49ers vs Bengals Week 3: 3 Keys to Victory for Each Team
The San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals square off on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium with both teams trying to get back on the winning side. This inter-conference game provides both teams with an opportunity to climb into the playoff picture.
The critical third game will see one of these teams go over .500 and help themselves in their playoff push. While the game is an early season matchup, the importance cannot be stressed to these fanbases, with both believing their team is superior to the others.
So let's delve deeper into this matchup, starting with the visitors on Sunday, the 49ers.
1. Getting over the Early Start
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The 49ers will have to overcome the kickoff time in this game. While the first two games of San Francisco's season were at home and started at 1PM Pacific time, their first road game will start at 10AM Pacific time.
Yes, these players are professionals, but this time difference has to be taken into account. If San Francisco is caught sleeping through the first quarter, they may have trouble getting back in the game. The 49ers have to come out early and establish the offense, which leads to the next point.
2. Establish the Running Game
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Frank Gore can be a very explosive running back for the 49ers, and he will be the key for their offense in this game, as is true in mostly every game. The Bengals rushing defense is in the middle of the road compared to the rest of the NFL (according to ESPN). If the 49ers are able to establish the run, the passing game will open up.
San Francisco has been unable to establish the running game in their first two matchups of this season. A team with a quarterback that has the skill of Alex Smith can get away with that against Seattle, but not against teams like Dallas.
While the Bengals are not on the same level as the Cowboys, beating them without a running game may prove to be too much for the 49ers on the road.
3. Stop AJ Green
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The 49ers have given up the eight-most passing yards in the NFL through the first two games of the season. Cincinnati has surprisingly been able to establish a passing game in their first two contests, especially with the emergence of A.J. Green.
The first-round pick had 124 receiving yards against Denver in Week 2, and a 41-yard catch in Week 1 against Cleveland. If Green can establish himself against the 49ers, San Francisco may be in trouble.
Now let's move onto the Bengals' side of this matchup.
1. Protect Andy Dalton
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After leaving the game in Week 1 against the Browns, Andy Dalton played an efficient game at Denver in Week 2. While the Bengals did not win the game against the Broncos, Dalton's play gives confidence to the team and fans.
The Bengals offense looked like it was going to be dreadful in preseason. Dalton has led the offense to a surprising start, though. If he plays efficiently in this game, he could take advantage of the San Francisco secondary.
The 49ers secondary has given up the eight-most passing yards in the NFL. This matchup should give Dalton the advantage if the Bengals can open up the running game.
2. Improve 3rd Down Efficiency
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The Bengals have converted 8-of-28 third-down opportunities. The Bengals need to improve this part of their offense to be successful in the long term. Third-down conversions require composure and good decision making. With a rookie quarterback, these qualities may not be there quite yet.
Andy Dalton has to make some plays to help the Bengals defense stay off the field and wear out the 49ers defense. A key to this is the rushing game, which has to pick up yards on first down specifically in order to keep third downs manageable for Dalton.
3. Make Alex Smith Win the Game
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The 49ers' biggest offensive weapon is Frank Gore. Alex Smith has not proven that he is capable of taking over a game. If I am preparing for the 49ers offense, my first goal is to shut down the running game. If Frank Gore is ineffective, I would trust Leon Hall and the secondary to shut down the passing game.
The Bengals could put seven or even eight men in the box in order to shut down the run and dare the 49ers to beat them through the air. If Cincinnati can shut down the running game, they should have a great chance to win against Alex Smith.
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Both the 49ers and Bengals have defenses that are capable of keeping the opponent off the scoreboard. Both have quarterbacks that have trouble controlling the game. The keys to winning the game are similar for both teams, which are highlighted by making the opposing quarterback win the game.
The 49ers are going to have to overcome the time difference and come out with a good start against the Bengals on the road. The Bengals also need a good start to demoralize the 49ers, especially after their heart-breaking loss to Dallas in Week 2.
PREDICTION- BENGALS 24 49ERS 17
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