Packers hope visiting Bengals are the Rx to get well

After knocking off the NFC preseason favorite Seattle Seahawks in the opener, the Green Bay Packers established themselves as one of the teams — if not the team — to beat in the conference.

In the wake of their Week 2 loss in Atlanta, it was clear that the Packers can’t stop anyone with a good offense, and prospects for a winning season are bleak.

Tucked somewhere between the preceding decrees is reality, which is that at 1-1 the Packers are a game behind Detroit in the NFC North heading into Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

The binary approach to assessing who’s good and who’s bad after one game is never reliable – but that stops neither the rose-colored-glass crowd nor the Chicken Littles from pronouncing the season a success or a bust.

To wit, New England lost its opener to Kansas City and it wasn’t long before the chatter about the Patriots’ demise heated up. The Chiefs have won 24 of their last 28 regular-season games. They’re not exactly a slouch team. It’s reasonable to imagine Patriots fans having seen that game as one that their team might lose.

In a similar vein, no serious person could have projected the Packers to go 16-0 after their first-week victory, and a cursory glance down the schedule would have revealed Atlanta as one of the games the Pack might lose.

It was a nationally televised game in a brand-new stadium. The Packers were going without their starting offensive tackles. And it’s not as if the Falcons’ crawling all over the Packers is a new thing. Atlanta has averaged 37 points per game in its last four meetings with the Packers. The Falcons’ only loss came in their 6-10 season of 2014 when the Pack outran them 43-37. It doesn’t appear to be a great matchup of personnel for the Packers.

They were whistled for twice as many penalties as the Falcons – including one momentum-turning call on a “pick” play – and a crucial call on an Aaron Rodgers pass attempt that was ruled a fumble and a touchdown on the return.

It was those types of unlucky breaks that prompted cynical observers to note that a rousing, national-television win by the home team in a new stadium is a PR splash for the league, and that the preferred outcome was achieved.

If there were any silver linings to be taken from last Sunday’s defeat, it was that offensive tackles Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray played respectably in place of injured starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

The real concern after the Atlanta loss is the same one shared every week, win or lose, and that is the health of the club. The Packers lost their No. 1 receiver, Jordy Nelson, in the first quarter to a quadriceps injury. Equally, if not more sobering, was defensive tackle Mike Daniels going out, also in the first quarter, with a pulled hamstring. Daniels, who spent most of the opener in the Seahawks’ backfield, is a key component to the defense.

In a happy coincidence, next up for the Packers are one of the NFL’s more resistible forces, the Cincinnati Bengals, who after two games have amassed a whopping nine points. The Bengals may be a team the Packers can handle without Daniels, Nelson, or any of the other regulars who got dinged up last Sunday.

Still, it’s not wise to take any NFL team lightly, even in years where they stink. Cincinnati is the only team Aaron Rodgers hasn’t beaten in his career. The Packers lost with Carson Palmer calling signals for Cincinnati in 2009, and in 2013 blew a 30-14 lead to the Andy Dalton-led Bengals and lost 34-30.

Rodgers is likely to be enough of a difference this Sunday at Lambeau – and if the Packers do win, they’re back on track and it’s clear sailing to the Super Bowl.

Or at least they’ll be 2-1 and hopefully tied with the Lions.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.