The Cincinnati Bengals came away with a solid win over the Arizona Cardinals last week to improve their regular season record to 2-3. It was a team effort, with both offense and defense making big plays while taking steps to dig themselves out of a hole.
Now, the 3-1 Seattle Seahawks are coming to town after coming off a bye week and look to improve their record with a big win in the Jungle.
Joe Burrow is returning to normal but faces a real challenge this week.
No doubt, it has been a rocky start for Bengal’s quarterback Joe Burrow as he played through a strained calf muscle injury in his last five games. However, he looked almost back to normal as he threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals. You can credit Burrow for feeling comfortable enough to get out of the pocket when needed and his offensive line for giving him the time to throw downfield.
Burrow will face a more significant challenge this week at home against Seattle. In their last game, the Seahawks had 11 sacks against the Giants and have been very successful with their blitz packages. The Stripes will need to keep an eye out for Seahawk’s rookie corner Devon Witherspoon or back from concussion protocol safety Jamal Adams; both like to blitz from the outside.
In the past, Burrow has been very good at making teams pay if they blitz, so this will be a real test to see if he is really back to normal.
The Bengals’ offensive line needs to communicate if they want to halt this defensive line.
Make no mistake: Seattle’s defensive line is much better than the line the Bengals faced in Arizona. Bengals all-pro left tackle Orlando Brown Jr will be tested right out the gate as he faces the Seahawk’s best pass rusher in Boye Mafe. Brown and left guard Cordell Volson will need to communicate better and pick up stunts if they want to keep the heat off of Burrow.
The Bengal’s offense must contain players like Uchenna Nwosu, rookie Derick Hall, and Darran Reed, who had six quarterback hits with two sacks in his last outing, if they want to recreate last week’s win.
Running back Joe Mixon continues to improve his game.
The Bengals are known as a passing team, but that has stopped Joe Mixon from performing at a high level. At 66 yards per game, the running back is on pace to have one of his biggest seasons. Still one of the most productive players on the team, he is tied for 11th in the league in rushing.
Seattle’s veteran linebacker, Bobby Wagner, is considered by many to be one of the best in the NFL, and he will look to contain Mixon. With Wagner’s leadership, the Seahawk’s defense has held running backs to 2.6 yards a carry this season.
Mixon will also be needed to pass block, something he has worked on since the beginning of the season, which earned him praise from Burrow.
“He’s really taken a step, I think,” said quarterback Joe Burrow after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s running the ball hard like he always does. He’s drastically improved in his pass protection. He’s doing great this year. He just needs to continue to do what he’s doing. He’s playing well.”
Ja’Marr Chase vs. Devon Witherspoon
Not only was the temperature scorching in Arizona last week, but so was Burrow as he hit his top weapon in Ja’Marr Chase for a franchise-record 15 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf spoke to the media this week and gave his opinion on the Chase and Witherspoon matchup, as he believes Witherspoon “will get the best” of Chase.
Chase responded, “He ain’t doing nothing but praising his teammate. That’s what he’s supposed to do. At the end of the day, it’s about game-time reps and game-time decisions. He gonna get the opportunity to get his matchups and just see who wins that matchup.”
Picking up third downs is a must.
Burrow took advantage of a subpar Cardinal secondary and can do it again with Seattle. Burrow is one of the best at finding open receivers like backup Trenton Irwin, who always seems to be open.
Being efficient on third downs is a must, and Burrow has the opportunity with a Seattle defense that has struggled to keep teams from moving the chains. Receiver Tee Higgins was limited in practice this week but may be in the game if able to go, which could take the heat off Chase if he plays. Once again, I am sure Higgins will be another game-time decision.
The Bengals need to contain a powerful Seattle offense and its quarterback.
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is carrying the success he had last year into this season. Known for stretching the field by taking deep shots, he has yet to find the same success due to the many injuries to his offensive line. The good news for Seattle is they may get four of their five starters back on the line.
One key matchup in the trenches to monitor will be Bengals sack leader Trey Hendrickson. Seahawks left tackle Charles Cross. It will be interesting to see if Cross, returning from an injury, can hold up the whole game against Hendrickson, who is known to wreak havoc on quarterbacks,
Like Burrow, Smith has plenty of weapons to choose from. This Seattle receiving corp is talented, led by veteran and deep threat DK Metcalf. Tyler Lockett leads the team in targets, while Ohio State alum rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba brings speed to the mix.
The Bengals’ secondary is full of youth and ready to make their mark.
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has been experimenting with his secondary as he looks to create the perfect combination. Hopefully, veteran corner Chidobe Awuzie will return from injury just in time to help lead this young group of players.
With the Seahawks struggling to make third downs, this would be the perfect time to have Awuzie, rookie cornerback DJ Turner, and second-year Cam Taylor-Britt on the field simultaneously. Turner has been a great addition and has proven his worth every time steps onto the field. Bengals rookie safety Jordan Battle has seen more reps lately and will likely be called upon to stop Seattle’s air attack.
Can the Stripe’s defense stop Seattle’s dynamic run game?
The Achilles heel for the Bengals this year has been stopping the run. Each week, it has been a struggle trying to contain explosive runs. The Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III has five touchdowns for the season, averaging 4.4 yards a carry. He is extremely hard to tackle and, if not contained, can easily control a game.
Some Bengal fans were hoping to draft running back Zach Charbonnet out of UCLA to replace the void left by free agent Samaje Perine. Unfortunately, Seattle drafted him in the second round, and he has been very productive, averaging 5 yards a carry. If left unchecked, both Walker and Charbonnet have the ability to score while controlling the clock.
Bengal linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt will be needed to stop the rushing attack while trying to make Smith one-dimensional inside the pocket. If Cincinnati truly wants to make another playoff run, then this is an area that they need to improve on.
Playing at home this week certainly has advantages, and the Bengals need to capitalize on it. As always, the Jungle will be rocking, providing all the energy required to pump up the team.
Burrow and the offense must do their part by staying on the field and converting crucial third downs. Like last week, getting off to a fast start is essential, especially with a team like Seattle.
If Coach Anarumo and his defense can limit the trick plays while containing Seattle’s run game, then the Bengals could walk off the field with a 3-3 record heading into their bye week.
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