Here is my complete Q&A with Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle about Sunday's Bengals-Chiefs game. You've seen a couple of his answers already in other stories this week but I figured I'd tie it all together.
1. Tell me something about the Bengals offense I don't know
Cincinnati really doesn't have an option in the passing game after A.J. Green. Granted, guys have risen like tight end Jermaine Gresham, but nothing near the consistency needed to really open Green up - yes, we feel he could be much, much greater than what he's shown so far.
We're a little excited about rookie Mohamed Sanu, who caught four passes during Cincinnati's 31-13 win last week, three of them converting third and fourth downs (one of which turned into a touchdown). He's a big body guy with great control and soft hands that plays like a power forward at times.
But don't expect any trouble from our rushing offense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is lead-footed and slow approaching the line of scrimmage. No explosion. Cincinnati has a fairly effective offensive line, and two of the league's top-ten rated guards according to Pro Football Focus, but they're not sustaining the blocks for a turtle like Green-Ellis.
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Don't get me wrong. I'm not ripping Green-Ellis either. It was never the team's intention to make Green-Ellis a 20 carry per game feature back; more like a short-yardage stone during goalline situations and third down conversions.
Also keep your eye on Andy Dalton. We love this kid; he has those intangibles that you desirer with a second-year kid beautifully developing into a leader. He has a short memory and a personality that players, young and old, are compelled to follow. But there are times he frustrates us; notably his anxiousness in the pocket. If his immediate reads (aka, wherever A.J. Green is), he shifts nervously in the pocket and will scramble when there's no need. On the other hand he showed tremendous courage last week, standing in the pocket despite playing the Giants front four. He was rewarded with one knockdown and no quarterback sacks; that could be a tremendous confidence boost that we hope goes a long way.
2. Tell me something about the Bengals defense I don't know
A defensive front four that's inconsistent, but when they're on their game, we honestly believe that there isn't a front four better in the NFL. I admit, that might be a little Homerish, but it is what it is. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is arguably the best interior pass rusher in the NFL. Last week he directly affected two Eli Manning passes that led to interceptions, which also led to two offensive touchdowns. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are physical specimens that (again), if they're on their game, they're more than disruptive; they've scored touchdowns, forced fumbles and picked off multiple passes. Honestly if the Chiefs fail to utilize a quick three-step passing offensive, someone needs to be fired. Otherwise you're asking for an assault.
Cornerback Leon Hall has played primarily at right cornerback throughout his entire NFL career. Yet against the Giants last week, they specifically shifted him around, assigned to shadow Victor Cruz all game, limiting the receiver to only three receptions for less than 30 yards. Rookie Dre Kirkpatrick is finally getting some snaps on defense. Starting safety Reggie Nelson is hurt, so it could be Chris Crocker and Nate Clements starting at safety; a vulnerability that didn't show up last week against New York.
I know that defensive coordinator is going to make Kansas City beat the Bengals through the air; there will be an intense focus on shutting down the Chiefs running game. If that happens, your best bet against the Bengals defense is short-intermediate routes, sustaining possessions, getting the football out of the quarterback's hand by the third step and taking advantage of exposed linebacker coverage (who are average coverage defenders at best).
3. What does A.J. Green do well? How will he affect this game?
At the risk of sounding a little Homerish (again), Green truly is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player. Watching his 26-game NFL career, I'm convinced that the huddle sounds like this:
Trips Right, 50, throwing to Green whatever he is... on two.
He's the type of receiver we've seen easily make receptions in triple-coverage. Speed is unopposed. Last week Giants cornerback Corey Webster sat ten yards off Green, and Green cruised past Webster for a 56-yard touchdown. Partially a result of communication or failed assignment, but Webster nonetheless kept his eyes on the quarterback and simply didn't account for Green's speed, even prior to transitioning into cover three zone.
On the other hand, Webster played press coverage and by the time Green hauled in the football on a seven-yard hitch route, he had separated by at least 2-3 yards. If the Chiefs defense gets lazy, even for a single step in coverage, Green will take advantage.
But again, keep in mind who you're talking to. I'm going to talk our little ninja up just a tad.
4. What are your memories of Romeo Crennel in the AFC North? What do you remember about him?
The most permeating thought is that Cincinnati beat him a lot. Sorry. Admittedly that thought might have more do with coaching the Browns than Crennel himself. Of the eight meetings between the Bengals and Browns when he coached in Cleveland, the Bengals were 6-2 against him. But I'll give him credit; he always coached a tough Browns team for the Bengals to beat, especially defensively.
5. What scares you about the Chiefs, on offense and defense?
Easily, Jamaal Charles. The Cincinnati Bengals are a team of momentum. If Charles gives the Chiefs quality production one first and second downs, Cincinnati's defense will struggle containing the passing game on third and short; especially if the Chiefs go with a short passing game. They have all year. Yet if Charles lacks production on those downs, it could be a rough afternoon for Kansas City when the Bengals are allowed to pin their ears back on third and long.
There's no doubt that Charles is the game plan for Mike Zimmer.
6. Score prediction?
I've seen so many games where the Bengals were projected as favorites against a team with a poor record and watched Cincinnati play down to their opponents. We're hoping Cincinnati isn't looking ahead to Carson Palmer week against the Raiders next week. Yet, when A.J. Green was asked if they're overlooking Kansas City, he said "We lost to friggin' Cleveland." Classic, right?
That being said, I'm going to say that this is a close one. Within a touchdown at least; let's go 23-17, Bengals.