Geoff Hobson is reporting that only Andre Smith (foot) and David Jones (foot) will miss the season opener on Sunday. Carson Palmer (ankle) appears to be healthy as does Chris Henry (thigh), Scott Kooistra (knee), and Roy Williams (thigh).
The Bengals can survive without David Jones against what is a confused Denver offense. The big worry should be the loss of Andre Smith. Yes, he has only been with the team for what seems like a day, but with the offensive line being the biggest question mark on the team, they could definitely have used the depth.
After receiving an extension for ticket sales from the NFL, the Bengals did manage to sellout Sunday's contest. The sellout streak, which started in 2003, will continue to 45 games. Pretty remarkable considering the overall record of the Bengals since 2003 is 46 wins against 49 losses.
I wanted to launch into a pimping rant about the passion and loyalty of Bengals fans, but as it turns out, the Bengals, Kroger, and WKRC stepped in and bought the remaining tickets to give to local military families and assorted charities. At the very least the guys over at WhoDeyRevolution.com can feel pretty good about getting to watch the game and having accomplished their goal...sorta.
The biggest one to watch, in my not-so-humble opinion, is Anthony Collins/Andrew Whitworth vs. Elvis Dumervil. The Bengals tackles will have their work cut out for them against Dumervil who, if the preseason is any indication, looks to have greatly benefited from Denver's switch to a 3-4 scheme. If the line can protect and run block then I'd expect the offense to move the ball very well.
If the previous match up goes the Bengals way, I would expect this next one to have a big impact on the game. Andre Goodman vs. Laveraneus Coles is an intriguing skill position match up outside of the obvious OchoCinco vs. Bailey battle. Coles will likely be eager to prove why he was worth more than the $6 million option the Jets offered. What makes this match up interesting is against Goodman last season Coles only had five yards receiving in the first game but bounced back in the second game with 88 yards and a TD against Goodman.
With Leon Hall quietly gaining respect around the league as one of the better corners and a healthy Jonathan Joseph looking like the Joseph of 2006 it will be interesting to see how much Mike Zimmer chooses to blitz and leave his corners on an island. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are certainly not slouches after propelling the Broncos to the NFL's third-ranked passing attack last season. Assuming Hall is covering Marshall the majority of the snaps, I think this will be a big determining factor of the game.
I do not think this will be an easy game for either team. As always, the turnover comparison will play a huge role in the end result. Unfortunately both clubs have faced such a turnover in personnel it's hard to draw much from the previous season.
So, going on shaky history and an abundance of time to ponder over the match ups, I'm going to bet the Bengals offensive line will be able to block and the defense will force Kyle Orton into some ill-advised decisions. Keep in mind the last time the Bengals played against Kyle Orton when he completed five passes to Bengals defenders and fumbled once.
The Bottom line? Bengals win their season opener in front of a sellout crowd, 31-21.