Here are the talking points heading into Sunday’s home opener with the 49ers.
-How much will the distractions from this week affect the Bengals? In addition to Jerome Simpson’s detainment after marijuana was delivered to his house, Cedric Benson is facing a reported three-game suspension. Will that make a difference?
-Part of me wonders if the team might be better off without Benson for three games. He’s a warrior and a workhorse, but the coaches seem rather clueless in regard to the use of Bernard Scott. Scott, who is extremely dangerous in space, has once again started the season with limited touches. The team might be better off in the long run if it is forced to use Scott for a few games.
-Will the former 49ers help the Bengals in this game? Manny Lawson, Nate Clements, and Taylor Mays were all playing in San Francisco last season and you have to think they have some inside info on several of the 49ers players. Can they use that knowledge to the team’s advantage?
-What offense will show up? The Bengals led an aerial assault late in Denver, moving away from the ground-and-pound identity that seems to be the core philosophy. How much of the passing game will we see Sunday, especially considering Simpson isn’t likely to be a part of it?
-How will Andre Caldwell do in his return to a starting role? Caldwell has also been somewhat under-utilized in the Bengals offense, performing well when he’s been given the opportunity. I don’t see a major dropoff with Caldwell starting, and I also think Jermaine Gresham will be more involved.
-Will Andy Dalton continue his solid play? Dalton has yet to throw an interception, has drawn good reviews from ESPN’s analysts, and has probably exceeded expectations so far. Will the promising start continue in the home opener?
-How many people will be there? And is it possible, that the team’s performance can bring more in the future? It’s entirely possible that the Bengals could get hot with a soft schedule, but will it matter?
-Will the run defense rebound against another run-oriented offense? Frank Gore will be a good test for a defense that underperformed in Denver. I expect big things from the Bengals D, which was extremely solid at home last season.
-Will A.J. Green be heavily involved again this week? After a quiet start in Cleveland (with the exception of his touchdown), Green absolutely exploded in Denver. Can he continue the upward trend as he becomes more of a target for opposing defenses?
And for what it’s worth, I like the Bengals to win this week.