Can Dalton rebound? After last week's 2.0 passer rating and 4.3 QBR in last week's 24-3 loss to Cleveland, one has to imagine that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's play can only improve this week when he visits the Saints. If the Bengals stand any chance of keeping pace with the league's second-ranked offense, their own offense will have to play well. In order for that to happen, Dalton has to be back at his best. But will he be? Lately, he hasn't played all that well. According to ESPN Stats & Information, out of 34 quarterbacks, Dalton in the last four weeks ranks last in completion percentage (52.3), 33rd in yards per passing attempt (5.5), tied for 31st in interceptions (six) and 29th in QBR (29.4). Some of that has to do with injuries to key positions that have affected the offense's flow. Some of that is the product of shoddy offensive line play. Regardless, Dalton must play dramatically better. Keep a close eye on him all afternoon.
Dalton under duress: Dalton's right side seemed exposed all of last Thursday as the Browns were able to get constant penetration from that portion of their defensive line. It's possible the Saints could have the same success this weekend with backup Marshall Newhouse expected to start again for injured starting right tackle Andre Smith. It was Newhouse who received a minus-6.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for giving up so many pressures on Dalton. Watch Newhouse early to see how well he's able to protect his former TCU teammate. If the swing tackle can keep Dalton upright, the Bengals' offense should perform better than it did nine days ago.
What Green can do: It's been easy to lose sight in recent games of the fact that in addition to Dalton, receiver A.J. Green hasn't performed too well, either. Browns cornerback Joe Haden had him locked down last week, holding him to just three catches for 23 yards on 11 targets. Since his return two weeks ago from a turf toe injury that cost him three games, Green has only six catches on 17 targets. He does have one touchdown. Those numbers are well behind the pace that he set at the start of the season, when he caught 17 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns through the first four games he played. He's played all six games with the toe injury. As Dalton tries to rebound, it might be in Green's interest to have one of his best games of the year, too.
Cornerback matchups: Defensively, the storyline to watch revolves around matchups. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be a nightmare to defend for the Bengals, as they expect to rotate several secondary players onto him, headlined by nickel linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. That's not the only coverage concern the Bengals will have, though. It appears cornerback Terence Newman may be out after not practicing all week due to a knee injury. If he isn't able to go, the Bengals will have to get creative as they defend on the outside and in the slot. Expect Adam Jones to shift into Newman's spot. When the Bengals are in their nickel defense and their other starting corner Leon Hall goes into the slot, look for Dre Kirkpatrick to come off the bench to play the boundary position opposite Jones.