1. How are the 11-5 Bengals of 2013 better than the 10-6 Bengals of 2012?
For one, the Bengals defense is much better. A strong unit from last season only improved. The Bengals finished as the number one defense in the AFC and number 3 in the NFL (Editor's Note: 5th in Weighted DVOA). I also think that the Bengals have finally found a true number two receiver to compliment A.J.Green in Marvin Jones. Jones had 10 touchdowns this season and has come up big at times when the Bengals needed production from their wide out position.
Lastly, the Bengals have added the firecracker Giovani Bernard. He is the type of player that can make things happen when he gets the ball in space. He may not be an every down back yet, but the times when he is on the field, the Bengals average a full yard better per play.
2. The Cincinnati defense doesn't seem to have any real weaknesses. If you were Ken Whisenhunt, how would you gameplan to beat it?
I still think there are spots where this defense struggles. The Bengals lost their best corner in Leon Hall. Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick do fine when the defensive lines gets pressure, but when they are forced to cover for time they seem to fall apart. I think Ken Wisenhunt will attack the Bengals with quick developing passing routes and try to exploit matchups where a line backer may be forced to cover. Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates make me nervous.
3. Is this a make-or-break playoffs for Andy Dalton? He always seems ready to break out, but still seems to struggle. Are the fans almost ready to give up on him, or is everyone standing behind him for the rest of his career?
I think this is a make or break playoffs for Dalton, Marvin, The City of Cincinnati and all the fans. Have you heard that the Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990? If not then you have not seen a single sportscast this week.
It is impressive that the Bengals have made the playoffs 4 out of the last 5 years. They haven't won and it weighs on the team and fans. Losing back to back on the road in Houston hurt. Having this game at home, with the number 1 defense in a stadium they haven't lost a game in for over a year sets the table for them. If they lose this game it will be demoralizing.
I do however think that Dalton is the QB of the future for this team. People gripe about his inconsistency (he tossed 4 interceptions last week when the Bengals dominated the Ravens) but he has made the post season every year he has been in the league.
4. How will the inclement weather that's predicted for the game affect the Bengals on offense? On defense?
If we get the snow it will affect the defense more than the offense. I have always been told it is easier for the wide outs in bad weather because they know their routes, the defenders have trouble making cuts. I am not too concerned about the weather though. I think it will affect both teams similarly and may even favor the Bengals if the Chargers have travel issues.
5. What has happened since the Bengals' win over the Chargers on December 1? Is this the same team that we saw in San Diego a month ago?
I think so. Other than the crap game against the Steelers the Bengals offense has averaged 39 points and held opponents to 19 points a game. All of these were at home and it just shows what this team is capable of. Where it may seem different to the Chargers is the difference the team has played at home vs. on the road. The offense and defense have been much better in the friendly confines of the jungle.
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