The Bengals are coming off a sucker punch of a loss to Denver in the opener last week, a game that Cincy dominated in nearly every aspect yet ended up losing on a freak play at the end of the game. With arch-rival Pittsburgh waiting next week and division opponents Cleveland and Baltimore on deck, this stretch of games will make or break the Bengals season.
Lose to Green Bay and you face the prospect of taking an 0-2 record into the Steeler game with desperation starting to set in. Win, and suddenly you have a chance to get back into the division race.
Of course, it all starts Sunday. Never a good road team, the Bengals must find a way to win in a hostile environment and to do so against one of the NFC's better teams. They must also find a way to play better than they did last week.
While the defense's inability to stop Denver on the last play of the game has gotten all of the attention, it was actually the offense’s inability to put more than seven points on the board that cost the Bengals the game. Cincinnati will have to do much better than that if it wants to get a win in Lambeau Field.
The Green Bay defense has been rebuilt by coordinator Dom Capers and the overhauled showed last week when the Packers forced Jay Cutler into four interceptions in a win over Chicago. The pressure defense the Packers employ will be brought to bear on a Bengals team that has struggled in recent years to score points.
Much of Cincinnati's problems on offense in week one came down to execution.
Free agent wide receiver Lavernues Coles dropped three passes in the game and was never in sync with quarterback Carson Palmer. The offensive line kept Palmer relatively upright, but did not get much of push on run plays.
But a lot of Cincinnati's problems can also be attributed to scheme. Rookie running back Bernard Scott, who flashed during the preseason, saw very little action against Denver. And while the Broncos concentrated their defensive efforts on shutting down Cincinnati’s wideouts, the Bengals seemed unable to exploit the gaping holes in the middle of the field.
Against Green Bay, those problems will have to be solved. Aaron Rogers and the very explosive Packer offense is sure to score more than the 12 that Denver managed and the Green Bay defense is far superior to the Broncos.
The Bengals must get better play from Coles and fellow wideout Chris Henry. The offensive line must dominate the line of scrimmage. And Cincinnati must show more crispness on offense than in week one.
If the Bengals do not do those things, it could be the beginning to another long year in Cincinnati.