It’s week 11 of the NFL season and the 2-7 Washington Football Team will be facing a 2-6-1 Bengals team at home in FedExField. The Bengals have no shot at the playoffs given that every other team in their division has a winning record (Steelers 9-0, Ravens 6-3, Browns 6-3), but their Head Coach Zac Taylor could be coaching for his job this year and would like to get his first road win of the season. The Bengals are also reeling after a terribly one-sided beatdown by their division rival Steelers last week that resulted in a final score of 36-10.
Although the Bengals offense has shown some promise being helmed by rookie QB Joe Burrow, it has been greatly held back by a patchwork offensive line that has dealt with several injuries this season. That OL will be bolstered by getting back 2019 1st round pick LT Jonah Williams this week, who had been out with with a stinger since week 7. The Bengals offense will be hampered by a few other injuries on offense. Most notably, RB Joe Mixon will be unable to play due to a foot injury and WR AJ Green has been playing through a hamstring injury all season that may be responsible for him having his worst statistical season of his career. On the bright side for the Bengals, rookie WR Tee Higgins has been shining in his opportunities so far and has had at least five catches and 70 receiving yards in his last four games.
Defensively, the Bengals have been wracked by injury to their CB group. They have also had a poor defense all around, with a 29th ranked pass defense and 21st ranked rush defense according to Football Outsiders DVOA. One of the few bright spots on their defense has been safety Jessie Bates, who has shown like a true center-fielder with the range and instincts to lock down the deep field. Another bright spot has been defensive end Carl Lawson. Although Lawson has only had 3.5 sacks on the season, he has had 26 QB pressures and 19 QB hits.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Patrick Judis of Cincy Jungle five questions about the state of the Bengals and what to look for in this game.
1) What are your early impressions of Joe Burrow, his strengths, and things he needs to improve on?
Burrow has been pretty much better than expected coming from a rational fan. I fully anticipate him reaching the highs of the NFL hierarchy, but I also anticipated there being more of a learning process given he is a rookie, and this offseason was so strange.
The most impressive thing about him is the command he already has at the line of scrimmage. He is already out there playing chess with defenses, and it has caught some teams off guard. We still have seen games like he had against the Ravens and Steelers where he really struggles, but at this point I have to believe he is really just achieving this knowledge away given his history.
2) What do you think of Head Coach Zac Taylor and his staff? Will they still be running things next year?
There are things I enjoy about Taylor. He is young, and you can tell he isn’t afraid to modernize this team a bit when it was sorely needed. His presence and culture have been sited as reasons for many of the free agents and draft picks for why they were excited to come here.
I don’t think Taylor gets fired this offseason. Mike Brown is a pretty level headed guy, and he may view this season as just unfortunate given how young the team is and a lack of preparation time. I also don’t think Taylor gets to start off 2021 like this. We may have seen Marvin Lewis get more than 15 years, but he showed signs of success early.
A lot of fans and even Taylor have sighted how poor the teams record has been in one score games. They have only won one so far in Taylor’s time as the head coach (1-12-1 overall), and at some point you have to start thinking there is a reason for that.
3) I’ve heard a fair amount of criticism of Bengals owner Mike Brown. In what ways is he holding back the team? Has he shown any signs of improving and do you think the team will be able to ultimately find success without a change in ownership?
I think a lot of that gets blown out of proportion. Cincinnati likes to re-sign players from within, and recently they have actually changed a bit of that philosophy by spending in free agency to get guys like D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes to help areas of need (unfortunately both are currently on injured reserve).
There are plenty of jokes at Brown’s expense about being cheap, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t participate in a few. However, at the end of the day, I have full belief that Brown and his family has the best interest of this team at heart. I will disagree with some of the decisions they and Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin (essentially the GM) make, but I think Burrow is the kind of player they needed to ultimately rise back into being competitive.
4) Other than Joe Burrow, what Bengals players are you most looking forward to watching and how have they impacted games this year?
Okay, now is my chance to talk about safety Jessie Bates. He is currently Pro Football Focus’ highest rated safety, and you will likely be hearing his name a lot on Sunday.
He is probably the smartest defender on the team, and when you combine that with his insane burst from middle field, it creates a player that makes it almost impossible to go deep without being positive where he is. It is cliche, but he is the defender that Alex Smith will have to locate on each play.
5) How would you gameplan to beat the Bengals this week? Are there any particular matchups to exploit on offense and defense?
Defensively, the Bengals may still be a bit beat up at cornerback. The Steelers won by essentially targeting guys like Tony Brown who was seeing his first extended action of his career. Otherwise really testing the young linebackers to make plays in the passing game has been a mixed bag for opposing teams. They can be had, but it isn’t a certainty. Overall, Smith should just take his time in the pocket, because as long as you double team pass rusher Carl Lawson, no one is going to be getting that much pressure on him Sunday.
Offensively, making the Bengals one dimensional has really benefitted opposing defenses. You don’t even really need to blitz to get a decent enough pass rush on Burrow, and blitzing has actually proven to not be the best way to attack him after he learned from the Ravens game. He is still a rookie though, so late movement and disguises are probably your best bet at stopping him. Also don’t bother doubling A.J. Green. If you put your best cover guy on him his day is pretty much done. He has lost a step, and it is hard to tell if it is due to age or a hamstring injury he has been trying to play through all year.
Thanks again to Patrick Judis for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Bengals.
As of right now, Vegas has Washington as 1 point favorites over Cincinnati. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Washington wins by 2 points or more
Washington wins by 1 point or it’s a tie
Cincinnati wins outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 46.5 points. Which would you bet?
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47 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 47 total points are scored (both sides combined)
If you could trade Chase Young for Joe Burrow right now, would you?
This poll is closed