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Maul match






SEPTEMBER 14, 2008

After the implosion of the offense in Baltimore, the matchup roundtable has regrouped and is putting Sunday's home opener against the Titans in peril if the Bengals continue to get manhandled up front.

But the roundtable does see some light with a home opener against a Tennessee defense that while stingy, has also given up points to this team recently.

"I'm picking the Bengals because of the Titans change in quarterback and offenses always play better at home," says The Chief, an NFL personnel director not in the Bengals division.

"I think the first half is big," says The Scout, a pro scout who works a variety of leagues. "If they go into halftime again with a field goal or just a touchdown after six straight quarters, it's going to be, 'Here we go again,' and they run the risk of getting worn down against a very physical team."

"It had to be really disappointing going against a rookie quarterback and getting beat like that," says The Guru, a former NFL football exec. "This is a huge game for their offensive line. I don't think their line is overrated, but they weren't ready to play. Against Tennessee they're going to have to stop the run and run the ball. They have to prove they can do that. I thought they did OK on defense except for the two goofy runs."

LG Andrew Whitworth vs. Titans DT Albert Haynesworth



"That can't happen. You've got those guys that are 340 pounds. They have to move somebody," The Guru says. "I think they can win with Andrews, although the one place where losing Willie Anderson hurts is depth. They've done it before. They've protected Carson. They have to play better."

More instincts: Bulluck led the Titans with five interceptions last year.

Still, it's not the defense the Bengals faced last season, when it was without 10 sacks in the persons of Haynesworth and end Travis LaBoy.

"I really liked their secondary when I was at their camp this year," The Scout says. "Finnegan is a kid who's getting better all the time. It's not a flashy bunch of guys, but they're well coached and don't make mistakes."

Keep in mind though that Titans wide receiver Justin Gage got behind them last year for a 73-yard pass and Tennessee's longest play of the season.

Rivers didn't have a bad debut, either, with a game-high 11 tackles, but it will be remembered for his role in not stopping two long touchdown runs off a double reverse and busted reverse. Johnson is so quick that he can turn mistakes into long gainers.

So the Bengals need to get pressure, but Odom is still coming back from a sprained foot and they seem to still be inching him along as far as snaps, and Roos is a huge (6-7, 315) and solid player that has enough athleticism to compete with Odom's edge play. Plus, they know each other from practice.

The Bengals think Scaife has a little bit more explosion and moves than the guy they just played in Baltimore, Todd Heap.

He also says that Palmer is clearly the leader on the field and protecting him becomes a must.

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