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Enemy Intelligence: Last week’s Cincinnati Bengals game

For the first time in a long while, the Titans are coming off a team not playing a close game. The Bengals last week went to Seattle and came away from Qwest Field with a 34-12 victory over the Seahawks. It was actually a five point game with five minutes to play, then a Mike Nugent field goal, Brandon Tate punt return for a touchdown, and Reggie Nelson interception return for a touchdown made the final score look uncompetitive.

This is actually the third time I’ve watched the Bengals for this feature, as the Broncos and Colts played them in the games I wrote about. I took a few notes about them when they played the Colts, but these notes are based primarily on the Seahawks game.

What I saw from the Bengals, after the jump:

  • The defensive ends, particularly Carlos Dunlap, are serious players-big and not bad getting after the quarterback. DT Geno Atkins is another guy, one I liked coming out of Georgia, who’s turned into a good player.
  • A.J. Green is The Truth. I’m not sure he’s a true burner, but he can beat people deep. Seattle’s very good safety Earl Thomas made a small mistake, and that was enough for Green to get a 43-yard touchdown.
  • Jerome Simpson looks like a better receiver than I thought he was-big, fairly mobile, good catching radius.
  • Cedric Benson did not play this game, and Bernard Scott got virtually all the carries. He’s okay, but nothing special-think maybe Javon Ringer, but a little quicker. From what I’ve seen of the Bengals with Benson, they like more of a power running game between the tackles, and Scott’s more of a perimeter runner.
  • By the numbers, the Bengals defensively are really stout against the run and do an excellent job of preventing guys from breaking off long runs. Keep in mind, though, they’ve really faced a mediocre set of offenses, especially passing offenses, thus far.
  • Andy Dalton looks better than what I thought he’d look. He doesn’t throw vertically much, and the passing game doesn’t put a lot on him, but for the most part he does a very good job of doing what they ask him to do and playing within himself. I don’t think he could be the centerpiece of a vertical passing game, but the Bengals aren’t trying to be one. He’s still an inconsistent passer, though, and misses throws. He did throw two interceptions, both of them on go routes down the field to A.J. Green when Green was not particularly open and the throws were not particularly down the field. He seems to hesitate in making throws, and looks to scramble or rollout to buy additional time if his initial look isn’t there.
  • This isn’t exactly a novel observation, but the Bengals are BIG in the defensive front seven. Their smallest defensive tackle (Fanene is a DE/DT) is Pat Sims, who’s officially the same size as Jurrell Casey. Barrett Ruud is officially 6’2″, 241 lbs, which matches their smallest and lightest linebacker. Most teams don’t have linebackers that size because it’s hard to find guys that big who can move. The Seahawks may be the slowest team in the league, though, and couldn’t really exploit quickness differentials. Jared Cook is a guy who might be able to, though.
  • It’s the return of Pacman! Well, maybe, as he’s carrying an injury. His first game back from PUP to start the year, and he comes up with a hamstring injury on a punt return in the first quarter where he dodged a few guys. Not nearly as spectacular as his score against the Eagles in 2006, but the same kind of deal. Brandon Tate’s punt return for a score later in the game was more the result of some good blocking and mediocre tackling at the end of the play.
  • I didn’t notice much of Reggie Nelson at free safety, who did however rank second on the team with five solo tackles. His late interception return came when the Seahawks were in desperation garbage mode on a play where Atkins crushed Jackson and the ball went right to him.
  • The top three corners, Leon Hall and Nate Clements, plus Kelly Jennings (and toss in Pacman if you want), are all veterans. Sidney Rice had some success against Hall bodying him up in the typical manner of Sidney Rice, but they’re all veterans who aren’t likely to give the Titans easy yards on busts.

Overall, I’d say the Bengals’ record is a little inflated at 5-2 by the level of competition they’ve faced, but they’re an average-ish team. If the Titans get a big early lead, I like their chances in this game, but the Titans haven’t been that sort of team this year. I feel like I’ve written this a lot, but the Titans have played a lot of games against other teams in the great muddled middle. If the Titans play at their best, they’ll almost certainly beat the Bengals. If they play at their worst, they’ll almost certainly lose to the Bengals. For the Bengals, I think the same is also true. The Titans are currently 3 point favorites, which is mostly in line with the edge for playing a home game. I probably would’ve set the line at TEN -2, but that’s just quibbling.