When the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Washington Redskins this Sunday, some of the most intriguing young talents in the game will face off.
The duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green has already become one of the most potent connections in the league, while rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris have folks in the nation's capital absolutely buzzing this season.
Plus, this game promises to be one of the most exciting of the weekend, with the Bengals defense having already allowed 71 points and 869 yards, while the Redskins have sacrificed 63 points and 810 yards.
Let's take a closer look at a matchup that promises some offensive fireworks on Sunday.
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
When: Sunday, September 23 at 1 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS; DirecTV 712
Stream: NFL Audio Pass
Listen: Sirius 86 and 127; Westwood One
Betting Line: Redskins (-3.5), according to Bovada
Bengals Injury Report (via ESPN)
RB Bernard Scott, Hand, Questionable
DE Jamaal Anderson, Quadriceps, IR
TE Donald Lee, Quad, Questionable
DE Carlos Dunlap, Knee, Questionable
CB Jason Allen, Quad, Questionable
CB Josh Wilson, Concussion, Questionable
TE Fred Davis, Head, Probable
LB Brian Orakpo, Pectoral, IR
DE Adam Carriker, Quad, IR
S Brandon Meriweather, Doubtful
WR Pierre Garcon, Foot, Questionable
DT Chris Baker, Questionable
What's At Stake?
Two teams with high expectations coming into the season will each be trying to avoid starting 1-2, a less-than-ideal opening in the difficult AFC North and NFC East divisions.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit' Em and Sleeper
Andy Dalton didn't make my top-10 list of quarterbacks this week, but he would have been No. 11. In deeper leagues—he's worth a start. You always want to roll with A.J. Green and BenJarvus Green-Ellis as well.
Don't bother with either defense or tight ends Fred Davis and Jermaine Gresham. The defenses haven't been very stout this season, and the tight ends haven't shown up yet this year. I don't like Aldrick Robinson or Leonard Hankerson, if for no other reason than I don't know which of the two will show up for the Redskins from week to week.
Your sleeper to keep an eye on is Andrew Hawkins from the Bengals. The diminutive slot receiver has 10 receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown this season on 12 targets and is becoming a valuable weapon in the Bengals' attack. In deeper leagues and certainly those of the PPR variety, he's an intriguing flex play.
What They're Saying
Players admitted after the game that on Sunday, they lacked the mental toughness they will need to take a step forward from the 5-11 or 6-10 days. We saw poor tackling on defense, blown chances on offense, more poor special teams play and a lack of composure on both sides of the ball. As in years past, the Redskins found ways to lose, not win.
Meanwhile, Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com gave the Bengals run defense a "D" after a poor effort against the Cleveland Browns:
It continues to struggle after an opponent went over 100 yards for the ninth time in the last 11 games. Trent Richardson is going to have some big games in this rivalry. He started off with his first 100-yard game in the NFL, including a 32-yard touchdown. Rey Maualuga had 10 tackles, but considering how he played, tackles are a misnomer on how someone played. Lots of missed tackles and assignments.
Bengals Player to Watch: A.J. Green, Wide Receiver
With the possibility that Brandon Meriweather and Josh Wilson will be missing from the Redskins' secondary, Green could be in line for a particularly big game. With 12 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown on 23 targets already this season, Green could seriously increase those numbers on Sunday.
Redskins Player to Watch: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback
RG3 has been absolutely on fire this season, passing for 526 yards and three touchdowns with a sparkling 70.9 completion percentage. Oh, and he's also rushed for 124 yards and another two touchdowns.
He may be a rookie, but he's playing like Cam Newton did last year—which was also Newton's rookie year. Hmmm. Turns out that the old belief that rookies can't succeed right away is pretty antiquated, huh?
Key Matchup: Redskins Front Seven vs. Bengals Offensive Line
It will certainly hurt the pass rush. The pair combined for 14.5 sacks a season ago, a lot of production to replace this season. With the 30th-ranked pass defense already this season, any lack of a pass rush is only going to hurt this Redskins defense even more.
The team has been fairly stingy against the run (10th in the league), so they shouldn't see a major drop in that regard given these injuries. But if the Redskins can't generate a pass rush, Dalton and the Bengals are going to have a huge game in the air on Sunday.
This seems like a pretty even matchup to me, but given the Redskins' injuries on defense, I have to give the Bengals the slightest of edges. Look for Dalton and Green to torch the Washington secondary, and RG3 to finally show his inexperience late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Bengals win, 34-28.
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