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Bengals vs. Seahawks: Matchups to watch

Here are a few matchups that could decide who’s on top at the end of the game on Sunday.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals won their second game of the 2023 campaign, but unlike the win against the LA Rams, the offense finally looked like the juggernaut we thought it would be. And they did it all without Tee Higgins or a 100 percent healthy Joe Burrow!

They’re back, and now they have the task of facing Geno Smith and the 3-1 Seattle Seahawks, who are riding a three-game winning streak. If the Bengals win, they’ll go into their own bye with a 3-3 record, which would be incredible considering the start they got to the season.

Here are a few matchups that could decide the game:

Bengals offensive line vs. Clint Hurtt

The Seahawks are riding a three-game winning streak heading into Week 6 and their game against the Bengals in Paycor Stadium. However, the last two wins, in which the Seahawks have racked up 15 sacks, they’ve played against the Panthers and the Giants, two of the worst teams in the league with two of the worst offensive lines. The Bengals' offensive line hasn’t been perfect, but they’re getting better.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurt has surely watched the tape on Burrow last week and may think the quarterback is back like we do. He may relax blitzing packages if that’s the case, opting instead to try to cover Chase and company with as many defensive backs as possible. Either way, a key for the Seahawks is to make Burrow as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket.

The two games the Seahawks played before they started dropping quarterbacks like crazy were against the Rams and Lions, two teams with decent to good lines. In those two games, the Seahawks only sacked the opposing quarterback twice. In this game, someone is going to be a pretender, will it be the Bengals line or the Seahawks pass rush?

Cam Taylor-Britt/DJ Turner vs. DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett

It’s common knowledge, at least ‘round these parts, that Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd make up the best wide receiver trio in the NFL, but the Seahawks are one of the few teams that are vying for second place. Metcalf, a human bullet train, and Lockett make up one of the best duos in the league, and then there’s rookie first-round pick Jaxson Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State.

And don’t sleep on tight end Noah Fant, acquired in the war crime of a trade that sent Russell Wilson to ruin the Denver Broncos.

It’s unclear as to whether Chidobe Awuzie will play this week as he’s still in concussion protocol, but even if he does, Turner will have an expanded role for sure.

Joe Mixon vs. Seahawks defensive front

The Bengals haven’t run the ball very well so far this season, and Mixon has only averaged 3.9 yards per carry so far. He’s also the only game in town when it comes to getting any real work out of the backfield. He out-carried all the backs against the Cardinals 25-to-one. If Burrow isn’t quite right still, and the Seahawks start sending pressure that overwhelms the offensive line, getting the run game going would be a great help.

If they respect the running game, they won’t be able to just send the extra rushers every down. It would be a great time to see some big, explosive runs from this offense.

Irv Smith Jr. vs. The universe itself

Smith was signed as a free agent by the Bengals on a one-year deal prior to the 2023 season, and so far, things have not been great. The tight end, who had durability concerns while with the Vikings, has missed two of the five games so far this season already and has only caught five passes for 27 yards. He’s taken 126 snaps at tight end.

For context, Tanner Hudson has taken 59 snaps and has four receptions for 48 yards.

Unfortunately for Smith, the Seahawks aren’t exactly giving up a ton of receptions to tight ends. They only give up an average of four receptions to opposing tight ends so far this season and no touchdowns. A lot of fans are already bailing on Smith. I’m one of them.

I’d love to be proven wrong this weekend.

Trey Hendrickson vs. whatever poor soul is lined up across from him

If there’s a Bengals defensive MVP right now, it’s the defensive end. He’s credited with six sacks so far this season, but PFF gives him seven, and there were one or two that were erased by penalties. Even with the most conservative of football math, he’s on pace for 20 sacks.

He’s on a roll right now, coming off another multi-sack performance in which he ate, slept, and went to the bathroom in the backfield. The Seahawks don’t give up a lot of sacks, only allowing seven so far this season. They’re still back in the single digits!

But it’s Hendrickson we’re talking about, and he’s playing like he wants to win the NFL Defensive MVP. Geno Smith is in the middle of the road when it comes to how much time he holds onto the ball in the backfield.

Hopefully, Hendrickson can take advantage of that.