finds it before we’re 4-6.

TyMo
Ty Montgomery has led all NFL running backs in snaps and has 39 touches in 2 games. The Packers line is beat up, but the Bengals box is also not at full strength. McCarthy seems to be using Ty as a focal point. Monty hasn’t really found his pinball wizard action of 2016 yet, but with Jordy and Cobb banged up and Martellus Bennett catching like Featherstone, he may be leaned on to make some offense in Week 3.

Scheme!
The Bengals fired their offensive coordinator after averaging 0 TDs every 14 days. Ever since the 2011 Chiefs game, I have looked at new coaching situations a very dangerous. The good news is that we are facing someone we’ve seen before in Bill Lazor. Lazor was Miami’s playcaller in 2014, when the Packers opened the season there and Joe Goodberry at USA Today did a great job breaking down how that went. There was a lot of spreading out, which means the secondary will need to run a lot. It’s not Miami, but it may be the warmest game ever played in Green Bay, so it’s a good thing we have a lot of fast, young defensive backs out there. The thing I remember most about the Dolphins under Joe Philbin and Bill Lazor was a lot of pre-snap activity and an offense that just always had you feeling tense. I thought they were building something out there. It will be interested to see if Lazor applies a similar approach this game. Facing a young defense that is still figuring out its scheme, especially with replacement players, it may be a good move for him to have a lot of pre-snap moves and spread plays.

What About Aaron?
The last couple of years, it seems like Rodgers has taken his time warming up. Maybe it’s a side effect of less preseason work, maybe it’s being wary of starting fast and fading (cough-2015-cough), maybe his age is starting to show, or maybe that’s just the way the game is. I don’t think hes fallen off a cliff by any means, so I’ll just wait patiently for his mid-season self to emerge. Maybe it will be this week, maybe it won’t. Maybe now that we’re officially out of summer, we can see Fall Rodgers. Time will tell.

Final Predictions
Rodgers will get a little bit of a groove with quick short passes to move the chains and the offense will start to come to life. Martellus Bennett will even catch a ball. On defense, I would have hoped for a sack feast against the OLine, but with Daniels and Perry out, it may just be a draw. However, I expect big things out of the secondary. King, Randall, and Rollins (slot) will most likely start, giving us a good glimpse of the future. I like it. There may be a touchdown in there, but I am expecting the Packers to get a couple picks. The Packers aren’t in mid-season form yet and they have some key injuries, but the Bengals look even worse. It may not be pretty, but it will get us to 2-1 while resting some big names for a short week.

Packers 20, Bengals 13

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