The Cincinnati Bengals suffered a tough loss last Sunday to their division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the AFC North battle coming closer, the Bengals must keep their eyes focused on winning out.
The Minnesota Vikings are coming to the jungle, where the Bengals are 6-0 this year, and 10-3 since 2012.
Here are six aspects to the Bengals and Vikings battle in the jungle.
- Better Offensive Line Play. While Andy Dalton was only sacked once Sunday night, he was running for his life most of the game as the interior line was disrupted. With Kevin Zeitler most likely coming back. Not only that, but the running game could only muster up 57 yards for 2.6 yards per carry.
If the Bengals want to win, they are going to have to give Dalton a clean pocket to work with and create some holes for their runners to go through. If Dalton has time, he can pick a defense apart, especially if he can settle down. This offensive line will come against Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. While his name hasn’t been said much, Allen has recorded 9 sacks and has played well.
He will be somebody to watch for throughout the game and how the Bengals plan to block him. An under the radar player to watch for is Brian Robinson. He has also recorded 9 sacks, but he also has 80 quarterback pressures, which is 2nd most in the NFL regardless of position. Andre Smith and Anthony Collins will have their work cut out for them this week.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Run With Gio. Giovani Bernard was given 13 carries last Sunday, although he did not have above a 3.0 yards per carry. While that is not impressive, the coaching staff should not be afraid to let Bernard get a good bulk of carries. According to ProFootball Focus, 90 of Bernard’s 144 carries have gone for 3 yards or more.
Sounds good, right? Well, out of all running backs with at least 100 carries, Bernard ranks 2nd with that type of production rate. Jay Gruden should not be afraid to give the ball to Bernard more and more, as he has the ability to break open a game and make people miss.
He has yet to see more than 15 carries, but he may have to do so against the Vikings, whom are 20th in the NFL against the run. The offense simply does better with Bernard in the game, and he must be utilized to his full potential in the Bengals want to make some noise not only in this game, but throughout the remainder of the year.
- Kirkpatrick Against Vikings Receivers. While Kirkaptrick did not play terrible in coverage, he still has some growing to do; as does any cornerback making their first NFL start. He will certainly have his work cut out for him. Jennings is a crafty receiver whom uses his feet to help him win battles, whereas Patterson is very good with yards after catch and can make a player miss.
Kirkpatrick will be starting his second NFL game and has to be on his toes. Not only that, but a former Bengals is coming to town, Jerome Simpson. While he has not had as much success in Minnesota as in Cincinnati, he still offers freakish measurables and could be targeted numerous times throughout the game.
Mike Zimmer will have to trust in Kirkpatrick in order for them to win this game, as the Vikings have one of the better running attacks in the NFL. Kirkaptrick is certainly a player to watch throughout this game, as he continues to get reps he is expected to continue to get better.