W2W4: Falcons vs. Bengals


CINCINNATI -- Below are three items to watch for Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Atlanta Falcons in their home opener:

Offensive changes? Be on the lookout for any tweaks to the Bengals' offense this weekend following the injury to tight end Tyler Eifert. Earlier this week, the Bengals placed Eifert on their short-term injured reserve after he dislocated his right elbow at Baltimore last week. He'll be out until Week 10, meaning the Bengals will have to tweak their offensive game plan slightly. In addition to him being out, receiver Marvin Jones also is still missing in action due to a foot injury. Jones isn't expected to return until Week 5 when the Bengals travel to New England after their bye. That means that this week and next, you may see more Jermaine Gresham than had been expected, and possibly more Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, as the Bengals try to mix up their playmaking ability without their two star pass-catchers.

Guarding Atlanta's WR4: One other area of interest will revolve around the matchup between Cincinnati's defensive backs and Atlanta's receivers. With Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester all playing integral roles in last week's win over the Saints, the Falcons showed they can turn to multiple playmakers at any point in their passing game. Which leads to the big question for the Bengals: Who will guard all of them? If there's one thing Cincinnati doesn't have right now, it's a shortage of cornerbacks. It appears Darqueze Dennard's hip is back to full health, meaning he'll likely match up with Atlanta's fourth receiver. Dre Kirkpatrick also is a possibility for that job after playing 10 snaps last week. Ahead of those two, the Bengals are set. Adam Jones, Leon Hall and Terence Newman will handle the grouping of Jones, White and Douglas. Because speed is a hallmark of both Douglas' and Hester's play, and because they both can line up in the slot, don't be surprised if Dennard gets No. 4 corner duties over Kirkpatrick. The size and length of Kirkpatrick makes him a good option to defend the two smaller-in-stature receivers, but Dennard's one-on-one skills could really pay off this week.

"Jungle" effect? The Bengals have won nine straight regular-season home games. Will their home crowd have an effect this weekend? While the game has cleared the threshold to avoid a blackout and to be aired locally, it still will be just short of a sellout. That didn't seem to matter at times last year as a mostly full Paul Brown Stadium did seem to give the Bengals tangible defensive momentum. If there is a difference maker in what could be a close game, this may be it. Atlanta is going on the road for the first time in 2014 after scuffling to a 1-7 tally away from the Georgia Dome last year. Cincinnati, alternatively, was 8-0 at home last year before losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs to San Diego.