Packers-Bengals: Key matchups

Al Harris faces biggest test yet against Chad Johnson

Packers CB Al Harris vs. Bengals WR Chad Johnson
Harris is next on Johnson's well-publicized "Who Will Cover 85 in 2005?" list. Harris welcomes the challenge of trying to shut down the flamboyant, prolific pass catcher and keep him from breaking into a celebratory routine in the end zone. The Packers' best, and only, bet to silence Johnson is to put Harris on him the entire game. In fact, Johnson on Wednesday called Harris the second-best cornerback in the league, behind Champ Bailey.

"He makes plays, that's what it boils down to," Harris said of Johnson. "It doesn't matter if you run a 4.1 40 (yard dash), or a for-ever 40, if you're catching the ball and getting in the end zone, that's what counts."

However, first-year defensive coordinator Jim Bates has been reluctant to move Harris from one side to the other and exclusively cover the opponent's top receiver. If Bates sticks to his guns and keeps Harris on the right side, there's potential for disaster when Johnson lines up across Ahmad Carroll, whom the Vikings picked on with much success last Sunday in the midst of their second-half comeback.

Packers QB Brett Favre vs. Bengals CBs Deltha O'Neal and Tory James
Favre will have to pick his poison in trying to move the offense down the field without the services of three of his five top receivers. Cincinnati's Pro Bowl tandem has combined for seven of the team's 15 interceptions. Either O'Neal or James figures to get help over the top when defending Donald Driver, the only proven playmaker Favre has at his disposal. To offset that, the Packers would be wise to get Favre on the move outside the pocket more and give him the time to work the flat and the seam with his three tight ends, who have assumed a bigger role in the passing game during the trying last few weeks.

Bengals run defense vs. Packers RB Tony Fisher
Fisher has run just 14 times for 20 yards this season. He has rushed for 727 yards in his three-plus seasons with the Packers. Fisher also has 13 receptions this season. The Packers, despite their struggles in the run game, might have success against a Bengals team that gave up 181 yards rushing in a loss at Jacksonville and 221 in losing to Pittsburgh last week. Middle linebacker Odell Thurman is over-pursuing plays. Tackles Bryan Robinson and John Thornton are getting moved, and the perimeter tackling is poor. Green Bay should run, which would further open passing lanes for Brett Favre. The Bengals have dropped to 27th in rush defense at 132 yards a game.

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