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Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Five Things to Watch

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COMMENTARY | A pair of 1-1 teams, the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals will look to inch over the .500 mark for the first time this season at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Both could very well be undefeated heading into Week 3. Each team coughed up a fourth quarter lead in Week 1, but rebounded to take care of business the following week when returning to their home stomping grounds. That would appear to give the Bengals the upper hand seeing how this game will take place in Cincinnati, but the Packers come in as 3-point favorites.

It figures to come down to the wire, just as it did the last time Green Bay visited the Bengals. In 2005, Cincinnati edged out the visiting Packers, 21-14, a game in which Brett Favre threw five interceptions and had a fan grab a live ball out of his hand in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

Aaron Rodgers would rather not suffer a similar fate. Where does the star signal caller factor into the five most important things to watch when the Packers take on the Bengals?

The Packers' safeties without Morgan Burnett

It's looking more and more likely that safety Morgan Burnett will miss a third consecutive week with a hamstring injury, which means we'll see plenty of Jerron McMillian -- and some of Chris Banjo -- in his place against Cincinnati.

After a forgettable performance against the San Francisco 49ers, McMillian bounced back nicely against the Washington Redskins and Banjo could see a hike in playing time after playing well last Sunday. But the Bengals are better and feature a two-tight end attack with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.

With both often releasing up the middle of the field, it will largely be on the safeties to shut down Gresham and Eifert while also keeping an eye out for one of the best receivers in the game, A.J. Green. It won't be an easy task for a safety unit lacking in experience and missing one of the leaders on Green Bay's defense.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Bengals' secondary

The Bengals certainly feature some weapons in the passing game, but so do the Packers, and it doesn't hurt having Aaron Rodgers under center, either. The former Super Bowl MVP leads the NFL in passing yards through two weeks, having his way with one of the best secondaries in football (49ers) and one of the worst as well (Redskins).

Cincinnati falls somewhere right in the middle when it comes to pass defense, but it has done a pretty good job against Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger, two quarterbacks who are rather good at what they do.

Leon Jacobs, Terence Newman and Adam "Pacman" Jones are a pretty solid trio of corners, but the Packers have a trio of their own with James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb -- a quartet if you throw in tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers has options galore, but the Bengals can cover.

Can James Starks repeat?

Coming off a concussion, rookie tailback Eddie Lacy has yet to practice this week, so his status is up in the air when it comes to this Sunday. With a bye week looming, Green Bay may play it safe with Lacy, which would open the door for James Starks once again.

All Starks did against Washington was rush for 132 yards and tack on four receptions for 36 yards. For a Packers' running back, such a stat line is nearly unheard of, but assuming Starks gets the call against the Bengals, he'll be going up against a formidable front seven.

Cincinnati is only allowing 2.8 yards per carry this season and has only given up 125 total rushing yards. Without Lacy, the Packers would only have two active running backs. Having a balance on offense will be difficult, but Green Bay would be more than happy if Starks could come anywhere close to the numbers he put up against the Redskins.

Tramon Williams on A.J. Green

We talked about Cincinnati's duo of tight ends, but they pale in comparison to A.J. Green. Green is a freak of nature at wide receiver, and he will be a handful for Green Bay's cornerbacks, specifically Tramon Williams.

With injuries hindering the Green Bay secondary, the Packers may go in a different direction when it comes to coverages. Typically, Williams and Sam Shields have designated sides of the field and don't adjust based on the opponent. Obviously, the coaching staff has a great deal of faith in both players, but Williams is the unquestioned No. 1 cover corner for the Packers, so ideally, you would like to see him on Green, the Bengals' unquestioned No. 1 receiver.

Randall Cobb. That is all.

Randall Cobb is fun to watch. He'll line up in the backfield and receive a handoff. He'll return punts and kickoffs once in a while. And of course, he'll line up in the slot and present a nightmare of a situation for opposing defenses.

The third-year receiver has topped 100 yards receiving in the first two weeks of the season. Defenses could try everything in their power to stop Cobb, although that would leave them vulnerable against weapons like Jones, Nelson and Finley.

If the running game is stalling, you can expect to see Cobb line up next to Rodgers here and there against the Bengals. But where the Packers would rather see Cobb is out wide, and there's no reason to believe he won't make it three straight weeks of 100-yard performances.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.

You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .

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