For the second time this season, the Bengals will play NFC South opponents in back-to-back games. This time, they play them at home, and their bye week is in the middle of the two matchups. To start, they will face the 3-3 hot-and-cold Buccaneers who are as explosive and dangerous as they are volatile and battered.
As it happens, the best matchups in this game involve the best players on each team. Here are the four player matchups that can decide the outcome of the game.
QB Andy Dalton vs. LB Lavonte David
Tampa Bay’s secondary is filled with youth in cornerbacks Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and safety Justin Evans, but the unit as a whole has been torched this season. Dalton shouldn’t have much trouble picking apart the Buccaneers back seven, but when going over the middle and up the seams, he has to always know where the Buccaneers best linebacker is.
David has a history for being an instinctual pass defender and combined with upper tier athleticism, he’s a playmaker in defending the passing game. Many quarterbacks have thrown careless passes without seeing David sitting underneath the route and David ends up taking it the other way. The Bengals have an opportunity to win the turnover battle with Jameis Winston quarterbacking the Buccaneers offense, so Dalton can’t negate the potential opportunities his defense could give them by letting David do what he does best. If Dalton succeeds, he should have a clean day.
LT Cordy Glenn vs. RDE Jason Pierre-Paul
Last week against the Chiefs, Glenn was one of the few players on offense to show up. He looked like the pass protector the Bengals traded for this past offseason. But his next matchup equals him in stature as well as anyone else in the NFL.
The 6-5 Pierre-Paul is built like a traditional Bengals 4-3 edge player, and his career production is pretty similar to that of Carlos Dunlap. His long arms and ability to win with power and finesse will challenge Glenn all game long. The Buccaneers defense also likes to use him in a two-point stance and he’s no stranger to being used in stunts and twists inside. Communication with Glenn and his fellow blockers inside will be crucial to keep Dalton comfortable in the pocket.
DT Geno Atkins vs. LG Ali Marpet
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals best defensive player will square off with one of the more unheralded interior offensive lineman in the game today.
Marpet’s career started strong at right guard for his first two seasons in 2015 and 2016. Last season he was asked to play center for the entire year when he wasn’t dealing with injuries. Now he’s at left guard and still playing at a high level as one of the better pass protecting lineman period. He just doesn’t allow very much pressure.
Of course, there’s no blocker we shouldn’t expect Atkins to beat a few times in any game, but Atkins will have one of his toughest tests of his season in Marpet as he looks to keep up with Aaron Donald in the sack race for defensive tackles.
CB William Jackson vs. WR Desean Jackson
Depending on who you talk to in the Bengals locker room, this matchup could be an all-day affair. Jackson talked this week about getting to travel with Tampa Bay’s Jackson across both sides of the formation.
“It will be fun going up against someone who can run like I can,” said Jackson.
Then yesterday, head coach Marvin Lewis claimed this isn’t true.
Per the Bengals website: William Jackson told a reporter he’ll be shadowing Bucs WR DeSean Jackson. On Friday, Marvin Lewis said that's not true.— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) October 26, 2018
Are we in for another edition of Marvin Lewis lies to the media?
Regardless if it’s true or not, Jackson will meet Jackson on numerous occasions, as the wide receiver isn’t limited to one side of the formation like the cornerback traditionally is.
Jackson also leads all receivers with at least 20 targets in yards per reception. Winston’s deep threat is as dangerous as he’s always been, and just like last week against Tyreek Hill, Jackson is the Bengals best chance to run with him all game.