The Cincinnati Bengals look to win their second straight road game Sunday when they travel to Detroit to face the Lions in what will be a matchup of two teams with a great deal of similarities.
The Bengals (4-2) have not won a playoff game in 22 years. The Lions (4-2), hold the second lost playoff drought, having not won in the postseason in 21 years.
Both teams feature two of the top receivers in the league. Calvin Johnson (24 receptions, 337 yards, four touchdowns) of the Lions is widely considered the best pass catcher in football while the Bengals’ A.J. Green (37 receptions, 464 yards, four touchdowns) is a budding star closing in on Johnson’s heels.
The two defenses are charged by rare athletes on the defensive line. Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh (2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, four stuffed runs) is a rare talent while Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins (four sacks) is one of the strongest, most gifted interior defensive linemen in the game.
And both squads feature quarterbacks who are strongly reliant upon their respective star receivers. The Lions’ Matthew Stafford struggled when Johnson sat out of their game against Green Bay earlier this season, and the team team failed to score a touchdown. The Bengals’ Andy Dalton, meanwhile, has only had two strong games this season, both games in which Green topped 100 yards receiving (week one and week six). While it is only natural for a passer to look towards a supremely gifted player of the caliber of Johnson or Green, both signal callers must learn to spread the ball around. After all, some of the league’s best passers, such as New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, have been more consistent with far less talent at wide receiver.
While the Lions have struggled against the run this year (surrendering 124.8 yards a game), the Bengals will most likely have to air it out on Sunday in order to keep up with Detroit’s offense, which is averaging 27 points a game. On defense, while it is not clear how healthy Johnson is at this point, as he has been recovering from a minor knee injury, a fully-recovered Johnson may just have a wildly successful day against a Cincinnati secondary that has struggled on the road. The week seven matchup between two up-and-coming teams should be a high scoring affair that will allow the winner to remain atop its division.