The Cincinnati Bengals‘ AJ Green has had a phenomenal season to this point. After 10 games this year, he has accounted for 64 receptions, 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. From week-to-week, Green has been racking up the receptions. Outside of one game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was held to just one catch on the day, Green has had at least five receptions in every single game and twice hit his season high of nine.
Despite his consistently high number of receptions every week, Green hasn’t really had that one massive game in touchdowns or yards. His season high in receiving yards, 183, came back in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins. He opened that game with a huge touchdown reception from Mohamed Sanu, and while 183 yards is a lot, for Green’s ability it is nowhere near his peak potential. Similarly, even though Green has a touchdown in every single game since the second week of the regular season, he has only once found himself in the endzone more than once. Against the Cleveland Browns, Green caught a late touchdown against a very tired Joe Haden when the game was already over to give him his second and final score of the day.
In other words, Green is due a massive performance.
For the best receiver in football, this Sunday couldn’t be a better time. The Bengals’ arrow is pointed upwards as the offense is beginning to click and the defense is curtailing the impact of the opposition more than it has all season. With a potential playoff berth in their sights, it’s time for the whole team to put the foot down and accelerate through the final weeks of the season. By decimating a poor Oakland Raiders‘ secondary, Green will breathe even more life into his teammates and the onlooking fanbase.
The Raiders’ cornerback situation is the worst in the whole of the NFL. Their best performing cornerback right now is a natural safety, and while Nnamdi Asomugha proved to be a superstar cornerback as a natural safety in the past, Michael Huff is not on that level. Huff and long-time veteran Ronald Bartell will be assigned with the task of trailing Green this week. Huff is the Raiders’ most talented defender in coverage, so the team may use him to follow Green around the field. Even if they do that however, Huff doesn’t have the natural ability to stick with Green or the physical prowess to compete with him in one-on-one situations.
Huff has been up and down with his performances since moving to cornerback, while Bartell is simply a stopgap player at the position at this stage of his career. For that reason, the Raiders’ only hope of slowing down the superstar outside the numbers is by cutting off the supply at the source. Unfortunately for the Raiders, their leading pass rusher, Richard Seymour, is set to miss the game through injury. Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton has improved in recent weeks, largely because of his protection upfront. The performances of rookie Trevor Robinson have been impressive the past two weeks, but largely remains unproven at this level. Seymour would have been a major test for the center and both guards.
If Dalton is given time in the pocket, he will definitely be looking Green’s way more often than not. The Bengals’ game plan should go through Green as Andrew Hawkins looks unlikely to play and slot cornerback Joselio Hanson will be able to contain Sanu inside.
A big day for Green requires him to go over 200 yards. That is not a matter of not giving him enough appreciation, it is simply a matter of his expectations being greater than everyone else’s because he is special. While the opportunities often limit him more than anything, given even minimal chances in this game could see him come away with three touchdowns and 200+ yards.