Lions Host Bengals In Battle Of Division Leaders
By Joe Sorensen
It has been more than a calendar year since the Cincinnati defense allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in a game. To be exact, it was Week 2 of the 2012 season against the Cleveland Browns when QB Brandon Weeden threw for 322 yards. That is a streak of 20 games since the milestone has been reached against them. This week against the Detroit Lions (4-2), the streak may be in jeopardy.
After blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills (2-4) last week, the Bengals (4-2) are on the road this week to face QB Matthew Stafford and the weapons around him. So far this season, Stafford only has two 300-yard passing games (357 yards against Minnesota and 385 yards against Washington), but he ranks fifth in the league with 1,772 yards, ranked only behind Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Phillip Rivers. Stafford’s favorite target, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (24 catches, 337 yards, four touchdowns), is coming off a poor showing against Cleveland and would probably be looking for a strong rebound.
While the Bengals defense has stopped the likes of the Patriots' QB Tom Brady and the Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers, this week’s quarterback also features a running game to compliment the passing attack. RBs Reggie Bush (376 rushing yards, 261 receiving yards, three totals TDs) and Joique Bell (177 rushing yards, 245 receiving yards, three TDs) have had an impact in both the running and passing games.
Both the rushing and the passing games should be contained by the Bengals’ defense. Almost halfway through the season, the defense ranks in the top-10 in most statistical categories. With Detroit’s number-two receiver Nate Burleson going down a few weeks ago due to injury, the Bengals’ safeties (Reggie Nelson and George Iloka) will be free to help out in coverage on Johnson. In the red zone, Stafford’s favorite target has been rookie tight end Joseph Fauria. Of his seven catches in the season, five of them have gone for touchdowns, including three last week against Cleveland.
Offensively, Cincinnati will continue getting the ball to their playmakers, WR A.J. Green and rookie RB Giovani Bernard. Last week against the Bills, Green (six catches, 103 yards, and a touchdown) had a bounce-back game after struggling the past few weeks. Bernard also had a strong game, totaling 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
Prediction: Bengals 30, Lions 24
While the spread has the Lions winning the game, it is hard to see Stafford and company putting up enough points to do so. Bush and Bell will be contained enough and allow Stafford to have his way passing, probably breaking the 300-yard passing streak. Green will continue to develop his connection with QB Andy Dalton, but it comes down to Dalton finding rhythm with other receivers to put a shaky Detroit defense away.