On Sunday night, the Bengals travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. The Bengals lead the AFC North, while the Chiefs sit in first place in the AFC West. Both teams have a high-powered offense and a lackluster defense, so this should be a shootout.
A Look Back
In Week 6, both teams were looking to prove that their hot starts were legitimate, and both failed.
The Bengals are looking to bounce back from a devastating loss to the Steelers. The defensive line couldn’t generate any pressure, and Ben Roethlisberger had all day to sit in the pocket and wait for his receivers to get open. After giving up a long touchdown to Antonio Brown in the final minute, (That DEFINITELY wasn’t offensive pass interference) Cincinnati fell to 4-2.
This look like an illegal pick to anyone else? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/J26SWaWHXg
— Elite Andy Dalton (@EvilAndyDalton) October 14, 2018
After a 5-0 start, the Chiefs faced the Patriots in order to prove that they had become the team to beat in the AFC. Instead, Tom Brady and co. reminded everyone that they’re still the top dogs in a 43-40 victory. The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season, despite holding their own in a hostile environment.
The Bengals will be missing C Billy Price again, and he will likely return to action after the upcoming bye week. The injuries on defense are far more costly. Key starters such as Nick Vigil, Shawn Williams and Darqueze Dennard will all be inactive on Sunday night due to injuries suffered against the Steelers.
The Chiefs are relatively healthy, with starting S Eric Berry and LB Justin Houston the only players expected to miss Sunday night’s game. It remains to be seen whether starting C Mitch Morse (concussion protocol) is going to suit up.
John Ross vs. Chiefs Secondary: John Ross is making his return to the field after missing the past 2 games, and it couldn’t come at a better time. His unmatched speed forces the defense to sit back in coverage, opening up space underneath for A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd to get open. In 4 the games that he’s played, the Bengals are 3-1 and have scored 31.5 points per game. In the two that he’s missed, they’re 1-1 while only averaging 24.
With the popularity of the "Seattle" single-high defenses around the league, offensive coordinators are drawing up some killer route concepts to beat it.
Bill Lazor in Cincy.
— Josh Cohen (@jco3215) October 4, 2018
Jessie Bates III vs. Travis Kelce: The Bengals have struggled against tight ends, mostly due to the fact that none of their linebackers excel in pass coverage. This was evident versus Pittsburgh, as Steelers tight ends recorded 16 catches for 129 yards. Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the league, and he has been spectacular this season. He already has 468 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, and he projects to have a big game versus Cincinnati. Rookie safety Jessie Bates III has been amazing, but Kelce is likely his toughest challenge yet.
The top rookie safeties in the NFL so far this season. pic.twitter.com/w022ADwsem
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 17, 2018
Vontaze Burfict vs. Kareem Hunt: Kareem Hunt is building off of a stellar rookie season, and he has displayed new pass-catching skills in recent games. The Bengals had no answer for Steelers RB James Conner, who gashed the defense for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. They should be looking to make a statement against one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks. This starts with Vontaze Burfict, who has earned a reputation as a run stuffer and strong tackler. (He’s also earned ANOTHER type of reputation, but I won’t talk about that)
Keys to Victory
Keep Patrick Mahomes in the Pocket
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been unstoppable this season, already throwing for 18 touchdowns compared to just 4 interceptions. He has been exceptional when rolling out of the pocket, displaying an ability to accurately find receivers while on the run. Despite not registering a sack against the Steelers, the Cincinnati defensive line is very talented. The Bengals need to create pressue early and not allow Mahomes to buy time with his mobility.
Give Joe Mixon Consistent Touches
Although he has been a major component of the Bengals offense this season, Joe Mixon wasn’t given many opportunities last week. Despite averaging over 5 yards per carry, he only rushed the ball 11 times. After scoring a touchdown in the final 2 minutes, it was clear that the coaches should have put the ball in the hands of #28 more often. The Bengals ended up losing, leaving many fans angry about the lack of a consistent rushing offense.
I hate the Steelers so goddamn much.
— Cincinnati 💔 (@CincyProblems) October 14, 2018
Limit the Amount of Missed Tackles
With Nick Vigil out, the Bengals are going to look to backups Jordan Evans and Hardy Nickerson to step up in his absence. Although the Chiefs take some shots down the field, the majority of their offense is based upon short passes and screens. These usually end up in the hands of Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt, and head coach Andy Reid trusts them to force missed tackles. Cincinnati needs to limit yards after contact in order to slow down the imposing Kansas City offense.
As much as I want the Bengals to win, this game is a Marvin Lewis nightmare. The Bengals are about to play in a primetime away game against the 5-1 Chiefs, who have a mobile quarterback and one of the best RB-WR-TE combinations in the NFL. That’s scary.
The Bengals should be able to score against a mediocre Kansas City defense, and the addition of John Ross certainly helps. If the defense can force a turnover or two, the offense might be able to jump out in front. This game has the feeling of a shootout, but not one that favors the Bengals.
Bengals – 30
Chiefs – 38