The Halloween spirit is alive and well for the Cincinnati Bengals entering the midpoint of the season. While the trick is fielding a top offense without Ja’Marr Chase for the next month, the treat is knowing Chase’s injured hip won’t affect him in the long term, and he isn’t going on Injured Reserve.
Cincinnati is expected to keep its head above water despite Chase’s injury. Beating the Cleveland Browns for the first time in three years would go a long way to proving the expectations right. Here are the matchups we’re most looking to forward to watching.
Jonah Williams vs. Myles Garrett
This is always entertaining to witness. Garrett is a mismatch for anyone forced to face him for three hours. Not even Micah Parsons possesses a Pro Football Focus defense grade higher than Garrett’s 92.1 for the season thus far. He’s winning once every three reps in true passing situations. Simply put, he’s a nightmare to face.
While Williams hasn’t been a liability this season, his losses have been noticeable and turn into negative plays rather than just outright negated. He’s been charged with five sacks allowed in seven games; only five other starting tackles have allowed as many this year. Williams has had his share of rough moments against one of the NFL’s best during Cleveland’s winning streak over Cincinnati. He needs his best game of the year tonight.
Tee Higgins vs. Greg Newsome
It’s going to look a bit like 2020 out there with Higgins playing as the de facto No. 1 receiver for Cincinnati. Chase’s absence leaves the third-year wideout as their lone vertical threat along the boundary, and he’ll be expecting ample attention from the Cleveland secondary. Entering the weekend, he was one of nine receivers to average two yards per route run with an average depth of target of 11 yards or more.
Newsome will be the guy most responsible for keeping Higgins in check with Denzel Ward out. As a rookie, Newsome was only targeted twice against Higgins in last year’s blowout in Week 9 and gave up a 16 yard reception. But like most things for the Browns’ defense, 2022 hasn’t been as kind. He’s recorded zero pass breakups or interceptions and quarterbacks have a 99.2 passer rating when targeting him. For reference, Eli Apple’s passer rating allowed is 108.1
Jay Tufele vs. Joel Bitonio
The sudden emergence of Tufele has been nothing short of wonderful for Cincinnati’s defensive line. He’s not quite D.J. Reader—no one could possibly accomplish that feat—but for a second-year player waived right before the season began, he’s mighty adequate. Eight run stops in 30 opportunities is elite numbers for an interior player.
That production may not be sustainable, but if he were to keep up the pace against Cleveland’s run game, it’d elevate his already impressive season tenfold. Bitonio, Cleveland’s mainstay left guard, isn’t quite the mauler his teammate Wyatt Teller is at right guard, but he gets the job done and then some. He’s PFF’s sixth-best run blocker among starting guards.
Cam Taylor-Britt vs. Donovan Peoples-Jones
Big plays tend to happen with Peoples-Jones when he plays the Bengals. He helped break last year’s game wide open with a 60-yard touchdown reception, and caught the game-winning score in one of the 2020 matchups when Baker Mayfield was allergic to incompletions. He’s never the focal point of their offense, and they didn’t need him to be.
While Amari Cooper and Chidobe Awuzie are duking it out as former Dallas Cowboys teammates, Peoples-Jones will likely face Taylor-Britt in the rookie’s first-career start. Staying on top of Peoples-Jones will be Taylor-Britt’s primary objective. The third-year receiver has catches of 30+ yards in each of the last two games.