Neil Harvey previews Cincinnati's trip to Detroit to face the Lions, and fancies the home team to emerge victorious...
"Both Green and Johnson can expect to get special treatment from the opposition’s defensive backs in the form of double coverage. But the difference is, the range of attacking options that Detroit still have available to them once their star player is taken out of the equation."
Start Time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
Cincinnati's claim to fame for this season is that they beat both the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. And make no mistake, that is quite some achievement. But those wins both came at home whereas on the road, the Bengals have looked a lot less ferocious. Defeats to Chicago, and more notably Cleveland, show that Cincinnati are vulnerable against even distinctly average opposition.
In the games they did win, Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton managed to outgun his opposite number. But if that's one of the keys to Bengals success, then this Sunday's match-up doesn't bode well for them. Matthew Stafford has a mighty arm, and it has the Lions ranking sixth in the league for passing yards, way ahead of Dalton and the Bengals, who are back in sixteenth.
On paper, the Bengals have the slightly better rushing offence. But whereas Cincinnati have been forced to use the run frequently, Detroit simply haven't needed to very much. But when called upon, Reggie Bush is a much more dangerous weapon than Gio Bernard or Ben Jarvus Green Ellis for the visitors.
The Bengals do of course have AJ Green, one of the best wide receivers in the league. But his form has been patchy this season, as he is entirely reliant on getting good service from Dalton. If Dalton fails, so does Green. And let's not forget that Detroit have one of the few wideouts in the NFL who is arguably better then Green, and that's Calvin Johnson. Megatron has had his injury niggles this season, just as he always does, but he looks good to go for Sunday.
Both Green and Johnson can expect to get special treatment from the opposition's defensive backs in the form of double coverage. But the difference is, the range of attacking options that Detroit still have available to them once their star player is taken out of the equation. Cincinnati were shut down by Cleveland for example, who limited them to just six points. And even in beating New England, the Bengals only managed to put 13 points on the board. On the road, Cincinnati have averaged just 18 points. Whereas at home , Detroit have put up 74 points in just two games. Last week, tight end Joseph Fauria came out of nowhere, with a three touchdown performance to show that the Lions can hurt their opponents from so many areas, it's difficult to stop.
The Lions have a clear edge offensively, but when it comes to defence their superiority is even greater. Detroit's fourth ranked rush-defence looks like it will easily deal with the Bengals' mediocre running backs, which will force Dalton to carry the attacking load on those narrow shoulders of his. With Green getting lots of attention, it's easy to see this resulting in turnovers, as Dalton tries to make plays that just aren't there. With the Bengals ranked just 22nd at stopping the run, expect Reggie Bush to get the ball in hand, once Detroit get into the red zone.
The Lions have won both their home games to date by eight points or more. I expect them to do so once again.
Detroit to score more than 23 points @ 4/5 (Sportsbook)
Detroit (-5.5) to win @ 6/4 (Sportsbook)
Anytime touchdown scorer - Reggie Bush @ 4/5 (Sportsbook)
Reggie Bush to score first touchdown at 13/2 (Sportsbook)
Detroit to win H/T and F/T @ 2.3411/8