The Cincinnati Bengals get to host the Atlanta Falcons this weekend with the expectation to make it two wins in a row. But it will not be easy against a very underrated Falcons unit that like the Bengals, also, sits at 3-3 overall.
The Falcons are coming off a double-digit win over the 49ers, led by a young, athletic defense, and Marcus Mariota who has been far more impressive than he is getting credit for. The Falcons are a quiet 3-3 team who has covered every point spread this season as underdogs in all six games.
Cincinnati will need to be fully prepared for this one. If the Bengals execute on both sides of the ball there is no question they have the talent to outlast the Falcons fairly easily. However, Atlanta has a scrappy team and a roster full of the narrative that it is them against the world. Which is scary to face as the opposition because they are playing with house money. No expectations, nothing to lose.
The Bengals on the other hand are still on the journey to prove that last season wasn't a fluke and they haven't completely silenced those doubters yet. Here are three key Bengals who will need to step up and play a vital role for them to get a home win over the Falcons.
Bengals who must step up against the Falcons in Week 7
3. DT, Jay Tufele
Jay Tufele will have a vital role in the near future with Josh Tupou now out and DJ Reader remaining out for the next few weeks. Tufele will be one of the more consistent interior defensive linemen that will be put in many different sets and disguises.
Tufele hasn't had much of a chance to really show his worth since entering the league and this will be his moment to show why he should be on the field at high volume. Tufele saw an increase in snaps last week once Tupou went down and the run game as a whole was not good but Tufele did have some bright spots in the matchup that he exploited.
2. LB, Akeem Davis-Gaither
Akeem Davis-Gaither saw a lot more snaps than Jay Tufele on a consistent basis but he now will have a similar role as Logan Wilson is expected to be out for the next two to five weeks with a shoulder injury.
This spree with is very important for Gaither because Wilson was the QB of the defense. We don't know if that reign will go to Germaine Pratt or Davis-Gaither but he will have to step into a much more important position on the field as a starting linebacker.
Clay Johnston will have to step into a more prominent role as will Joe Bachie when he is cleared to play and gets activated to the roster. He was just cleared for practice.
1. CB, Eli Apple
Eli Apple has struggled to say the least so far this season in coverage. Especially, against the Saints this past week. Multiple times we saw Andy Dalton blatantly target whatever receiver was lined up on Apple's side and converted over five third down conversions, many with Apple in coverage or in the area.
Apple has a very important role and the production from his side of the field needs to get better or he will slowly see a decrease in his snap count. Rookie Daxton Hill is slowly seeing more time on the field, rookie Cam Taylor-Britt was just activated two weeks ago and both of these guys are players the Bengals look at as future pieces to the secondary. Both could jeopardize Eli Apple's job if he continues to struggle in open-field coverage.