This week’s opponent is the Bengals, and the average Falcons fan doesn’t have a lot of time to think about Cincinnati. That’s why we turned to our friends at Cincy Jungle to fill us in on this week’s matchup, and Patrick Judis answered the call.
Dave Choate: The Falcons defense is terribad at the moment with all their injuries, though I hold out hope they can firm up in the weeks ahead. How will the Bengals attack a defense down its starting middle linebacker and both starting safeties?
Patrick Judis: It honestly is a little bit up in the air right now. A.J. Green shows all the signs of playing, but we won’t really know how close to 100 percent he is until game day. The Bengals have done a pretty good job of keeping Andy Dalton from getting hit with quick passes, which is why Tyler Boyd has become so much more involved these past couple of weeks in the passing game.
Cincinnati is hurt by the fact Joe Mixon shouldn’t be expected to participate either so soon after his minor knee surgery. Giovani Bernard however, started the game off last week pretty strong, but they got away from him it seemed. The Bengals will have to get him going this week and hit on a couple of deep shots to John Ross and Tyler Eifert to take advantage of the missing talent on the back end of the Falcons’ defense.
Dave Choate: Is A.J. Green going to play? If not, who are the key receiving options we should know about, and how good is this passing attack minus your #1?
Patrick Judis: Green looks like he should be active for the game on Sunday. Marvin Lewis and Green have been united on the fact that he is recovering beautifully, but it also seems like the fact he has a chance to play in front of his friends and family in Georgia could also be driving that a little bit. It is a matter of how healthy Green will be.
Boyd is the guy to watch if Green isn’t his normal self or can’t go. He has lit it up the past two weeks with 12 catches 223 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks. Ross is a wild card at this point. He had a rough Week 3 where he dropped a deep pass and some people questioned his effort on two intercepted passes thrown by Dalton when he targeted the young wide receiver. Players and coaches haven’t seem to have lost faith in him, and this seems like a great time for a breakout game considering the state of your defensive backs.
Dave Choate: The Falcons’ offense has been red hot. How is Cincinnati going to stop them?
Patrick Judis: That is a great question. One I hope Cincinnati actually has an answer for. Their best chance is for their defensive line to get pressure on Matt Ryan. If they can do that they have a chance.
If they can’t, it could be a very long day. The Bengals linebackers have struggled to cover running backs and tight ends, and every team seems to be picking on Dre Kirkpatrick on just about every third down that they can. It honestly has been a fairly productive for teams. The one thing they do pretty well is creating that late turnover that ends up deciding the football game.
Dave Choate: Protecting Matt Ryan has been a bit of a weak spot in two of the first three weeks of the season for Atlanta. How good is this Bengals pass rush, and who should we watch out for?
Patrick Judis: The Bengals’ defensive line is their strength. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap both got extensions before the season, and they deserved it. Atkins has three sacks on the season, and if he starts disrupting the middle of offensive lines it is over for that team. He just opens it up for guys like Dunlap and Carl Lawson off the edge to dominate.
Another name to watch out for is rookie Sam Hubbard. He was a third round pick, and many expected him not to play that much, but an injury to Michael Johnson has gotten him in the rotation. He always seems to be around the ball.
Dave Choate: What’s your prediction for the game, and also the season? Can the Bengals steal the AFC North?
Patrick Judis: I think this ends up being a fairly high scoring game. The Bengals offense stalled out without Green and Mixon for most of last weeks’ game, but as long as they have one, they can be pretty deadly. Also the Falcons injuries on defense really will help Dalton and company get back on track.
I do think the Bengals will struggle to contain Ryan and the passing attack. Teams just seem to know how to attack them, and they also just get worn out by not being able to get off the field on third down.
This game will come down to whether Cincinnati can get those turnovers they need to close out the game, and I think they get back to that this week with a 37-31 victory against the Falcons.
As far as the rest of this season, I really have to see them prove it against the Steelers in Week 6. If they are 4-2 or 5-1 after that game with a win against the Steelers I’ll feel very confident. Anything less and it seems like they will ultimately end up in the Wild Card hunt.