Kirkendall over at the excellent Cincy Jungle blog took the time to answer five of my vitally important questions about next Sunday's game, and I will reprint them here with my commentary to follow (consider it a director's cut):
1. What kind of numbers do you expect from the Bengals running game, given the Falcons' strength against the run?
Kirkendall: The Bengals offensive philosophy is that you pass to setup the run. The Bengals use an assortment of quick passes that may gain three to four yards encouraging cornerbacks to come up. That's when the vertical passing game becomes lethal. If the Falcons defense allows the short passes, eventually, the deep threat will come into play. If that happens, and the offense can match one-on-one coverage with our receivers, then I feel pretty confident the Bengals rushing will be very effective. Ultimately, I believe the success of your secondary will dictate the success of the Bengals running game.
Dave: An interesting offensive philosophy, in that most teams run to set up the pass. Again, I like DeAngelo against Chad Johnson, but Webster against the Housh of Pain is something I'd really rather not watch.
2. The Falcons may be forced to start a pair of rookies at left and right guard. Will this greatly improve the Pumpkin Cats' ability to get to Vick?
Kirkendall: It really depends on their attributes. Justin Smith, the Bengals right defensive end, uses brute strength; puts his head down and charges. Robert Geathers, the left defensive end, uses quickness and speed. He also jumps into coverage so he's got some agility. The Bengals defensive ends -- having good seasons -- are the only tandem in the NFL with six sacks each.
Dave: Yikes. I didn't realize that Smith and Geathers each had six sacks, and I'm now a bit more worried about this game. The Falcons will clearly need production out of Ojinnaka and Clabo to get Vick out of this game alive.
3. What would you game plan for Vick be? Do you chance his arm, chance his legs, or attempt to balance it out?
Kirkendall:I'd believe the Bengals defense will "encourage" Vick to stay in the pocket and force him to throw. The Bengals secondary is very good. We've had two different pro-bowl corners in the past two pro-bowls and a rookie cornerback that's out-performing both. Dexter Jackson, a former Super Bowl MVP, has raised the level and play of the secondary - his injury hasn't changed the evolving attitude this defense is developing. But Madieu Williams is, by far, our best guy. He's great at run support and hits receivers - especially in crossing routes - hard. He will be in the Pro-Bowl multiple times before his career is over. Kevin Kaesviharn, the backup safety, has picked off Ben Roethlisberger and Jake Delhomme to preserve wins. If the Bengals offense scores early and forces your offense to go aerial, I fully expect the Bengals to win. Not because I believe Vick is horrible as a passer, but our secondary is generally lights out.
Dave: I respect the Bengals' secondary, but I'll be honest: I think you'll have a hard time keeping Vick in the pocket, where he tends to make his most backbreaking throws. Instead, he's going to be on the run and looking deep, which tends to produce better results. I think it's perfectly possible that Vick could throw a pair of picks in this game, but if he has a two or three TD game to balance it out, I like our chances of winning. The thing that worries me most is Crumpler getting open, because I know you have a talented corps of safeties.
4. Why is Chad Johnson having a slower year than usual, and will it continue against the Falcons' secondary?
Kirkendall:I've reduced it to three things.
First, the Bengals have been hampered with the injury bug starting five different personnel combinations.
Second, Defensive secondaries are watching Chad like addicts watch for clues on Lost (TV show). Against Pittsburgh, the cornerback covered Chad underneath, the linebacker took away the inside routes and the safeties covered over the top. The biggest result of that is the lack of alternative options.
Finally, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry have played only one game together this season. Tab Perry was lost for the season after the second game. Antonio Chatman has been limited with injury and Kelley Washington will be out for the second week in a row. Needless to say, the entire wide receiver has been disrupted by injury and Henry's inability to stay out of trouble - missed three games.
But in case you haven't noticed, Chad, on Wednesday, renamed DeAngelo Hall to DeAngelo "Fall". Of course it's in good fun and both have been bantering with each other for months.
Dave: I love Chad Johnson, honestly: my Yahoo! fantasy team's name is ChadJohnson'sRiverDance...and though I'm terrible, he's clearly not. So seeing his numbers reduced this year has come to be a sad thing for me. I think he's going to have a really tough time against DeAngelo, simply because DeAngelo is a true shutdown corner who isn't afraid to match his speed against Johnson's. I'm hoping Chad has one more quiet game against us, but then I'd like to see him return to form.
5. Who and what are the keys to this game for the Bengals?
Kirkendall:For the Bengals to win, our offense needs to jump out quickly doing our best to stop the Falcons from running. If the Bengals can force Vick to throw, we win. If Atlanta can dictate the pace of the game with their run game, then the Bengals will panic and go high risk.
Dave: I've got to say, I like our chances of jumping out early against you guys. The Bengals have been slow starters the last couple weeks, and I think the keys to the game for the Falcons are much the same: jump out early and dictate the pace of the game. If the Pumpkin Cats score early and get to Vick, it's going to be a really tough game for us.
Big time thanks to my Bengals' colleague; everyone be sure to stop by and give his posts a read, and soon. What are your thoughts, gentle readers?