The Cincinnati Bengals have a tall task in front of them if they want to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole to start the 2023 season.
The Bengals won two of those, but one could argue it was never easy — especially in the playoffs as Sam Hubbard’s touchdown return made all the difference.
Going into this one there are a handful of things that should concern the Bengals, so let’s take a look at those things worth spotlighting before the early-afternoon kickoff.
Lamar Jackson the runner
Generally, Lou Anarumo’s defenses (when not tanking) do a solid job against Lamar Jackson through the air. It’s as a runner where the former MVP tends to dash the Bengals. That popped up a little bit last week too when Deshaun Watson ran five times for 45 yards and a score, so quarterback contain is going to be a big deal.
We could call this Joe Burrow’s calf or Joe Burrow’s rust or something. The reality is, as outsiders, we don’t know what really produced the sub-100-yards-passing day last week. Probably a combination of things. Last year when Burrow was coming off the appendix, he didn’t really light things up until Week 3. The team can’t afford to wait that long though, so he has to be sharp, decisive and unbothered by that calf to get his team to 1-1.
Over the years, it hasn’t seemed to matter who is back there for the Ravens — their running backs dice up the Bengals. The Ravens ran for 155 yards twice and 110 yards in the third game last year. There’s no J.K. Dobbins this year, but even Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill popped off for big days, never mind starter Gus Edwards.
The Bengals running game showed some serious life last week despite coaches being non-commital to it. But it won’t be nearly as easy this week — Smith and Queen had at least 10 tackles and a sack apiece last week.
The Bengals always struggle against tight ends and Andrews is the prime example. He led the Ravens with five catches for 73 yards in one game last year and led them again on eight for 89 with a score in another. In the other game, fellow tight end Isaiah Likely led the team with eight for 103. It’s a major problem for the Bengals in this matchup, so new starter Dax Hill will need to be up to the task.