Week 16 will be a battle for the playoffs and spoiler bragging rights. The Bengals will have their hands full with the Detroit Lions.
Week 16 has descended upon the NFL universe and things are either winding down or gearing up. In the case of Cincinnati, the Bengals will be in the role of spoiler over the next two weeks. With a second year of humbling and anger-inducing football coming to a close, it’s all about pride for the Bengals.
Getting back to winning football would be a great way to close out the 2017 campaign. After all the negativity surrounding the Bengals on and off the field, posting a couple of W’s could set the tone for next year. Marvin Lewis’ status is still hazy but it certainly looks like he won’t be roaming the sidelines for the Bengals. Yet, until he does, there’s still lots of football to be played. The Detroit Lions invade PBS on Sunday. They’re looking for a playoff berth and the Bengals have a chance to help keep them at home for the holidays.
Earth to defense…come in defense
The Bengals have looked nothing like a playoff team, over the past three weeks. After an encouraging first half against the Steelers–in Week 13 action–they have looked lifeless and flat.
One of the most discouraging aspects of the Bengals downfall has been the play of the defense. In a 33-7 blowout loss to the Bears, the defense helped Mitch Trubisky look like the second coming of Joe Montana. He was able to connect on 25-of-32 passing for a 78.1 percent completion percentage and 112.4 rating. The Bengals’ hapless defense allowed Trubisky to toss a TD and pass for 270 yards. Yikes.
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The Bears’ running game was just as lethal. Chicago almost had two 100-yard rushers, as they exploited the Bengals’ linebackers. Jordan Howard slashed the D for 147 yards on the ground. Tarik Cohen added another 80 and Chicago averaged over 6.0 yards per carry.
The Vikings did an equally disturbing amount of damage to the Bengals defense. There weren’t as many yards (whew) but the 34-7 pounding was truly embarrassing.
The return of Vontaze Burfict should help stabilize the young defenders and give the offense a chance. The Lions’ run game (77.4 ypg) isn’t much better than that of the Bengals (77 ypg). Clamping down on that aspect of the game plan will reap results.
Nothing opens up the scoring like a good ground game. Joe Mixon has been MIA since taking a nasty hit against the Steelers. Getting him back into the fold should help.
Over the past weeks, the Lions have clamped down on the ground game. After surrendering 90 yards to Isaiah Crowell and 125 to Jordan Howard, the Detroit D looks stout. But, they’re still averaging 111.1 yards per game. That signals a chance for Mixon to do some damage. Unfortunately, the Bengals’ O-line has to get the memo and do their part.
Calling the shots
Andy Dalton and Co. have an even better chance of getting it done through the air. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has shown he loves to pass. The Lions are ranked towards the bottom of the NFL against the pass. Now, it’s up to Lazor and friends to put together a scheme that will allow the Bengals to get into Lions territory. Yeah, that was pathetic. Last week, Cincy didn’t cross midfield until late in the third quarter.
Since there is no such thing as halftime adjustments, Lazor and Marvin Lewis will have to get things going in the first half of the game.
Establishing the run will give Dalton the time he needs to work downfield. But, if Lazor gets pass happy, the result could be a long day of blitzes thrown at whoever is under center. Mixing things up will be essential to the Bengals success against Detroit.