GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will battle the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in a clash of 3-1 teams. Looking beyond the obvious names, here are two X-factors – one on each side of the ball – as the Packers go for their fourth win in a row.
Offense: TE Robert Tonyan
On paper, this is a bad matchup for Tonyan.
Tonyan has been incredibly quiet through the first four games with eight receptions for 74 yards. Aaron Rodgers is just 8-of-15 on passes to Tonyan. That’s seven incompletions. Last year, Rodgers was 52-of-59 on passes to Tonyan – also seven incompletions. On his way to 11 touchdowns last season, Tonyan already had five. He’s got one this year.
“I think it’s still early in the season,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “He’s had a couple targets that we’ve just missed on. We had a great opportunity this past game that we missed on. He’s doing a lot of the same stuff. Sometimes, the No. 1 is open and he might have been No. 2. That’s always the hard part because you’re happy as a coach because you get that gain, but you wish that he got the opportunity at those yards and that catch. It’s just another guy you want to get involved.”
Cincinnati, meanwhile, has allowed only 13 catches for 111 yards against opposing tight ends. Both figures are fourth-best in the NFL. Not that he’s solely responsible for that success, but linebacker Logan Wilson is second in the NFL with three interceptions.
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“He’s an active guy,” coach Matt LaFleur said of the Bengals’ leading tackler. “He’s a guy that just studying him coming out of the draft two years ago, that’s somebody that we held in high regard. It’s not a shock to me that he’s playing at such a high level. He’s an important part of that defense. They’re a top-10 defense right now. He’s a guy that we’ve got to account for on every play because he can be disruptive in both the run and the pass.”
Defense: CB Chandon Sullivan
It’s easy to focus on Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase. During his final season at LSU, he posted one of the great seasons in college football history to help the Tigers win the national championship. As the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, he was the first receiver off the board. And with several big plays, he’s lived up to the hype.
But overlook Tyler Boyd at your own risk. He led the Bengals in receptions in each of the last three seasons, and he’s doing it again this season with 23 receptions. Most of his handiwork has come from the slot. His 20 receptions from the slot trailed only Buffalo’s Cole Beasley entering Week 5, according to Pro Football Focus.
When in the slot, he’ll face Chandon Sullivan. Sullivan was an underrated part of the team's success last year, when he allowed 1.13 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. This season, he’s allowed 1.68 yards per snap. Of the 29 cornerbacks with at least 50 slot coverage snaps, that ranks 27th. Making matters worse, by our count, Sullivan missed three tackles last week. According to PFF, Boyd has forced three missed tackles, second among slots to Deebo Samuel’s four.
Sullivan played a lot of good football during his previous two seasons with the Packers. This would be a good week to return to form.