Bengals vs Lions: Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon should make a difference
By Emile Pierce
The return of Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon to the Bengals lineup will be a definite boost for the offense and defense, in Week 16.
When the Detroit Lions invade Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, the Bengals should have a couple of their big guns available. Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon have been involved in practices and aren’t listed on the injury report. Hopefully, the presence of both players will give the Bengals a needed boost against the playoff eager Lions.
Burfict has been languishing in concussion protocol since being decked by the Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster. The blind side collision with Burfict left the Bengals’ linebacker immobile on the field as Smith stood over him. Officials gave a taunting foul and warning to Smith as team doctors attended to Burfict.
Essentially, in the two games that Burfict has been inactive, the Bengals’ defense has looked slow and out-of-place. In Week 13, the Bears made the Bengals defense look like a pee wee league unit. For the first time this year, the Bears’ offense resembled an explosive, high-powered machine. The very next week, Chicago was limited to 10 points and 349 yards, in a rematch with the Lions.
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A Burfict-less Bengals’ defense surrendered 482 yards and 33 points. Week 14 was just as horrendous. The Vikings steamrolled the defense for 27 points (an Andy Dalton pick 6 accounted for a TD) and 346 yards of offense. Burfict’s ability to get players in the right position and his fiery brand of football should help spark the defense.
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To say the offense has been stagnant without Mixon is an understatement. The running game managed a paltry 46 yards against the lowly Bears. To be fair, Chicago has a decent run defense, ranked at No. 11 in the league. But, the Bengals couldn’t manage to get half of the 107 yards average that the Bears give up.
Mixon isn’t setting the NFL on fire. But, he’s been getting a feel for the offense and running downhill with power. Until he was knocked out of the Steelers game, Mixon was on pace to run for 97 or more yards. Giovani Bernard filled in admirably but Bill Lazor veered away from the running game.
But, the Beauty of having both Mixon and Bernard in the game is the dual-threat factor. Both backs have the ability to make tacklers miss in space. Mixon will definitely give the Bengals’ ground game a boost.
Additionally, the Lions are looking at injuries along their offensive line. Tackle Rick Wagner is nursing an ankle injury while center Travis Swanson has been put on the shelf for the Bengals game. Guard T.J. Lang is listed as doubtful but could play.