After week five, the Bengals still lead the AFC North. Do you still think the Bengals are the team to beat in the division or have the Ravens or Steelers made a case for why they should get back to the top?
David: I have never believed the Bengals would run away with the division. But yes, I still believe they’re the team to beat. Losing in New England isn’t surprising; the Patriots have ruled their home turf for years. In reality, fans became worried about the manner in which they lost. Although it is concerning, the Bengals ran into the buzz saw that was an extremely angry and motivated Patriot team. They need to correct their “prime time” issues, but even considering their inept play in such circumstances, the Bengals don’t have many prime time games on the year. If this is what’s holding them back, a lack of these moments, if nothing else, keeps them as the team to beat for now.
Tyler: The Bengals are the team to beat in this division; however, I think that the team that is a force to be reckoned with would be that of the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I said it. The mistake by the lake actually has a reliable quarterback. They have a strong run game, and their defense is still as good as it has ever been.
They out played the Saints, and gave the Steelers a run for their money. I am not saying that they are going to win the division or anything, but they are better than many people give them credit for. I am in no way saying that the Ravens or Steelers aren’t any good, but they have definitely struggled this season against weaker teams.
Vontaze Burfict is expected to be back in week six. What kind of impact will he have on this defense?
Tyler: He has about as big of an impact on this defense as any player has on his respected defense in the NFL. There is a reason why the middle of the field was wide open against the Patriots. There is a reason why the defensive calls were getting in late to the field, and there is a reason why the run defense did not look as good as it has in the past.
David: Communication. He’s the leader. He’s the smartest defender. Beyond this, he needs to own this team and raise the level of play from his teammates. If he wants Superstardom, he’ll need to do more than be an enforcer and make plays. He’ll need to make the Bengals his own.
Finally AJ Green doesn’t seem to be over his toe injury. If he misses time, What difference will that make on the offenses game plan?
David: A.J. Green’s absence means Andy Dalton doesn’t have his “fail safe.” But regardless, this offense needs to run the ball early and often against the Panthers who possess the 23rd ranked rushing defense. Beyond this, Jermaine Gresham would do well for this team to make a reappearance while Mohamed Sanu will have a chance to really shine. The “next man up” philosophy applies always, so let’s go Dane Sanzenbacher.
Tyler: The difference comes in the form of two words. Jeremy Hill. with the absence of A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, the passing game is going to be an after thought. Giovani Bernard will be the main back and he will be a top target. To keep from wearing him out the Bengals may have a heavy dose of Hill in the game just to break up the touches from Bernard.