Seahawks (3-1) at Bengals (2-3) Sunday, Oct. 15 at Paycor Stadium (Field Turf), 1 p.m. ET, TV: CBS, WKRC-TV Ch. 12 (Cincinnati) Ian Eagle, Charles Davis, Evan Washburn, Radio: Dan Hoard, Dave Lapham. 700 WLW-AM, WEBN-FM (102.7 FM), ESPN1530
It’s the rested against the restless.
The Bengals (2-3) need a win to head into their bye week with a .500 mark that would match their record after six games last season.
The Bengals are coming off a much-needed win on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, giving them the chance this Sunday to enter their bye week with a .500 mark.
Ja’Marr Chase led the way in Cincinnati’s 34-20 win last Sunday. Chase hauled in a Bengals single-game record 15 receptions for 192 yards and three TDs. He became the fourth player in league history under the age of 24 to catch 15 passes in a game, and the fifth player ever to post at least 15 receptions, 150 receiving yards and three TDs.
“(With) Ja’Marr, nothing really surprises you,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You just keep finding ways to get him the ball. It can come in so many different ways because of how flexible he is as a football player and his football IQ.”
What made the feat all the more impressive is that the Bengals were without fellow star receiver Tee Higgins, nursing a rib injury from the loss at Tennessee in Week 4.
Joe Burrow appeared close to fully recovered from his right calf strain, scrambling and running to space to avoid pressure and throwing accurately from moving pockets while completing 36-of-46 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s something I haven’t been able to do for the last couple of weeks,” Burrow said. “When your quarterback can’t do that — can’t steal first downs, can’t extend plays, can’t find guys downfield — it’s tough to move the ball. So, it felt good. I’m going to continue to get healthier, and I’m excited about that.”
The Bengals are also hoping starting cornerback Chido Awuzie can return from a back issue that cropped up last week in practice and forced him to sit out. Rookie DJ Turner II made his first NFL start in the place of Awuzie.
Behind the rejuvenated Geno Smith, Seattle has scored at least 24 points in each of their three wins since a Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
“I really like the last three weeks,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “The second half of the first game, that still kills me the way we were. But the last three games, we’ve stayed in the mode where we’re playing with the same kind of focus, same kind of intensity.
“We feel like were gaining on some things. We’re getting better at some stuff. We finished in similar fashion, which is something that really important to me, telling me how the mentality of our team is. We’ve had three really solid settings we’ve been through. We’ve gained a lot. Hopefully we can keep going.”
No team has been stingier in the NFL in allowing rushing yards per carry. The Seahawks have yielded a league-low 3.18 yards per carry. Linebacker Bobby Wagner has been a big part of the Seattle defense that has led the way during the three-game win streak.
The bye week should also help some injured players like Jamal Adams (concussion) to get healthy.
“I think it allows for some of the guys who were injured to get more healthy, guys like Jamal who we’re working back into the fold, he gets to have a week off after a game like that,” Wagner said. “The biggest thing is just health, giving guys time to get back and get healthy so we can make a run. I feel good about where we’re at.”
Here’s what to look for:
Last week, Burrow showed that he is as healthy as he’s been all season, completing his first nine passes and 22 of his first 26 in carving up the Arizona secondary. Now, can he repeat it against a much better Seattle secondary? Burrow has been in rhythm on the opening drive of the last two games. Against Tennessee, the Bengals failed on third down repeatedly and could only muster the three points from opening drive. Last week, the Bengals QB showed his agility and mobility and found Chase on a scramble for a TD. The Bengals and Burrow were in rhythm for the first two drives, lost it and then found it again. They’ll need more consistency this week.
Last week, the Bengals decided to play it safe with Higgins and give him an extra week to heal his ribs injured in the Tennessee game. With Seattle’s defense on tap, Higgins picked it up in practice this week and said he feels ready to play Sunday, perhaps without a restrictive flak jacket to protect the ribs. If Higgins is willing and able, he will offer some balance to a defense keyed to slow Chase.
Thanks to DK Metcalf, this became a bigger story. “I think Spoon will get the best of him,” Metcalf said in propping up Witherspoon, the rookie out of Illinois and – like Chase – a first-round fifth overall pick. Chase responded this week by laughing it off and dismissing it as less than trash talk since it the comments didn’t come from Witherspoon himself. Chase said he wants the battle to come down to facing his opponent face-to-face and win where it matters most. Witherspoon has one interception this season, a 97-yard pick-6 against the Giants in Seattle’s 24-3 demolition of New York. There is always the chance that Riq Woolen and/or Michael Jackson could get their chance.
All predictions aside, Metcalf is as an imposing physical receiver as the Bengals will face all season. He’s got speed, height (6-foot-4) and size (240) pounds. He’s got only two touchdowns in four games so far but don’t let him get a head of steam. He’s essentially Derrick Henry as a receiver. This will be a challenge for the Bengals secondary and it will be fascinating to see how Lou Anarumo spreads his assets to defend him. He’s got 18 catches in four games and is averaging 14.9 yards per reception.
This is a matchup of the NFL’s oldest coach in Pete Carroll (71) and the sixth-youngest in Zac Taylor (39). Carroll is known for his hard-hitting defenses, featuring 11-year veteran Bobby Wagner at inside linebacker and Jamal Adams at safety. And nothing says toughness better than shutting down the run. The Seahawks allow an NFL-low 3.18 yards per rush. They are coming off a game against the Giants in which they sacked the quarterback 11 times. Carroll is the first coach Zac Taylor faced in his NFL coaching career, losing the 2019 season opener in Seattle, 21-20.
The Bengals did what they were supposed to do in beating a substandard Cardinals team on the road last week. Now it’s time to prove to themselves they’ve really turned a corner heading into the bye with a win over a solid NFC team that is rested coming off a bye. Geno Smith is a crafty veteran at quarterback, who has displayed tremendous maturity in his four seasons with Seattle. Smith has thrown five touchdowns this season and just one interception. In fact, Smith has thrown 40 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions since the start of the 2021 season. The Seahawks have plenty of ways to turn this into a rock fight. The Bengals – on their home turf – need again to strike early and not let Seattle’s talented defense dictate. If Higgins plays – and is healthy – the Bengals should have enough to pass this test.
Bengals 24, Seahawks 20
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