Packers vs. Bengals: 5 things to watch, views of the game
TEAMS: Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1).
WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, AM-1360 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Bengals lead, 7-5; 0-0 postseason.
LINE: Packers by 9.
WEATHER: Sunny with expected high of 88 degrees.
SURFACE: DD GrassMaster.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (125-70-1) vs. Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis (118-112-3).
5 THINGS TO WATCH
JUST JOSH-ING: After playing 29 snaps in place of injured safety Kentrell Brice, rookie Josh Jones was prepping for an even bigger role Sunday. Brice (groin) is doubtful, but even if he were healthy, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was going to find a way to get Jones on the field. All you had to do was watch his special-teams play to see he was ready for a bigger role. “If you're a good defensive player, you're normally going to be a good special-teams player, because you have to make plays in space, you have to have football instincts, you've got to be able to get off blocks, you've got to be able to tackle, you've got to understand leverage, you've got to understand angles, all those things,” Capers said. Jones is tied with Marwin Evans for the team lead with two special-teams tackles and his ability to beat blocks is one of the reason only two of punter Justin Vogel’s attempts have been returned (for zero yards).
HEAT INDEX: If the forecast holds, this will be the hottest game the Packers have played in Lambeau Field and getting through it may be a chore. The Packers have seven players on the injury report who are doubtful and if none of them play it means they’ll go into the game with fewer than 46 healthy players. That’s because six others are dealing with injuries significant enough to land them on the injury report. Given the heat, the Packers are going to have to use everybody and they’ll be keeping their fingers crossed they don’t suffer a rash of injuries or dehydration.
RELIEF GUY: Much was made this past week about Ty Montgomery playing more snaps than any other running back in the NFL. It’s unlikely he’ll continue to play 88% of the snaps the rest of the season, so somebody is going to have to fill in. Rookie Jamaal Williams is the backup, but he only has played 17 snaps in two games. “He does need to play more,” running backs coach Ben Sirmans said. But how does he do it? Montgomery’s role as both a runner and receiver is critical to the team’s success. Sirmans said he has to just force himself to play Williams. “Sometimes, with certain guys, they need to get in a rhythm,” Sirmans said. “I think he might be one of those guys, but he understands what the circumstances are. So, I expect him to be more productive from this point moving forward.
RESERVE ROLE: For the second straight week, the Packers’ opponent will be without one of its starting offensive linemen. Bengals right guard Trey Hopkins (knee) has been ruled out of the game and will be replaced by backup interior lineman T. J. Johnson. Last week, Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder left after the first series with a concussion, leaving linebacker Clay Matthews with a favorable match-up all night. Matthews had five tackles and 1 ½ sacks. This time around, the Packers aren’t in a position to exploit the absence as much because defensive tackle Mike Daniels isn’t expected to play. However, look for Matthews and Ahmad Brooks to run games or rush inside in an attempt to get a one-on-one matchup with Johnson.
RETURNING HOME: The Packers are going to have to be on their toes when it comes to covering punts and kickoffs. WR Alex Erickson, a college free agent out of Wisconsin in 2016, finished second in the NFL and first in the AFC in kickoff-return average (27.9) last season with returns of 65, 72, and 84 yards. This season, Erickson is averaging 29.0 on three kickoff returns and 10.1 on five punt returns. “Like I told our guys, you get him or (Adam) ‘Pac Man’ (Jones) and ‘Pac Man’ can still go, as well,” special teams coach Ron Zook said. “So I’ve been very impressed with the way he runs. They do a great job in their return game. Their return game is probably the strength of their special teams.”
VIEWS OF THE GAME
There’s no question 0-2 teams who have just changed coordinators are dangerous. Cincinnati is a desperate team and will come in with some unscouted looks on offense that will challenge the Packers. But as long as the defense controls A.J. Green, the Packers can win. Packers 30, Bengals 20
The Packers could be missing some key players because of injury (Mike Daniels, David Bakhtiari, Randall Cobb), but Cincinnati will be missing some offensive talent as well (Tyler Eifert, John Ross). And there’s a gulf between Aaron Rodgers and the beleaguered Andy Dalton. Packers 24, Bengals 13
Regardless of the injury picture, this is a game for the Packers to right the ship after another humbling trip to Atlanta. Packers 34, Bengals 17
It's never good to be depleted with injuries, but the Packers caught a break with the timing. They'll host a Bengals team that hasn't scored a touchdown through the season's first two weeks. Given the Packers' home dominance against a better offense in their opener, it's hard to see how the Bengals possibly score enough to beat Aaron Rodgers and company at home. Packers 24, Bengals 13
The Packers come into this one banged up on both sides of the ball and face a defensive scheme that has given them trouble in the past. As is often the case, the adjustments by Aaron Rodgers at the line of scrimmage (provided the home crowd doesn't break into the Wave as they did in Week 1) will be the difference. Packers 24, Bengals 17