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NFL Preseason Preview - Green Bay (0-2) at Cincinnati (2-0)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Green Bay Packers will try once again to get a derailed offense back on track when Aaron Rodgers and his mates head to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in a key preseason clash between 2011 playoff participants.
The Packers had one of the NFL's most proficient offenses in building a league-best 15-1 record a season ago, but the unit has been anything but in sync through the first two games of this year's exhibition schedule. Green Bay has turned the ball over an uncharacteristic eight times in losses to San Diego and Cleveland and managed a scant 228 total yards and 10 first downs in its mistake-filled 35-10 setback to the Browns last week at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers established a new NFL best for quarterback rating in a season en route to claiming the league's Most Valuable Player Award for 2011, but the normally pinpoint passer has been well off the mark thus far. He's completed just 8- of-19 throws for 75 yards in Green Bay's two defeats, though he did connect with wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a 20-yard touchdown on the Pack's opening drive of last Thursday's contest.
Green Bay's struggling offense will get an extended chance to correct itself in this week's matchup, with head coach Mike McCarthy planning to play his starters for at least the first half. The Packers are also expected to get a pair of key cogs back in the mix, with standout receiver Greg Jennings (concussion) and tight end Jermichael Finley (strained thigh) both ready to go after sitting out the first two warm-up tilts.
The group could also get a boost from the anticipated Green Bay debut of running back Cedric Benson, signed by the Packers less than two weeks ago. The veteran is certainly no stranger to Paul Brown Stadium, having spent the last four seasons with the Bengals, and he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for rushing yards in each of his final three years in Cincinnati.
Benson could be in line for plenty of work against his former team, with fellow back James Starks to sit out a second straight outing for Green Bay because of a turf toe injury.
The Packers' defense will be minus two notables in inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, likely out for the entire 2012 season after tearing a hamstring in the Aug. 9 opener at San Diego, and young cornerback Davon House (shoulder).
Cincinnati moved the ball somewhat better in its last game, with starting quarterback Andy Dalton and backup Bruce Gradkowski each firing touchdown passes to lead the way in a 24-19 victory at Atlanta last Thursday.
Dalton found second-year sensation A.J. Green for a 50-yard score early in the first quarter and finished his night 8-of-14 for 125 yards. Gradkowski was 4- of-16 for 17 yards, most of which came on a 12-yard touchdown strike to rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu, in a brief relief stint.
The Bengals prevailed despite a banged-up secondary permitting 391 net passing yards on the evening. Cincinnati was playing without rookie first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) as well as cornerbacks Adam Jones and Jason Allen (both injuries undisclosed), none of whom are slated to suit up for Thursday's game.
Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers also remain sidelined for the Bengals with knee issues, while middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) is questionable after also sitting out the Atlanta game. On offense, expect tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) on the Cincinnati inactive list.
The Bengals own an 11-4-1 advantage in their all-time preseason series with Green Bay and have won the last five such meetings between the clubs, including a 20-17 triumph at Lambeau Field in 2008 that was best remembered as Rodgers' first-ever start in place of a just-traded Brett Favre. The Packers haven't bested Cincinnati in preseason play since a 41-27 decision in Milwaukee in 1982.
Cincinnati also came out on top in its most recent regular-season encounter with the Packers, a 31-24 verdict at Paul Brown Stadium in 2009.
08/21 16:54:25 ET