The Cincinnati Bengals are in the middle of a very interesting stretch of games in their schedule. With three straight away games, the Bengals have three important conference games, of which they were embarrassed in the first.
Sandwiched between that loss at Jacksonville and a tough matchup in Denver is this week’s clash against the Titans. Like all in this three-game road stretch, it seems like a winnable game for the Bengals, but how they’ve performed of late brings hesitancy.
Here are some of the most interesting individual matchups to watch this week.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota versus Bengals safety Clayton Fejedelem
Last week, Shawn Williams seemed to be a step behind on many pass plays by the Jaguars and dropped an easy red zone interception of Blake Bortles. It hasn’t been the most exciting of seasons for the high-priced safety duo of he and George Iloka, and this week Williams is doubtful after getting injured against the Jaguars. In his place, Clayton Fejedelem will need to be hyper-aware of what the multi-dimensional Mariota brings.
The former No. 2 overall pick has grown into a solid NFL quarterback, as his Titans are in the current co-lead of the AFC South at 5-3. He missed two weeks with an injury and has just six touchdowns against five interceptions, but has another 130 rushing yards and three scores on the ground.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan versus Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson:
Lewan was known to have a mean streak from his days at Michigan, but he’s become one of the better left tackles in the game. He made the Pro Bowl last year and was nominated to the All-Rookie Team in 2014. However, if the Bengals actually end up giving the proper snaps to youngsters who deserve them, he’ll have his hands full with Lawson.
As a rookie, Lawson has taken the league by storm, racking up 4.5 sacks as a backup and has been a Pro Football Focus favorite. He has more than 30 pressures, even though, for example, he played just 21 percent of the defensive snaps last week, yet had two pressures.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker versus Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil:
It’s been a rough couple of games for Vigil, who started the season out on a promising note. After Jack Doyle torched the Bengals’ defense for 12 catches, 121 yards and a touchdown, Marcedes Lewis was often running free last week for the Jags. While tight ends aren’t strictly Vigil’s responsibility, he’s out there because the team wants to use his athleticism to run with those types of opposing weapons.
Walker might not play this week, but if he does, he will be a nice security blanket for Mariota. Though he hasn’t scored a touchdown, he might find a couple of creases this week, given the recent defensive struggles. Although, for you Fantasy Football nuts out there, ESPN’s Matthew Berry noted that the Bengals’ defense has allowed less than 10 fantasy points to tight ends in eight games this year.
Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson versus wide receiver A.J. Green:
While Green is a guy to watch almost every week, this particular clash is interesting for a variety of reasons. For the Titans, seeing their first round corner go up against a premiere talent like Green provides a great litmus test, although he won’t be the only one responsible for him on Sunday.
For Green, it’s going to be interesting to see how he rebounds from a tough game, in which he was ejected. Should we expect him to take out some extreme frustration out on the Titans’ rookie in a positive way this Sunday?
Titans edge rusher Brian Orakpo versus Bengals left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi:
The former Redskins first round pick was a big free agency get for Tennessee back in the 2015 offseason, but he hasn’t had the same type of stats this year with the Titans. After logging 17.5 sacks the past two seasons in the Music City, he only has 1.5 this year.
What a week for the veteran rusher to get back on track, though. The Bengals’ offensive line is a mess—particularly at tackle. Jake Fisher is now on Injured Reserve, while Ogbuehi has sometimes been relieved by Andre Smith on the left. The whole group has had major issues this year, so this one might get ugly for Cincinnati.