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Travis Kelce is a nightmare matchup for the Bengals

Cincinnati’s defense must quickly figure out how to improve their biggest weakness.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Death. Taxes. Trey Hendrickson getting at least half a sack. And the Bengals not being able to stop tight ends.

As much as the team (especially the defense) has made great strides this year, there is still one constant: the Bengals struggle to cover and tackle athletic tight ends.

While the Bengals have gone 4-2 since their bye week in Week 10 and blown out the Las Vegas Raiders, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Baltimore Ravens in that span, they’ve also allowed three monster games to tight ends:

  • Mark Andrews, 125 yards receiving and a touchdown in Week 16
  • George Kittle, 151 yards and a touchdown in Week 14
  • Darren Waller, 116 yards in Week 11

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos’ two leading receivers in a Week 15 game against Cincinnati were both tight ends (Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam).

Now comes a matchup against arguably the best receiving tight end in the game: Travis Kelce, who has already topped 80 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving despite missing last week due to COVID protocols.

The problems for the Bengals covering tight ends are multiple. As Mike Sans demonstrates in the thread below, part of the reason the Bengals failed to stop Andrews was related to scheme, part of it to aggressive play style, and part of it to personnel:

Kelce alone is a big reason why the Chiefs enter this game favored by 3.5 points per DraftKings, despite being on the road against a Bengals team leading its division.

Fortunately, this week, the Bengals seem to be getting back Logan Wilson, who was injured in Week 13 but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. But it is not yet clear how many snaps he will play. Of course, Germaine Pratt is now in COVID protocol, though he could be cleared in time for the game, thanks to the new guidelines.

Regardless of who is available, the team will have to take a big step forward to stop Kelce, who is on a completely different level physically than Andrews, as Vonn Bell pointed out recently:

Further, the Chiefs do a good job of scheming Kelce open and use him in a number of creative ways, on cross routes, stick concepts, shovel options, and more.

So what can be done? First, it’s important to lower our expectations. The Bengals simply aren’t stopping Kelce. But they can limit the damage he does.

But with Pratt possibly being out, who is going to do the job of covering Kelce?

Well, Bengals Twitter has some ideas, some crazier than others:

In other words, the Bengals are just going to have to overcome the hit they’ll take from Kelce by getting on a roll offensively themselves.

For more about the huge game between the Chiefs and Bengals, watch our preview:

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