Bengals (1-3) at Cardinals (1-3) Sunday, Oct. 8 at State Farm Stadium (natural grass), 4:05 p.m. ET, TV: FOX, WXIX-TV Ch. 19 (Cincinnati) Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin. Radio: Dan Hoard, Dave Lapham. 700 WLW-AM, WEBN-FM (102.7 FM), ESPN1530
Time for the Bengals to show who they really are.
The message from Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Zac Taylor this week has been simple. Just wait until the real Bengals show themselves. Just wait until Burrow can move normally in the pocket. Just wait until the Bengals start playing with the lead.
After losses to the Browns, Ravens and Titans in their first four games, there’s no more time to wait.
The Bengals had Super Bowl aspirations and expectations coming into 2023. They are now fighting to keep their season afloat and not watch it circle the drain.
The Arizona Cardinals are in full re-build mode, coming off a blowout loss in San Francisco.
The two teams meet this Sunday in Arizona when the Cardinals (1-3) host the Bengals (1-3) in Glendale, Ariz.
The Bengals begin a three-game stretch against NFC West opponents when they travel to Arizona for a matchup with the Cardinals on Sunday. Cincinnati finds itself at 1-3 this season and is looking to bounce back from a 27-3 loss at Tennessee in Week 4.
The Cardinals are playing their first of five games against the AFC and their first of four against AFC North competition.
When the game came out on the schedule in the spring, it featured the potential of a first-ever matchup between former Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall picks in Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Arizona signal caller Kyler Murray. But Murray remains on the physically unable to perform list as he aims to return from his torn right ACL last December.
“I don’t think there is any disappointment,” Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said. “We knew his timeline, where he is at, and that’s kind of a day-by-day thing with all the guys coming off an injury. He actually has been very upbeat the whole time but this last couple of weeks I have seen a little bit of a different bounce in his step.”
Instead of Murray, it’s Joshua Dobbs making his fifth for the Cardinals. Dobbs completed 28-of-41 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to San Francisco.
Dobbs can become the first Cardinals quarterback since at least 1970 to start the first five games of a season without an interception. He has throw four touchdown passes without being picked off.
Joe Burrow, struggling through a right calf strain that has limited his mobility, has started a pair of games this season in which the offense has produced just three points, including Sunday’s 27-3 loss at Tennessee.
“I’m still confident in what we have,” said Burrow, who has directed just three touchdown drives this season. “We have to do better. We’ve scored three touchdowns. That’s not near good enough. We’ve got a ways to go. We’ve got the guys in that room to do it. We have the coaches to do it.”
The Bengals could be without a weapon this week as star receiver Tee Higgins suffered a rib injury in last week’s loss to Tennessee and did not practice on Wednesday.
“Whether we lost 27-26 or 27-3, we’re 1-3,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It doesn’t matter which way you slice it. We have got to find a way to get ourselves back on track. We got our first win. It felt good. But we’ve got to find a way at Arizona to get ourselves back on track and be 2-3.”
The Cardinals released punter Nolan Cooney on Tuesday, signing veteran Blake Gillikin to replace him.
Gillikin averaged 47.0 yards a punt over the last two seasons with New Orleans.
The Cardinals have won all four previous home games against Cincinnati in the 12-game series that dates back to 1973, including a 34-31 win on Sunday Night Football in 2015. This marks Cincinnati’s second trip ever to State Farm Stadium.
The two teams have split the previous 12 meetings.
Here’s what to look for:
In his first four games, Burrow’s immobility in the pocket has resulted in defenses easily collapsing the protection on him. Even if it means not getting a hand on him, they’ve been able to push the offensive line into his throwing path. This has disrupted his passing lanes and his vision. If Burrow indeed feels better, then we should start to see it in his movement and ability to slide in the pocket. Burrow doesn’t need to become Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson but he definitely needs to move more to justify his presence on the field. If he can move, then the Bengals should see a big uptick in the offense. Also, if Burrow is feeling pressure, look for more screens and outs, like they showed on the first drive against Tennessee.
What is his pain tolerance playing with injured ribs? If the star receiver decides to give it a go and dress for the game, then he’ll be a part of the full game plan. Taylor said Friday he has no intention of playing Higgins on any type of limited snap count or holding him for special situations like the red zone.
If the regular starting right corner Chido Awuzie can’t go because of a back issue that cropped up during practice Thursday, then DJ Turner will make his first NFL start. Turner has shown to be more than competent in his first four NFL games as a rookie. Cam Taylor-Britt is coming out of concussion protocol and the expectation is that he’ll play, if cleared. Can the secondary handle Josh Dobbs and force him into his first interception? The Cardinals QB has thrown 123 passes without a pick, the most in franchise history to open a season. Dobbs has completed 66-of-97 passes for a 71 percent completion rate. He has a 106.1 passer rating and has added 144 yards on 21 carries on the ground, including a touchdown.
We’re likely to see a Cincinnati high school rivalry reunion in the trenches as Cardinals starting right tackle Paris Johnson Jr. goes up against Sam Hubbard. Hubbard, of course, starred at Moeller while Johnson attended St. Xavier for three seasons before playing his final high school season at Princeton. Both moved on to play collegiately at Ohio State.
The Bengals have been blown out in their first two road games of 2023. They have scored just three points in each game and have been non-competitive in the second half of each game. The Bengals need to impose their will early in a game against an inferior opponent and take the air and crowd out of the game. Ball security and executing on third down on both sides of the ball will go a long way of ensuring a favorable result and generating desperately needed momentum early in the game.
This is it for the Bengals. The margin of error is all but gone. Joe Burrow will show more mobility and be ready to come out on the attack. A quick start would go a long way toward giving the defense a chance to play its game and pressure the quarterback. The defense will get off the field on third down. The Bengals jump out to a quick lead and deliver a badly-needed solid win.
Bengals 31, Cardinals 23
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