On Sunday afternoon, the Cincinnati Bengals finish their short road trip with an afternoon game against the Atlanta Falcons. With both teams suffering from injuries, the game is sure to be a hard-fought battle.
Look Back at Week 2
The Bengals are coming off of a tough loss to the Carolina Panthers where they had numerous chances to win, but failed to capitalize. As for the Falcons, they are trying to move on from a high-scoring overtime loss against the New Orleans Saints in which both teams combined for 80 points.
Throughout franchise history, the Bengals lead the all-time matchup with the Falcons, 8-5. However, this game is no cakewalk.
The Falcons are sure to be short-handed this week with multiple starters missing the game, such as safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, as well as star middle linebacker Deion Jones. On offense they are missing starting guard Andy Levitre, with young running back Devonta Freeman not expected to play.
On the other hand, the Bengals will be playing without rookie center Billy Price, and running back Joe Mixon. Mixon looked like he was on the verge of a breakout sophomore year before injuring his knee, and he will look to make his return in week 5 against the Miami Dolphins.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 10, 2018
With Joe Mixon likely out, it’s going to be up to Giovani Bernard to lead the team’s rushing attack. He was solid against Carolina, rushing for 61 yards on just 12 carries with a touchdown. Against a mediocre Falcons defense, he should receive a greater workload.
Another offensive player to watch is Tyler Boyd. With A.J. Green battling a groin injury, expect Boyd to have another big game. The former 2nd round pick has been stellar so far, totaling 249 yards and 2 touchdowns through the first 3 games. The Falcons secondary is depleted, and the Bengals need to take advantage of it in order to come home with a win.
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2018
The Deciding Factor
The deciding factor of this game is going to be how the Bengals defense holds up against a high-powered Falcons offense. After starting off slow, the Atlanta attack has scored more than 30 points in each of their last two games. On the flip side, the Bengals defense started off strong the first two weeks before being lit up by Cam Newton and Christian McCaffery.
Key Players To Watch
Two key players to watch are linebacker Preston Brown and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. One of the biggest flaws in week three was the run defense, where it seemed like Christian McCaffery picked up more 15-yard rushes in one game than Jeremy Hill had during the last 2 years. McCaffery totaled 184 yards on 28 carries, running right past the Bengals linebackers. With veteran Preston Brown likely to return on Sunday, last year’s league-leader in tackles is expected to make an impact.
After signing a 5-year, $52 million contract in 2017, Kirkpatrick has consistently disappointed. He continued that trend this year, dropping interceptions and playing too far off of wide receivers. With William Jackson III expected to cover Julio Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick is going to have his hands full with rookie receiver Calvin Ridley. Ridley has burst onto the NFL scene due to an impressive performance against the Saints, showing crisp route running and underrated speed. If the Bengals can slow him down, the Falcons will be forced to rely on their injury-plagued running game, with bodes well for Cincinnati.
Calvin Ridley making it look easy pic.twitter.com/oGhy5NDEEv
— Tony Tsoukalas (@Tony_Tsoukalas) September 23, 2018
With both offenses performing at an elite level, this game has the potential to be a shootout. Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan should go toe-to-toe, although Giovani Bernard is going to go to work as a runner and receiver. If the Bengals defense can hang with the Falcons offense and force 2-3 turnovers, they have a chance.
Falcons – 34
Bengals – 31
The Bengals match up very well with Atlanta, and I could see them stealing a win on the road. However, I think that the defense is going to suffer without Vontaze Burfict, who is still out due to a suspension. With a limited A.J. Green and no Joe Mixon, the Bengals offense is going to have trouble scoring consistently without their 2 best playmakers.
Prove me wrong, Marvin! Whodey.