Through August, the Bengals have become one of the most hyped teams in the league, thanks to a starring role on HBO's Hard Knocks.
Here's a look at some matchups that could be the key to deciding this one.
Andrew Whitworth/Anthony Collins vs. Julius Peppers
We'll find out later this week if Andrew Whitworth's knee will keep him out of the season opener. If it does, Anthony Collins will suit up alongside Clint Boling. He'll not only have to fill the boots of the Bengal's offensive leader, but he'll have the unenviable task of facing Julius Peppers.
Through three seasons in Chicago, Peppers has produced 30.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 15 deflected passes and two interceptions. To hold him in check, Whitworth will need to be more than healthy—he'll need to be on top form.
As for Collins, he more than held his own against seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware in Dallas. The question will be whether he can do that for a full 60 minutes. According to Kevin Goheen of Fox Sports, he's more than prepared to start on Sunday.
A.J. Green vs. Bears Corners
Despite the addition of so many new weapons, Andy Dalton will undoubtedly look to A.J. Green to put up some points in Chicago. The Bears have a pair of Pro Bowl corners in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, and after their last encounter, both have something to prove against the star wideout.
The level of play in the Pro Bowl may be lacking, but Green caught three TD's, beating Tillman on two and Jennings on the other. Exhibition game or not, both men will want to ensure they aren't outclassed like that in a regular-season contest.
Chances are, it'll be much tougher sledding for Green this time around. Don't forget, Jennings led the league in interceptions in 2012.
Andy Dalton vs. Jay Cutler
The quarterbacks in this matchup find themselves in similar territory. They're both facing the question of whether they can step up and be the main guy for their team. While Cutler is trying to rediscover his elite ability, Dalton is trying to prove he could be mentioned in that discussion.
Both Cutler and Dalton had trouble staying upright in 2012, and both had an unhealthy over-reliance on their No. 1 wide receiver. Cutler has a re-tooled offensive line in front of him, and No. 2 wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey is showing improvement. Dalton has been gifted Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert to take the heat off of A.J. Green.
With both QBs looking to set the tone for their season, it should make for an exciting matchup.
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