Cincinnati Bengals vs. Seattle Seahawks: 6 Key Matchups to Watch
People that follow football closely will tell you that it doesn't matter who you play, it's when you play them.
Injuries have decimated the Seahawks secondary, and their quarterback situation for Sunday's game still hasn't been decided. An injury to Tarvaris Jackson meant that Charlie Whitehurst took most of the first team snaps during practice this week.
I had originally predicted the Bengals would lose to the Seahawks this week. My thought was that they are traveling out west, where odd things happen and it's just about the right time for the team to implode. Plus, Seattle is historically a tough place for road teams to get wins.
However, this is shaping up to be a very favorable matchup for a Bengals team that is hoping to improve to 5-2 and take over first place in the AFC North.
Here at six important matchups to watch as the action unfolds on Sunday.
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Leon Washington vs. Bengals Special Teams
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Leon Washington is a difference-maker.
If the Bengals make the mistake of kicking toward Washington and giving him a chance to return kicks and punts, then they could face some very bad field positions.
Washington has the ability to return every punt for a touchdown, and the Bengals are certainly susceptible to bad decisions on special teams.
If Washington returns one for a TD, it drastically could alter the game toward the Seahawks' favor.
Bernard Scott vs. Seahawks Linebackers
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Seattle's linebackers are terrible tacklers. I mean terrible.
If Scott can break through the defensive front to the linebacker area, then he could turn some five- to seven-yard runs into much bigger plays.
I expect Scott and Brian Leonard to have big games with lots of yards after contact.
The Seahawks defense is very susceptible to biting on counters as well, so watch for the Bengals to call a few counters for Scott to utilize his speed to the outside.
The Worst Secondary in the NFL vs. A.J. Green
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Earl Thomas is a very good defensive player.
The rest of Seattle's secondary is unproven or just not any good. The Seahawks have suffered injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond, and will be starting Richard Sherman (rookie from Stanford) and Brandon Browner.
Expect the Bengals to target Sherman on every down that Thomas lines up on the opposite side of the field.
This could be a big day for Jerome Simpson, but I could also see A.J Green having a high reception total.
Robert Geathers and Domata Peko vs. John Moffitt and James Carpenter
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The left side of the Seahawks' offensive line is very, very good. The right side is awful.
Expect Jackson or Whitehurst to favor throws to the left side of the field. The Bengals will be wise to put Leon Hall on whichever receiver lines up on that side.
However, the Seahawks can't completely ignore the right side, so expect Geathers and Peko to get consistent penetration against the younger and more inexperienced duo of John Moffitt and James Carpenter.
You should also see plenty of blitzes come from that side of the defense as well.
Doug Baldwin vs. Bengals Linebackers
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Doug Baldwin appears to be the big X-factor for this game.
Baldwin is the Seahawks' third receiver, and he's had a fantastic rookie season so far. The Bengals linebackers are going to have a hard time covering him, and I expect Jackson or Whitehurst to target him frequently on third down.
If Baldwin has a game like he did against the Giants a few weeks ago, then the Seahawks might be able to make this a competitive game.
The Rain vs. Wide Receivers' Hands
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You can forget everything I've previously said if the current weather forecast holds true. There is a 90 percent chance of rain in Seattle on Sunday, and that is likely to completely alter the flow of the game.
If running backs aren't able to hold on to the wet ball, or if receivers aren't able to catch it, then whoever has the least amount turnovers will win the game.
Simple. As. That.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Seahawks 10
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I'm betting that it rains, but not enough to alter the game.
The Bengals will win in a bit of a blowout, and Bernard Scott will have a career day with over 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns.