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Analyzing PFF data to preview how Bengals can succeed in Week 5 vs Seahawks

The Bengals find themselves up against a tough opponent at home this week. Can they rally together and get the team's fifth win in five games of the season? Here's what we have to say about the data from our friends at Pro Football Focus.

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Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

For the first time in 10 years, the Bengals enter into Week 5 of the regular season with a 4-0 record. The last time that happened was in 2005 when the Bengals sprinted out to a 4-0 start, but lost in Week 5 to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a three point margin. That sounds depressing, but consider that, in 2005, the world was a much different and scarier place (both for Bengals fans and the NFL).

The Jaguars posted a 12-4 record at the end of that season, so you could make a strong comparison to the team that stands in the Bengals' way of a 5-0 record in 2015, the Seattle Seahawks. We've got a while to go before we can see if the Bengals finally win a playoff game, but for now, we can figure out if the team's first 5-0 start since 1988 is in the cards.

The biggest knock against the Bengals so far this season has been the strength of their opponents. The Raiders, Ravens, Chargers, and Chiefs have a combined record of 6-9. That said, if you take out games played against the Bengals those teams have a combined record of 6-5. On top of the total combined record, none of the Bengals' previous opponents boasts a winning record entering Week 5. The season is still young, but the Seahawks don't either. Regardless, they are the reigning NFC champs for two years straight and only one year removed from being the reigning Super Bowl champs.

What does this all mean for the Week 5 matchup between the Bengals and the Seahawks? It could be said that both teams need this win to legitimize their season and keep their Super Bowl aspirations on track. It could also be said that it's too early in the season to put such a mandate on either team. Either way, our friends at Pro Football Focus had plenty of data for us to look through, and this is what we've gathered about the Bengals' chances to win on Sunday:

Cincinnati Bengals

Last week: 36-21 win vs Kansas City Chiefs.

Last week against the Chiefs, Andy Dalton lit it up for 321 yards and a touchdown, earning a great overall grade (+4.2). Because of this and some other mostly solid play from the Bengals, they rank fourth in PFF's weekly power rankings. Who are those players who are making the team so great? Geno Atkins, Adam Jones, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Andrew Whitworth, and Clint Boling, to name a few. There have been some other players who have played great, but those are all the players who made PFF's All Pro team through Week 4, at least as honorable mentions.

Go ahead and throw in Andy Dalton to that list of Bengals players who are playing great so far.  He missed out on the All-Pro team through Week 4, but he is rated as a top 5 QB in PFF's grades. Some of the important stats of his season include being tied for the best yards per attempt of any NFL QB (10.2), and have a 60.0 percent deep passing accuracy (third best in the NFL).

But, as great as Dalton has been playing, it also helps that he's got  the sixth best offensive line in the NFL, according to PFF. Andrew Whitworth (+11.0) has only given up two pressures all year, and the great play all season from Clint Boling definitely hasn't hurt. Andre Smith (-9.0) and Russell Bodine, however, have held this offensive line back from truly being a dominant force, and that has lead to Dalton having to get rid of the ball quicker than all but three other QBs this season, on average (2.18 seconds). We saw a similar trend last year with the Bengals' maddening offensive line that gave up a ton of pressures, but had relatively low sack numbers due to Dalton's quick arm.

The inconsistent play of Bodine and the very poor play of Andre Smith led to a rough start for Jeremy Hill this year, but he got back on top of things last week against the Chiefs, punching the ball into the endzone three times, despite Ryan Hewitt being ranked as the worst fullback in the NFL last week. Giovani Bernard also found the endzone last week, but don't expect the running game to have as strong of an impact this week against a staunch Seattle defense.

Seattle Seahawks

Last week: 13-10 win vs Detroit Lions.

The Seahawks are the kind of team that will give any team a hard time, every week, even if they aren't looking quite as dominant as we know they can be. That certainly applies this week, as the Seahawks come into Cincinnati with a 2-2 record.  In their two wins, the Seahawks have looked like a team that is very rough around the edges. While they handily defeated the Bears without much trouble, the Lions would have sent the Seahawks to 1-3 were it not for a controversial no-call on an illegal bat by the Seahawks. In their two losses, the Seahawks never quite got into their groove against the rolling Packers and the inconsistent, though at times impressive, Rams.

It's also worth pointing out that the Seahawks' offense is sputtering. Not only has Russell Wilson been sacked 18 times already this season, but the offense as a whole has only scored five touchdowns this season (none rushing). The Seattle defense was also sputtering through the first two weeks, giving up 34 points in Week 1, and 27 points in Week 2. But, since the return of Kam Chancellor in Week 3 against the Bears, they recorded a shut out of the Bears and only allowed the Lions to score 10 points the following week. Their cumulitive grade for defense (+43.7) ranks second only behind the Broncos (+71.3)

Part of the Seahawks' defensive prowess this season is due to the run of great form from Cliff Avril (+9.6), who has been rated as one of the top five edge rushers in the NFL through Week 4. Avril has been able to disrupt the backfield whether he's rushing outside or inside the tackle. Luckily for the Bengals, he will be matched up against Andrew Whitworth this week, who has consistently ranked as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL this year (+11.0). Unfortunately, that leaves the consistent Andre Smith (-9.0) up against the dominant Michael Bennett who leads the Seahawks in defense against the run (+8.4), and has only committed six penalties all year (three offsides).

Keys to the Game

Dominant Pass Rush

If there is one way that the Bengals are going to get a win over the Seahawks this week, it's probably going to involve an exciting game from the defensive line. Geno Atkins, alone, has been a force to be reckoned with through three weeks, having already produced as many sacks (3) as he did all of last year. Last week he received the highest graded pass rush productivity score of any defensive tackle this season (+10.0). Combine that with Michael Johnson generally being back to his old form and Carlos Dunlap ranking as PFF's fourth highest 4-3 DE in terms of pass rush productivity, and you've got a scary defensive line to go up against, regardless of matchup.

If that's not enough, PFF ranks the Seahawks' offensive line as the third worst in the NFL. Not only have any of their offensive linemen yet to receive a positive grade this season, but they also have allowed the second most sacks so far in the NFL (18). The only offensive line that has given up more sacks than the Seahawks is the Chiefs, who have given up 19 sacks. During last Sunday's game, the Bengals sacked Chiefs' QB Alex Smith a total of five times against such a weak offensive line. It wouldn't be much of a leap to think that the Bengals' defensive line could have a similar outing this week.

Creative Offense

The whole "use the run to set up the pass" thing is not going to work against the Seahawks. According to PFF, Michael Bennett has played very well against the run, leading the team in score against the run (+8.4), and in penalty score (-4.9). This is a trend that permeates throughout the Seattle defense, so the Bengals aren't going to be able to rest on their laurels by running the ball and grinding away a win. So far this season, the Seahawks have only allowed one run for 20+ yards and none over 40. They have also allowed the fourth least yards per carry in the NFL (3.5), so it would stand to reason that the Bengals will want to look to the passing game to attack this stout Seattle defense.

With Andy Dalton playing as well as he is, it would stand to reason that the Bengals should use the pass to set up the rest of the offense. During Hue Jackson's tenure as the Bengals' offensive coordinator, the offense has been known for making unconventional plays an occasional part of their offense. We all know about Andy Dalton's famous 18 yard touchdown catch last year against the Titans, and this year they have continued to experiment, particularly with rookie OT Jake Fisher on the outside as an eligible receiver.

The creative plays are even more important against the infamous Legion of Boom. With Kam Chancellor back to normal duties with the Seahawks, there is little hope for a stand out performance from the Bengals' passing game, unless they get creative.

Brandon Tate 55 yard TD

If the Bengals can have some well improvised plays against the Seahawks, it should be a good day. The Legion of Boom has always been known as a tough unit to play against, but since Kam Chancellor's return against the Bears, the Seahawks' defense has allowed a combined 10 points, as opposed to 48 in the two games without PFF's second highest graded safety in the NFL since his return. You're not going to beat them playing traditional three-step-drop football.

Lock down the pass

Marshawn Lynch has been ruled out for Sunday's game. His backup, Fred Jackson, is also expected to either be out or limited this week. With how bad their offensive line has been, Marshawn Lynch has only been able to average 42.7 yards per game, and has yet to find the endzone at all. Jackson hasn't fared much better; so what should we expect to see out of third string rookie, Thomas Rawls? The Bengals shouldn't ignore the Seahawks' running game, but if they can lock down the pass there should be little chance for their offense to do much of anything.

On offense, the Seattle passing attack is really where the only firepower is. Doug Baldwin might not be your ideal top receiver, but he has caught 95 percent of his targets (19/20) and hasn't dropped a pass yet. That's the highest catch rate of any NFL receiver in the slot position. He's averaging about 50 yards per game and has scored twice, so Leon Hall is going to need to lock him down.

Other than Baldwin? There's Jimmy Graham. Graham took a few games to make his presence known, but he showed up against the Lions for some key hauls that extended drives and allowed him to have an impact. The Bengals have struggled against tight ends over the years, but they have shut down Graham before. Last year, when he was still in his element as one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL, the Bengals shut him down as he only managed to record three catches for 29 yards.

The Seahawks have produced the sixth least passing yards per game this season (217.8), and it largely has to do with a lack of options for Wilson, on top of the poor protection up front. A good game from the Bengals' secondary will leave the Seahawks with few options. Dre Kirkpatrick has ranked as PFF's second worst cornerback in the NFL this season, but this game could prove to be a great way to get his season back on track.