Even though this week’s game is in a city that is on the complete opposite end of the state and a four hour drive away from his hometown of Canton, Coach McDaniels gets to open up the season in his home state of Ohio.
They are pretty much known more for the television show “WKRP in Cincinnati” than for good football over the years. The only notable player to ever wear a Bengals Uniform was Boomer Esiason who led Cincinnati to two Super Bowl losses to the 49ers in the 80’s.
The Bengals have gotten better over the past few years under the tutelage of Coach Marvin Lewis, yet they remain consistently inconsistent from year to year.
The Bengals followed up their 7-9 2007 record by finishing third in the AFC North in 2008 with a record of 4-11-1. Nonetheless Cincinnati is not a team that you want to look past on your schedule.
They are using the sting of their embarrassing showing last season to fuel their intensity this year. The Bengals are a team of bad intentions who are much better than last year’s record shows and they need to be taken seriously.
The Bengals Offense
The Bengals are loaded at the offensive skilled positions.
Quarterback No. 9 Carson Palmer
He has a great arm and is a seasoned quarterback in the NFL. He can be very dangerous if he has time to throw the football.
No. 85 Chad OchoCinco 6’1” 192lbs
No. 85 is very talented. Unfortunately his play has dropped off the past few years. Whether it is double teams, chemistry, age or maybe he is just not that good, Mr. eight–five is known more for his antics on and off the field than for his play on it.
No. 11 Laveranues Coles 5’11” 200lbs
Coles chose to sign with Cinci in the offseason and will fill the position opposite OchoCinco left vacant by T.J. Who’syourmama?’s departure.
Coles has also had an inconsistent career in the NFL as a No. 1 receiver, but now that he is playing second fiddle to “the Chad” (who was once considered elite), he may see the kind of touches that Houshmandzadeh built his career on the past few years.
No. 15 Chris Henry 6’4” 200lbs
Henry has had a troubled career in the NFL. He has shown flashes of great ability but has gotten in his own way by getting in trouble with the law. Bengals fans are hoping he has turned over a new leaf this season.
Henry turned it on in the preseason, racking up 14 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns in four games. This could mean he is poised to have an amazing year coming out of the slot.
No. 32 Cedric Benson
Benson was supposed to be the reincarnation of Ricky Williams (the Ricky before he decided to retire from football at the height of his career so he could go smoke pot full-time).
Unfortunately for Benson, he struggled more than he succeeded thus far in his career. He may be finally putting things together in Cinci, but still, no one is expecting anything spectacular from him.
Denver’s Defensive Strategy
Cincinnati has a potent aerial arsenal at their disposal, with a capable running complement, but the Bengals do not have a very good offensive line. Andre Smith was supposed to help make them better, but a holdout followed by a foot fracture has kept him from making any impact on the Bengals line.
Therefore the key for Denver to be successful against this passing attack will be putting pressure on the quarterback.
All three of Cinci’s receivers are known for their speed, not their route running. So the trick is not to get beat deep. The best way to do this is with pressure. It takes time for receivers to get down the field no matter how fast they are.
Palmer is a pocket passer with limited mobility and is fresh off an elbow injury last year. If Denver can stay in Palmer’s face all day long the Bengals won’t have time to throw the deep ball.
The beautiful thing about the 3-4 defense is that you can bring pressure from anywhere.
I look for the Denver’s front seven all to get involved in creating pressure. D-line, outside, and inside backers should all keep the pressure coming from different places all day long.
Champ, Goodman, Smith, Hill, and Dawkins should be able to keep OchoCinco, Coles, and Henry from getting open down field and snatch up any errant throws that come their way.
Denver’s front seven will also need to keep Cinci honest in the running game, but again Cinci’s weak O-line creates the opportunity for Denver to shut Benson down as well.
The Bengals really don’t get too creative in their running plays and Denver will mostly see them try to pound the ball up the middle more than attempting to finesse run to the outside.
Denver has a chance to come out and make a statement defensively in this first game. Not giving Palmer anytime to set up, make his reads, and throw the ball will go a long way to Denver getting a W this Sunday. (Forcing a couple turnovers wouldn’t hurt either.)
The Bengals Defense
Cincinnati has quietly been putting together a very solid defense under Marvin Lewis. They have yet to become one of the most feared in the league but they have been consistently getting better under his guidance.
The Bengals run a 4-3 defense starting up front with Robert Geathers, Domata Peko, Tank Johnson, and Antwaan Odom. These guys are big and tough will make plays on you if you're not careful. They also drafted rush specialist Michael Johnson out of Georgia Tech who could cause some trouble of his own on passing downs.
Dhani Jones, Rey Mauluga, and Keith Rivers make up a young but talented line-backing core for Cincinnati. Mauluga may not start, but should at least see some time. A top prospect who fell to Cinci in the second round, Maualuga is known to be a devastating hitter.
Keith Rivers was a top prospect last year who would have challenged Jerod Mayo for defensive rookie of the year had he not broken his jaw in week seven.
Cinci’s secondary got stronger with the addition of Roy Williams in the offseason. If he can return to the form he once played with in Dallas a few years ago, this move could be huge for the Bengals.
Leon Hall and Jonathon Joseph have developed into a pair of very good corners as well. They will keep most offenses honest all over the field, but could be susceptible to the deep ball at times. The Bengals do not have any notable depth to speak of beyond these two starters in the secondary.
Denver’s Offensive Strategy
Denver should just play their game against Cincinnati. McDaniel’s offense should work against anybody, with screen passes to receivers and running backs, and short passes with a healthy portion of run set up by the pass.
Hopefully Knowshon Moreno will be mostly-to-fully ready for the game. He only had a few runs in preseason, but they were enough to show everyone that he will be a force to be reckoned with this year. I don’t believe the Bronco’s depth chart; I think we will see him out there on the field quite often.
Denver also may have their full complement of receivers including perhaps Brandon Marshall.
McDaniels' system is all about game management. If Orton is careful with the football and does not take any chances then the Broncos should be able to systematically move the ball down the field very well.
Denver’s offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, and seldom gives up a sack. I saw Orton having happy feat in the pocket too many times in the preseason. Orton needs to learn to trust in his offensive line and be comfortable in the pocket knowing he has time, then just make the smart throw with the football.
If Marshall does indeed take the field then all bets are off. Cincinnati’s biggest weakness is in their secondary, and Marshall should draw a double team. That should leave things open for Royal, Gaffney, and Stokley to get open.
McDaniels needs a win to satiate the critics out there who are already calling for his job, and the Bengals are looking to set the tone for the rest of their season.
As long as Denver protects the football and doesn’t give the game away with penalties and turnovers I think Denver has a very good shot at taking down the Bengals in week one. Both teams will be hungry, and both teams will be looking to make a statement in this first game.
Call me a homer if you want but I give Denver the edge in this game because of Cincinnati’s weak offensive line.
My prediction: Denver wins 23- 17.