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W2W4: Cincinnati Bengals

An examination of three items to pay attention to next week when the Cincinnati Bengals return from their Week 4 bye in preparation for next Sunday's game at New England:

Better rushing: As Bengals coaches spent this week self-scouting their team through film review and other assessments, a number of issues came to the surface that probably aren't readily apparent to the rest of us. This might be a 3-0 team, but like everyone at this early stage of the season, the Bengals have their share of fixes and tweaks to make. Chief among them offensively are figuring out ways to get running backs better production per carry. There have been occasions when the Bengals' backs have broken long runs, but those moments haven't occurred as frequently as the team would like. Cincinnati is averaging 3.58 yards per carry, ranking 24th in the league. Second-year starter Giovani Bernard's average is even lower at 3.36 yards per carry. In an effort get Bernard's numbers up, along with rookie Jeremy Hill's, the Bengals are trying to figure out ways to get the pair to break bigger runs. Neither has a 20-yard-plus carry this season.

Continued defensive aggressiveness: When the Bengals return to action, don't be surprised to see them keep up the defensive aggressiveness that has been a key to the team's success. First-year defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has picked up where he left off as linebackers coach under former coordinator Mike Zimmer, calling unique and timely blitz packages. The calls he has made this season have been remarkably effective. According to ESPN Stats & Information, when the Bengals blitz, opposing offenses are completing 42.5 percent of their passes. Quarterbacks also have been sacked three times and thrown three interceptions when the Bengals have blitzed. That completion percentage ranks as the lowest in the league during a defensive blitz. Part of the success of the Bengals' blitz hinges on the different places the pressures have come from. Safety Reggie Nelson has been among the best pass-rushers this season, as have all three linebacker positions. Even cornerback Adam Jones came on a blitz and cornerback Darqueze Dennard finished a sack.

Sustained momentum? Perhaps the biggest question facing the Bengals when they return from the bye involves momentum, and whether or not this early season break will slow down what they have built so far. To many, they have looked like one of the top 3 teams in the league after beating the Ravens, Falcons and Titans in convincing fashion. in the 23-16 win in the season opener against the Ravens, the score was a little closer than the game. Cincinnati's defense was suffocating and its offense effective. That has mostly been the story through three weeks. But will this bye negatively affect that? Sports fans in Cincinnati certainly hope not after sitting through the Reds' summertime collapse following major league baseball's all-star break this year. The Reds rolled into the break winning 22 of 32 games. But entering Saturday's game, they were 23-42 since the all-star break.