Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
Both of these teams are 3-1, but one is clearly getting more respect than the other, with the Packers favored by a field goal on the road. It’s understandable, given that the Packers have a history of recent success and have reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers under center, while the Bengals do not have that history of recent success, but right now the Bengals actually have the better roster overall and, while they may not have Aaron Rodgers, they are at home and quarterback Joe Burrow is playing well enough that he could easily outperform or match Rodgers, who has about a 10 point drop in QB rating when he goes on the road in his career, well above average for a quarterback.
The Bengals are coming off of an uninspiring performance against the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football, but they were missing their top-2 defensive backs, including safety Jessie Bates, who is one of the best safeties in the league. Both Bates and Chidobe Awuzie are back this week and, even with last week’s uninspiring performance included, the Bengals have had a significantly higher DVOA (14.8%, 10th in the NFL vs. 1.7%, 17th in the NFL) on the season than the Packers, who are the team with the much bigger injury concerns this week.
The Packers have been without stud left tackle David Bakhtiari all season, a huge blow to an offensive line that lost its other elite offensive lineman Corey Linsley in free agency and entered this season starting a pair of rookies upfront, after having one of the best offensive lines in the league for years. Elgton Jenkins, who has moved to left tackle from left guard to replace Bakhtiari, also missed last week with injury and, while he could be back this week, he may not be at 100% and, on top of that, rookie center Josh Myers will miss his first game of the season this week, a concern given that Myers had been holding up pretty well and the Packers don’t have a proven backup behind him.
Meanwhile, their defense, which was already missing its top edge defender Za’Darius Smith, will be without top cornerback Jaire Alexander. Not only are Smith and Alexander their two best defensive players, but, when healthy, they are among the best players in the league at their position. It’s going to be very difficult for this defense to adapt to not having either, while their offense is likely to continue having much shakier play on the offensive line than they are used to. With all of this taken into account, I have the Bengals a couple points higher than the Packers in my roster rankings, so getting a full field goal with them at home feels like stealing. This is my Pick of the Week.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 Green Bay Packers 20 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +3
Confidence: Pick of the Week