Week 5 Preview: Scouting the Cincinnati Bengals

 

Week 4 was my favorite week of NFL action. Not that this was the best week of action on the field, but simply because it was the one Sunday out of the entire season that I did not have to worry about how the Buccaneers would fare. When fervently supporting a team to the degree I (and I’m sure most here) do, enjoying other big match-ups is often difficult to do. Considering the swoon the entire organization has been in since December of 2008, that is a long time between meaningful football for our Bucs. With that said, it is time to get the team back on the field. Tampa currently sits at 2-1, and has a big game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. The Bengals are coming off of a frustrating loss to the Cleveland Browns and will look to improve on their 2-2 record. Let’s take a quick look at what Cincinnati does on both sides of the ball and what the Bucs need to do to pick up the victory.

 

Bengals Offense:

So far this season, the Bengals have been consistently inconsistent. As soon as they begin to show signs of exploding, they are plagued by miscues and stalled drives. A week ago against Cleveland, they were able to sustain at least an 8 play drive on 5 separate occasions, but these drives only yielded 13 points. A portion of this problem occurs in the red zone where the Bengals have only scored 3 touchdowns in their last 11 trips to the 20 yard line. Quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled with accuracy throughout this season, and the running game has yet to get completely going. The Bengals occasionally run the no huddle in an attempt to keep opposing defenses off guard, which often creates running lanes for Cedric Benson. The Bucs have had problems with Terrell Owens in the past, and the Bengals should look to capitalize on this match-up this week. One thing I noticed in the game against the Browns was how Cleveland was able to get pressure on Palmer. Although Palmer made good decisions for the most part, he was sacked 4 times and fumbled twice. If the Bucs can disrupt the timing of the Bengals offense, then they could continue the red zone struggles Cincinnati currently has. 

Bengals Defense:

Since giving up 38 points in a debacle against the New England Patriots in week 1, the Bengals defense has settled in quite nicely into the unit that carried the team into a division title in 2009. The unit has young talent on all three levels, including one of the best cornerback tandems in the entire league in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. They are the only team to defeat the Baltimore Ravens in 2010, and made Joe Flacco look like Joe Kapp in doing so. They played solid against the Browns but were unable to get off the field in crucial situations. One problem the Bengals defense currently has is their lack of a consistent pass rush. They rank dead last in the NFL in sacks (3), after ranking in the middle of that category a year ago. It’s difficult to predict how they will fare against a Buccaneers offense that is in transition. It’s unclear who will get the bulk of the carries on the ground, but it will be crucial for the Bucs to be able to run the football to take the pressure off of Josh Freeman. Peyton Hillis had a big day for the Browns against the Bengals last week, something that provides hope that the Bucs can finally have a good day on the ground after being stagnant for most of 2010. The Bengals have 6 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles so far this year, so the Buccaneers have to take care of the football if they want to pull out the win. 

So how will the Bucs perform? They looked solid in jumping out to a 2-0 start, but completely melted down against a quality opponent in Pittsburgh. The Bengals have played very well in spurts, and may put it all together in week 5. Cincinnati was fortunate to beat Baltimore in week 2, but just as unfortunate not to have defeated the Browns. While the Bucs might be able to contain the running game, it’s hard to see Palmer having difficulty carving up a defense that is susceptible to big plays. The Bengals will certainly have a sense of urgency after last week’s defeat, and will look to put up points early in this one. I have a bad feeling the pirate ship will have a tiger size bite in it on Sunday afternoon. 

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