NFL Game of the Week: Packers vs. Bengals
Week five of the NFL season will feature a matchup of 3-1 teams when the Green Bay Packers travel to Cincinnati to face off with the Bengals.
Both of these teams are coming off victories in Week 4, as the Bengals conquered the Jaguars 24-21 on Thursday night, while Green Bay took down the Steelers 27-17.
The Packers have rebounded well from their embarrassing Week one showing against the Saints. They’ve won three straight games despite an array of injuries to key players.
While Green Bay was expected to start the year off strong, the Bengals’ 3-1 start has come as more of a surprise to fans and analysts alike. They’ve defeated their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Vikings and the aforementioned Jaguars while falling to Chicago in Week two.
The key to Cincinnati’s strong start has been their high-octane passing game. Quarterback Joe Burrow has looked good coming off an ACL tear in 2020, throwing nine touchdowns through his first four games this season.
Burrow has developed fantastic chemistry with wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, Burrow’s LSU teammate in 2019, has caught four touchdowns in his first four games. Running back Joe Mixon, who was injured for most of last season, has also thrived in 2021.
The Packers will likely be seen as the favorites in this game, and for good reason. The Bengals lack of top-tier cornerbacks will make it hard for them to stop Aaron Rodgers from connecting with his array of talented pass catchers.
However, the Bengals could be able to pull off an upset by taking advantage of Green Bay’s numerous injuries across the team.
Green Bay will almost certainly be missing all-pro cornerback Jaire Alexander after he suffered an injury against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Safety Darnell Savage and pass rusher Preston Smith also left that game with injuries, albeit seemingly less severe ones.
The Packers are already missing one of their best defenders, pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, who had back surgery earlier this season.
The Packers’ offense is also fairly banged up, with speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as well as offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, all dealing with injuries. All three were essential during Green Bay’s successful 2020 season.
Cincinnati does not have nearly the amount of injury concerns as the Packers do, as they’ll likely get back another big threat in their passing game, wide receiver Tee Higgins, on Sunday. They’ll also hope that Mixon can play after suffering a low-ankle sprain on Thursday night.
The Bengals’ improved pass rush, led by offseason signing Trey Hendrickson, could exploit an inexperienced and injured Packers offensive line. Green Bay will need Rodgers to continue to simply shrug off the issues surrounding the team and earn another win.
A victory for either team would be huge. If the Packers get to 4-1, they’ll be well-positioned to continue their run atop a relatively weak NFC North division. They’ll need it, as their schedule gets much harder as the season progresses.
As for Cincinnati, a fourth win on the season would position them with their division rivals, (and 2020 playoff teams) Baltimore and Cleveland. Few would have expected the Bengals to even have this opportunity coming into the year.
No matter who emerges victorious, NFL fans should be in for an impressive offensive display in Week 5. Anything less would be a true disappointment.
Joe Tuman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.