Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- The Bengals passing game has a tough on-paper matchup that gets even tougher depending on injury situations.
- The Bucs defense has only allowed three teams this season to surpass Cincinnati’s implied team total for this week.
- Tom Brady has thrown 40+ passes in ten of his last eleven games.
- The Bengals defense has been “solid, but not outstanding” against both the run and the pass, making them a neutral matchup for opposing offenses to pick their poison against.
How cincinnati Will Try To Win ::
The Bengals are tied for the AFC North division lead with the Ravens as the season enters the home stretch. Cincinnati has a tough path ahead, as all four of their remaining opponents would be in the playoffs if they started today. The Bengals are also facing some health issues that could cause some issues during this tough stretch, as three of their top four receiving options – Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Hayden Hurst – are all battling some ailments that put their availability and effectiveness in question. The Bengals started this season slowly, with a 4-4 record through Week 8, but have rattled off five straight victories (7-1 in their last eight) and appear to be comfortably on their way to a playoff berth if they can overcome their mounting injuries and win even a game or two down the stretch. The Bengals did get Joe Mixon back from his concussion last week, and their backfield operated in a 60/40 timeshare, with Samaje Perine taking most of the 3rd down work and mixing in for many other situations as well.
As you would expect, the status of so many key elements of the offense will likely have a big impact on how the Bengals approach this game. Hurst sounds unlikely to play this week, while Boyd and Higgins are “day to day” with finger and hamstring injuries, respectively. Boyd’s injury sounds like a pain tolerance and effectiveness issue – can he catch the ball the way he needs to while recovering? Meanwhile, Higgins had a hamstring injury he was dealing with all last week that he aggravated in pregame warmups. That type of injury can tend to linger and even get worse if you don’t let it have proper rest. My early hunch is Boyd will play, and Higgins will sit as the Bengals will want to make sure they have Higgins down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Bengals have the third-highest Pass Rate Over Expectation (PROE) in the NFL, and against a stout Bucs defense, they will have to be creative if shorthanded. Given the effectiveness and skillsets of their running back duo (both are strong in the receiving game), it would make sense for them to get both backs more involved in the passing game and funnel things through that part of their offense while their receiving corps is less than full strength. Ja’Marr Chase will obviously get a healthy dose of targets, but facing a very strong pass defense, the Bengals will likely try to leverage their running back talent/depth in this matchup.
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