There weren’t a lot of obvious game of the week picks for week three. There aren’t many division rivalry games that are likely to mean a lot in the standings at season’s end. And it’s too early to say who is matching up in a game that will have playoff tiebreaker ramifications. So I ended up going with this game because for a couple reasons. First, I think the Bengals and the Packers are both playoff teams and, very possibly, both division champions. But secondly, I was piqued by this match-up because of the potentially psychological ramifications for the Bengals.
For many years, Cincy was at the bottom of the barrel of the NFL. Marvin Lewis has taken them to a level of respectability now, with two consecutive playoff appearances, but I don’t think many have taken them seriously as a Super Bowl contender, particularly as they’ve fought to get out of the shadow of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This year, the Bengals definitely have a chance to overtake those two rivals and winning a game like this would prove, not only to fans, but to themselves that they are truly a contender. Meanwhile, the Packers play their first road game since getting beaten by San Francisco in week one and Green Bay must win to keep up with a Chicago team that has gotten out of the gates well.
Ray Rivard, Lombardiave.com (Twitter: @LombardiAve)
WHY THE PACKERS WILL WIN:
The Green Bay Packers travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals Sunday, coming off one of the team’s most impressive offensive showings in recent memory. But the Bengals offer their own challenges for the Packers – challenges that could be overcome by three factors: Aaron Rodgers, the defensive backfield and special teams.
The Packers beat the Bengals by allowing Aaron Rodgers to do what he does best: complete passes at a high percentage. But to do that, they have to keep him upright. Though he was sacked four times in last Sunday’s game, the bulk of those sacks came in the first two series. After that, Rodgers was lights out. Every time he steps on the field, the Packers have a chance to win. His presence will again give the team that chance.
The defensive backfield will have a huge challenge against the Bengals receivers. The talent on the Cincinnati offensive side of the football is undeniable. However, if the Packers contain those receivers and keep them out of the end zone, the Packers chances for a win increase dramatically.
And lastly, the Packers special teamers have to tilt the field in the Packers favor. Packers punter Tim Masthay has been incredible, not only punting the ball but in handling the kickoffs. He consistently puts the ball out of the end zone and forces teams to start at the 20. That will be huge come Sunday. In addition, the Packers must be consistent in the return game and must stay away from Turnovers.
WHY THE BENGALS WILL WIN:
If the Packers don’t get defensive pressure on Andy Dalton, they could be in for a long day. If the Packers offensive line doesn’t protect Aaron Rodgers or open holes for the running game, the team will be in for a long day. If the Packers allow the Bengals receivers to run wild, they will be in for a long day. If Aaron Rodgers can’t get the ball to his wide receivers, they will be in a long day.
If the Packers can’t continue the momentum they gained last week against the Washington Redskins, they will be in for a long day.
Winning on the road is never easy, but I feel that Aaron Rodgers is the difference-maker in every game. This game will be no different. Rodgers throws three more TDs in this one without an INT as the Packers turn things up in the second half and come out with a 27-17 win.
Jason Marcum, Stripe Hype (Twitter: @StripeHype)
WHY THE BENGALS WILL WIN:
The Green Bay Packers are coming off an impressive week, highlighted by their first 100-yard rushing performance in nearly three years. That led to running back James Starks earning the starting job for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stepping in place of the injured Lacy, Starks rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins, giving the Packers their first win of the 2013 NFL season. While Starks will have more big games this year, as long as he remains the starter, this week will not be one of them. Through two weeks, the Bengals sport the league’s No. 7 rush defense, which includes holding All-Pro Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte to a measly 50 yards rushing.
Starks is no Forte, and the Packers offensive line won’t get the same kind of push against the Bengals defensive line, led by Geno Atkins, that they did against a battered and disinterested Redskins d-line.
WHY THE PACKERS WILL WIN:
The Bengals success against the run will make the Packers one-dimensional against the Bengals – which may not be that bad for Green Bay, given who the man throwing the ball 40-plus times will be. The Packers currently have the NFL’s No. 1 offense, and it’s no surprise it’s been on the strength of Aaron Rodgers’ arm. Rodgers was honored today by the NFL for his most recent performance against the Washington Redskins, which saw him finish the day 34 of 42 for 480 yards with four touchdowns. He looks like an early-favorite for league MVP honors and, against a banged-up Bengals secondary, he’s poised for another big week.
Cincinnati finished Monday’s 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with just three healthy cornerbacks. They lost cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to a hamstring injury, and starting CB Adam Jones is battling a hip and abdomen injury that’s causing a noticeable drop-off in his play.
The next CB on the depth chart, Brandon Ghee, has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest with a concussion. The team signed CB Curtis Marsh off the street this week and he may get significant snaps this week, despite having been relegated to special teams for his two seasons in the league.
Rodgers has to be licking his chops at the thought of facing this secondary. I see him having another big game. Andy Dalton hasn’t shown he’s consistent enough to win a shootout. I see this game being fairly competitive, but the Pack should come out of Cincinnati with a win, 27-23.
Zoneblitz’ Take: Cincinnati and Green Bay both took care of business in week two after stumbling in week one losses. I think Green Bay is the more talented team here, but this is a big game for the Bengals, a team people are just starting to take seriously as a true contender in the AFC North. This is an opportunity for Cincy to take another step and to earn some real respect around the league after years and years of being considered a doormat. For that reason I think we’ll see a gallant effort out of the orange and black. As Jason spells out above, the Bengals are short-handed in the secondary at a bad time, so I don’t know if they can actually pull out the win, but this will be close and entertaining. Packers win, 31-27.
Who will win the ZB Game of the Week?
- Green Bay Packers (81%, 34 Votes)
- Cincinnati Bengals (19%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 42