No matter how much success the (9-4) Cincinnati Bengals had last year and this year, their fan base still had to endure hearing, “Yea, but you guys still can’t beat the Browns.” The Bengals finally overcame that hump by defeating the Cleveland Browns 23-10 at Paycor Stadium. The game was far from perfect, as the Bengals had to rally past some key injuries with the help of the leadership skills of quarterback Joe Burrow.
Now the Stripes are headed down to Tampa Bay to take on a struggling (6-7) Buccaneers team captained by quarterback Tom Brady. The Buccaneers are in first place in the NFC South but barely hanging on by a thread after a terrible 35-7 loss to the 49ers. Add on a banged-up Buc’s secondary, and Burrow could have a field day with his pass-heavy offense that likes to score quickly.
I am sure fans like me had this game circled on the calendar way before the start of the season. After all, this will be the first time that Brady and Burrow match skills on the gridiron. Can the veteran Brady still have enough in the tank to pull off a win, or will the young gun Burrow take his high-powered offense and sink the Buccaneer’s ship?
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
The Bengals have won five straight games in a row, and much of that success can be attributed to Burrow playing at a high level. Even after receiver Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins were ruled out of last week’s game, Burrow found ways to score with his other weapons. Check out the top football odds.
This week, Burrow may not be without some of the top receivers again. Higgins and Boyd were both at practice this week but were still listed as questionable. Look for Burrow to come out and attack the Buc’s banged-up secondary immediately. Trenton Taylor will fill in at the slot, and Trenton Irwin will play more on the outside if Higgins and Boyd can’t play. This offense proved last week it could score no matter who was catching the ball.
Much has been made of this matchup with Burrow and Brady. Burrow made known in his press conference his admiration for Brady. “Obviously, the greatest quarterback ever is on the other side,” Burrow said. “But we got a job to do, too, and our job is to go and win, get to 10-4 and move on.” Glad to see Burrow is focused on what is really important rather than the outside narrative.
Bengal’s running back Joe Mixon was back in action last week, and man, did he look good. Exploding through the holes, he finished with 96-rushing yards on 14 carries. This week the Bengals will again need to establish a strong running game. With the help of Samaje Perine, this Bengals backfield should wreak a lot of havoc on this Buccaneer’s defense.
The Bucs could be without their starting All-Pro nose tackle, Vita Vea, and the way the Bengals interior line of Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and rookie Cordell Volson have played lately, this could open up the doors for Mixon and Perine.
With Bengal’s starting tight end Hayden Hurst still out with a calf injury, I would not be surprised to see more running plays. I would love to see Mixon and Perine in the same backfield on a couple of plays. Hitting Mixon out of the backfield or letting Perine run north to south would keep the Bucs’ defense on their toes, not to mention both backs can block.
Note: The Bucs have an outstanding linebacking crew. Former first-round pick and LSU Alumni linebacker Devin White has a 70.4 pass-rush grade from PFF and can impact the game, while Lavonte David is great against the run. Both will need to be blocked for the running game to have success.
Talk about a difference maker; Bengal’s receiver Ja’Marr Chase is all over the field. Coach Zac Taylor has had Chase playing in all three receiver positions, making it hard for the defense to prepare for him. After returning from a four-week injury, Chase recorded 97 yards against the Chiefs, then put up 119 receiving yards on the Browns.
The Buccaneer’s secondary has struggled, especially with Buc’s cornerback Antonine Winfield still listed as questionable for the game. If Tampa Bay’s defense cannot shut down the run, look for Chase to have another big game.
When you think of Tom Brady, you think of the success of playing in ten Super Bowls, in which he has won seven. This year has been a much different story starting with the offseason headlines of retirement and then the un-retirement saga, a new head coach bringing in other ideas and exposure of Brady’s personal life out in the open. All of this can undoubtedly weigh on anyone.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has struggled in recent weeks, and his All-Pro center Ryan Jansen is out for the season, and Bengals right guard Alex Cappa left the Bucs before the season to play with Burrow. Getting to Brady is a must because no one likes getting hit, especially at age 45.
Well, one key match will be at the left tackle spot where Donovan Smith has been protecting Brady’s blindside. Smith has cost the Bucs some timely penalties that have impacted the games. Usually, the Bengals would have the advantage here, but Trey Hendrickson will likely be out with a broken wrist, so Joseph Ossai and Cam Sample need to step up with a solid pass rush. Check out the best Football Betting strategies.
Tampa Bay is 6-2 when they run 20 times or more, so stopping the run is critical. Bengal’s running stuffing nose tackle DJ Reader will be back in the middle of the line, making it difficult for Fournett to get going. Reader and the defense held Titan’s Derrick Henry to 38 yards and Brown’s Nick Chubb to just 34 yards. Buc’s rookie running back, Rachaad White, can be dangerous if he gets going.
Look for Bengal linebackers to shine during this game. Logan Wilson recorded 17 tackles last week while flying all over the field. There are other things Wilson has on his mind besides stopping the run. While giving an interview on Up & Adams, Wilson noted that he would love to intercept a Tom Brady pass. “To have the opportunity to get a turnover from him would be an honor, truthfully.”
The other outstanding linebacker, Germaine Pratt, mentioned he would like to stay on the field on three downs and has been a force in stopping the run. Maybe the Bengals should keep him on the field.
Since Brady had a week to stew on his loss, I am sure he will be motivated to pick up a win at home. His main targets are receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Both receivers are outstanding players and have the potential to score, but they have not lived up to their billing in the last couple of weeks.
If the Bengals cannot provide the constant pressure needed to make Brady feel uncomfortable in the pocket, then he has the experience to make you pay in the middle of the field. Bengals slot corner Mike Hilton went out with an injury last week but returned to finish the game. If Hilton cannot go or backup corner Jalen Davis, then first-round rookie Dax Hill will make his debut. Hill has over 900 game reps playing that position while at Michigan University. He should fill in nicely.
Lastly, do not overlook All-Pro receiver, Julio Jones. He has dealt with some injuries and is even questionable for this game, but if he does play like Brady has the experience and knowledge to move the ball.
On paper, the Bengals have a better team. Burrow, we need to score quickly while voiding costly turnovers. Applying pressure to Brady’s game should cause frustration and could go a long way in winning this competition. The Bengals are starting to peak at the right time, leaving Burrow with his first win against the goat!
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