The Seattle Seahawks are on the road in the Eastern Time Zone once again in Week 6, with a matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals in store for fans Sunday morning. It’s the first time the Hawks have played at Paycor Stadium since Week 5 of the 2015 season when Thomas Rawls introduced himself to Seattle fans to the tune of 169 rushing yards and a touchdown, which was prior to the Legion of Boom introducing the first of back-to-back fourth quarter collapses.
The overwhelming majority of the names and faces around for that game are long gone, but Bobby Wagner and Pete Carroll remain and are looking to continue the improvement of a defensive group that faced many struggles early in the season. Joining Field Gulls this week to answer the questions posed by the regular pre-game preview is the Managing Editor of Cincy Jungle, Anthony Cosenza, and without wasting any time I’ll get right to his answers to my questions.
1. The season hasn’t started off the way most Bengals fans would have anticipated, but they have won two of the last three. What’s the sentiment among fans right now in terms of optimism for the rest of the year?
Obviously, high expectations were prevalent for this Bengals team going into the year. So, being at 2-3 overall isn’t sitting all that well with the fans, especially with two tough divisional losses to start the year.
But, as you mentioned, they’ve won two of the last three and both of those felt like “season-on-the-line” games. Last week was particularly refreshing because the passing game looked like its old self, with big plays coming for the first time all year. We’ll see how they can potentially keep building off of that with a tough Seahawks opponent this week.
I think the masses need to accept that, for a variety of reasons, this group of Bengals just starts slow (be it from unexpected Joe Burrow summertime health reasons, opposing defenses showing things they weren’t prepared for earlier in the year and other issues) and the defense’s performance pendulum is swinging more wildly than the unit in the team’s previous two deep runs. They also have shown the fortitude and talent to bounce back and get hot at the right times.
2. The Bengals have some of the best known offensive weapons in the NFL, but so far this season have been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. What issues, if any, outside of Joe Burrow’s injury have played a role in this?
Well, first things first, the injury has played more of a factor than most wanted to admit. Burrow’s mechanics and ability to plant on that injured calf were greatly affected, disallowing him to throw many routes with his trademark accuracy. It also eliminated his elusiveness, which sometimes led to “broken plays” for big gains after escaping pressure.
The run game has been hit-and-miss with Joe Mixon showing solid gains on limited touches early in the year, but those have dissipated a bit recently, as evidenced by the 3.2 and 3.4 yards per carry averages in the wins against the Cardinals and Rams, respectively (as opposed to 4.6 yards per carry in losses). Throw in Tee Higgins not being healthy in a couple of games and there’s your formula for two of the three losses accumulating just six total points scored.
It’s also a cyclical thing wherein things have snowballed on them. In the losses, Cincinnati’s offense would throw the defense under the bus with a lot of three-and-outs, forcing their counterparts into playing many snaps and inevitable fatigue, thus creating a predictable approach from the offense. Just rinse and repeat on that cycle, unfortunately.
3. Seahawks fans know all the big names like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon and so on, but who are the players Seattle fans may not know who could play a significant role in the outcome of the matchup Sunday?
Higgins missed last week’s game against Arizona with a rib injury and is a maybe this week. Oddly enough, a guy the Bengals used to get production was slot receiver Trenton Irwin. He stepped up with eight catches for 60 yards—four of which went for first downs—and added four punt returns for 68 yards. He was also the target of a deep flea-flicker play that was an inch away from being a long touchdown.
On defense, keep an eye out for rookie safety Jordan Battle. The team was shocked the former Crimson Tide standout was available in the third round this year, and the team likes him a lot. While he’s a bit more of an in-the-box safety and has been sitting behind veteran Nick Scott, he’s been slowly seeing more snaps. Scott has struggled a bit since coming over the spring from the Rams, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo finally committed to a potential larger share of those snaps being split going forward.
4. The Bengals have been working to fix the offensive line for years through the draft and free agency. The Seahawks battled offensive line issues for years. The four tackles who have played the most for these teams so far this season (Stone Forsythe, Jake Curhan, Orlando Brown and Jonah Williams) are all among the top 25 in terms of most pressures allowed this season among tackles.Seattle could see an improvement with the potential return of Charles Cross. Is there any relief or hope coming for the Bengals? Or will 2023 once again be Joe Burrow trying to survive?
I actually feel that the offensive line hasn’t been at the absolute top of the Bengals’ problems so far, as has been the case the past couple of seasons. Burrow being hindered by that calf injury has greatly limited the offense, while the defense has had issues with tackling and getting off of the field. You can see just how much those elements have meant over the past two deep playoff runs, given the 2-3 start with two of those three losses averaging a -22.5 point differential.
That said, while I applaud the Bengals’ huge commitment to rebuilding the offensive line with hefty investments, they are still an imperfect unit. Brown has been a nice overall addition, but we’ve seen flaws there, but part of those issues come from attempting to remedy errors made by the guy next to him in second-year guard, Cordell Volson. He has struggled mightily after many thought he’d take a big leap in 2023. Williams has played better than expected after a transition to the right from left, but again, far from perfect.
They’ll improve as they continue to work together and as the Bengals adapt their offense (once again) more to their strengths and to what defenses are giving them. Still, it won’t be a top unit in the league, but we’ve seen the Bengals go far despite horrible offensive line play, regardless. I do think the Seattle edge defenders will provide fits for Cincinnati’s tackles this week, though, and that could very well be what determines the outcome this week.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? As of this moment, the Bengals are three point favorites on DraftKings in what isn’t expected to be a high scoring game (O/U of 45). Will Cincinnati remain undefeated against the NFC West after beating the Rams and Cardinals? And should we be expecting a high scoring affair or should we bet the under?
This one is really hard for me to predict because a lot of us the Bengals’ offense is back after many signs of life last week, but that’s still not definite. Seattle provides a harder challenge than those still-scrappy Cardinals, but this one is in Cincinnati.
As for an overall outlook, I actually believe this one has the possibility of being a really fun, high-scoring affair. Even though these two teams don’t readily play each other often, they’ve had some incredibly fun matchups over the years.
I think it’s a coin flip game, given that the home team is just a three-point favorite, but I’ll reluctantly go Bengals in a tight, high-scoring affair.
Cincinnati desperately needs to get to .500 at the bye week (Week 7), especially with San Francisco and Buffalo awaiting them out of it. This group gets it together when people are counting them out and/or their having the feeling of their backs being against the wall.