This will be the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years that Denver has faced Cincinnati. All have been tough, hard-fought games.
In 2012, we saw Champ Bailey give up his first TD in forever to the up and coming A.J. Green, but Denver handled business and came away with a win.
2014 was a forgettable night for Peyton Manning, as he threw for 4 INTs and Denver lost the game.
In 2015, we all remember what happened.
This year we get the Bengals earlier in the season and it looks like they are still trying to figure things out on an offense that lost a few key receivers in the off-season.
The Bengals come into this game 1-1 with a one-point win over the Jets in a tight week 1 contest, and a loss to Pittsburgh last week in a rainy divisional match-up that is always a physical (some times too physical) affair.
In that game against the Steelers, the Bengals had much of the same struggles that Denver’s offense is currently having: they moved the ball well, yet struggled to score touchdowns. Their only TD came with 3 minutes left in the game in essentially garbage time as they were down 24-9.
The question is, will the Bengals bounce back after a lackluster performance from what is usually a well-rounded team; or will they be hungover, so to speak, after two very tough, hard-fought games in a row?
Cincinnati comes into the game sporting the second ranked passing attack in terms of yards, and the top ranked QB in passing yards (the reason their is a discrepancy is because team stats take sacks into account against total passing yards). Their running game, however, is at the very bottom of the league averaging 51 yards per game. Denver gets that in one quarter.
Alright, now that the stage is set, let’s look at something to watch out for, and something to take advantage of (of which to take advantage? Help me out, Laurie!).
Watch out for the long ball to A.J. Green
Since coming into the league (2011), A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have hooked up for 5,753 yards through the air, second only to Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. They have also combined for 40 touchdowns which is 6th best for a QB-WR tandem since 2006.
Their most prolific connection is on the deep ball. They attempt a few of these per game, at least, to give A.J. a shot at the big play.
Here’s a play action they ran against the Jets that resulted in a big touchdown. They fake the run action, but also bring the far right receiver across for a jet sweep fake. Since they run this play with some frequency, it froze the deep safety who was supposed to be providing help to Darrell Revis.
The narrative on this play was that Revis is old and can’t cover anymore, but he really just gets hosed by his FS, because he was playing it expecting help that never came.
Ignore Phil Simms’ drawings there in yellow. This safety has no clue what to do and gives up a big play because of it.
Now the good news is that Denver’s secondary is way more talented and assignment sound. But with a rookie back there at times, these guys have to be ready for at least a few deep shots to come their way.
Take advantage of stunts and weak interior pass protection
The Jets sacked Andy Dalton seven times in their week one match-up. Five in the first half!
Denver is second in the league in sacks and have the league’s sack leader as well.
The Jets D-line is one of the best in the league and boasts a very talented trio of interior defenders, with not much edge rushing ability; almost the exact opposite of Denver.
However, the tactic New York used to get after Dalton so well is one that Wade Phillips likes to employ as well: T/E stunts. This is where the DT will engage to the outside to occupy blockers while the DE loops around inside, or vice versa. Denver often had Von Miller or Ware crash inside while Malik or Wolfe would use their athleticism for big guys and loop around the outside Let’s take a looksy.
Wade Phillips used these with great success last year with Malik, Wolfe, Von, and Ware. Two of those guys won’t be suiting up for Denver this week, but we still have very capable personnel to execute this.
Four of the Jets sacks came while using a variation of these stunts, and the rest of the sacks came from just straight interior pressure.
Last year, Derek Wolfe had 1 sack and 3 QB hits, while Vance Walker chipped in a sack too.
The interior pass protection is clearly a weakness of the Bengals, one that hopefully our guys can exploit.