Believe it or not, the Bengals are not the biggest underdogs for Week 1 of the NFL regular season. The Redskins, the one team the Bengals beat in the preseason, are 10-point underdogs against the Eagles.
So yeah, The Seahawks are favored by 9.5 points against the new-look Bengals, but it could be worse, albeit barely.
There are a few reasons for the vast point spread, one of them being how much of an unknown Cincinnati has become under a brand new coaching staff. The roster itself didn’t experience much turnover, but the staff that’s in charge of elevating said roster has plenty of new faces.
For this game, the players worth focusing on all have something to prove. As first-time starters, role players returning from from injury, or if they’re just coming off a disappointing preseason, these five Bengals have our attention come Sunday afternoon.
Damion Willis and Michael Jordan
Along with Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Clint Boling have been the longest tenured offensive players for the Bengals, all from the same NFL Draft class of 2011. To begin 2019, Green is injured, and Boling is retired.
Replacing them is an undrafted free agent and a fourth-round pick, respectively.
Willis and Jordan have each rapidly risen up the depth chart from the time they were brought in this past spring to late August when they were named Week 1 starters. As the X receiver, Willis will be replacing Green, but don’t expect him to receive the same number of targets Green would normally see. For Jordan, he’ll be out there all game, facing off against Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Seahawks defensive line.
It’s a tough first game for these two as much as it is for the whole team, but how they fare will go a long way in determining if they can maintain their starting roles.
2015 is the year everyone looks back at when reflecting on the positive side of Eifert’s frustrating career. He scored at least two touchdowns in three different games that season; including the game against the Seahawk’s “Legion of Boom”. The secondary in Seattle that made up that group is no longer intact, and Eifert’s body has been holding on by a thread since then as well.
We didn’t get a good read on how much Eifert will be used in this offense from the preseason, but this is a matchup he can dominate. It all depends on how much they use him in his first game back.
Speaking of questionable usage, the Seahawks should do everything in their power to make sure the Bengals’ best edge rusher doesn’t see the field too much. Lawson could be limited in terms of snaps if the Bengals are forced to stay their base four-man front for most of the game if the score gets lopsided. There is a way for them prevent this from happening.
Rumblings from this week’s practices seem to indicate the Bengals are planning on using five-man fronts in order to maximize the eight or nine defensive lineman they’ll have active on Sunday. This would add Lawson as an edge defender in either a two or three-point stance to their normal one-gap front and give him more opportunities to pressure Russell Wilson, which is already a tough enough task.
The Bengals defense is a worse product when Lawson is on the sidelines. Getting him on the field as much as possible is imperative for a win on Sunday.
What we saw from Williams in his 48 preseason snaps was not exactly encouraging. From covering tight ends to properly filling his fits in run defense, the now seventh-year veteran did not look mentally prepared for football this August.
Nevertheless, Williams was elected as a defensive captain by his teammates as one of the more experienced defenders on relatively young unit. Williams has been a consistent starter for Cincinnati even when the rest of the defense has dropped off around him, and that should remain the expectation going forward in 2019, unless we see his preseason issues continue.
Hopefully we see the old Williams in this game. He’ll be asked to play in the box for most of the game and essentially act as the third (or even second) linebacker in order to keep three cornerbacks on the field and still be able to contain the Seahawks’ rushing game.