Pack at Bengals: It Has a Good News, Bad News Feel To It

It feels like there's a sense of good news/bad news as we get set for the Packers road game in Cincinnati. Let's go back and forth, shall we?

Good news: the Packers are historically very good in games heading into their bye. Under Mike McCarthy is 5-2 and the team is 14-5 since '94, tied for best in the league.

Bad news: The Pack will be without a number of key guys from all three phases. The secondary will once again be down three guys: Morgan Burnett is close but not ready and will be rested through the bye, as will Casey Hayward. There's no guarantee the young corner will be ready for week 5 at this point either. Jarrett Bush remains out, which is more of a hit to special teams. John Kuhn will also miss this one. He's Aaron Rodgers' top pass protector and blitz locator--he'll be missed there and on special teams. And rookie Eddie Lacy didn't practice all week, so he won't dress. That's a lot of firepower missing on the road against a playoff team.

Good news: The defense finally doesn't have to worry about a QB's legs, not that RGIII posed a significant challenge in that area last week. But Andy Dalton is the anti-Kaepernick. He's a statue back there who's at his best when he's getting rid of the ball quickly, dinking and dunking in the west coast offense, with the occasional long ball aimed AJ Green's way.

Bad news: AJ Green. Enough said. Well, okay, if you can't contain Anquan Bolden and Pierre Garcon, good luck with Green. The Pack will have to be at their tackling best against the emerging superstar wideout, who will be targeted 10+ times. While he can beat you deep, he also catches a lot of short ones and breaks tackled before running away from safeties.

Good news: The Packers' offense hummed in a way most teams never accomplish. Rodgers, after some protection issues early, toyed with the Skins' secondary early and often and would have set Packer records if the game were competitive in the second half. With his receiving corps healthy, Rodgers should find holes in the defense, particularly in the middle of the field. Look for Finley and Cobb to have big games.

Bad news: The Pack may have to rely more heavily on the passing game than they like. Without Lacy and Kuhn, the team is down to two guys in the backfield: Starks and Franklin, the latter has yet to take an offensive snap. The team is hesitant to promote practice squad guy Michael Hill because they'd have to boot someone off the roster. Look for one of the tight ends to step in and play the fullback spot on third downs. Is Starks ready to handle the load? Can he stay healthy? Let's hope so.

Good news: The Packers have looked much better up front than advertised. Though they ultimately gave up a bunch of passing yards to Alfred Morris, the run defense is much improved. They'll be tested by rookie Giovani Bernard and the law firm, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, but it feels like they're up to the challenge.

Bad news: Up front is where this team is strongest, on both sides of the ball. Their defensive line rivals the Lions and Ravens, and is led by Geno Atkins, now the highest paid defensive tackle in the league. His linemates tend to get numbers because teams pay so much attention to him. The Pack's offensive line has already faced the tough Niners, which I think will help them when they face this tough front four.

Good news: The intangibles go the Pack's way. Cincinnati is coming off a short week and this game is sandwiched between two division games. No one expects them to look past the Packers, but inter-conference games are inherently less important than division games and the schedule maker did the Pack some favors. Plus, the Packers are 14-7 in their last 21 road games. And for you recreational gamblers out there, the Bengals are just 3-11 against the spread in games following Steelers games. The Packers are 2-3 point favorites in this one.

Bad news: What has cost the Packers in tough road games against good opponents is turnovers and penalties. Green Bay is -2 through two games, while the Bengals are even. Putting the ball on the ground, costly penalties--we saw this in San Francisco. It can't happen in Cincinnati. The place can get loud and if the Bengals' pass rush heats up, it could get a little ugly. But after watching the rookie tackles struggle on Thursday night, I have a bigger appreciation for the job David Bakhtiari has done through two games.

It feels like a close, low scoring game that gets decided in the final minutes. Sitting on 1-2 for two weeks would be frustrating and I think the Pack and Rodgers will do just enough to pull it out, to get to 2-1 with two weeks to prepare for the Lions.

Packers 24 Bengals 20


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