The Cincinnati Bengals enter Week 11 nursing some wounds after a blowout at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Luckily for them, the opponent is the Washington Football Team, a two-win club with its only wins coming against the miserable NFC East. If there was a time to show things will turn around down the stretch, it’s now.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest storylines for this weekend’s game.
Joe Burrow vs. Chase Young
Nov 15, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) jogs off the field during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 vs. No. 2 has a nice ring to it. It should be fun to see if Burrow can outplay Young, the second overall pick who in most years might have been the first pick. Bengals fans know all too well what Burrow has done -- but Young hasn’t been too shabby either, tallying nine pressures and 3.5 sacks. Young gets a chance to tee off on a struggling Bengals line and it’ll be up to Burrow to account for it and make plays.
The RB order
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) scores a touchdown during the second quarter of a Week 8 NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Tennessee Titans At Cincinnati Bengals Nov 1
Mixon again won’t play as he battles the foot injury, so the workload comes down to Giovani Bernard..or does it? Bernard has looked good in Mixon’s place, but the Bengals did get Trayveon Williams some touches last week. If the team wants to slow things down against an iffy team though, more Williams could lead to some interesting results.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) warms up before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
He’ll never get the attention Burrow does, but Tee Higgins has been an incredible breakout for the Bengals too. Higgins led the team in receiving last week with seven catches for 115 yards and a score. In an unexpected turn though, he missed Thursday’s practice with an illness. He’s one of Burrow’s favorite targets, so how he bounces back from the bit of adversity will be telling.
Battle in the trenches
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter as the Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, October 18, 2020.
Cincinnati Bengals At Indianapolis Colts
Washington is more dangerous than it seems because of a deadly pass rush. Besides Young, Ryan Kerrigan and first-round product Montez Sweat make for a formidable duo, never mind Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen in the trenches. The Bengals figure to have both starting offensive tackles back but will again trot out a new lineup with Quinton Spain at a guard spot. Whether the makeshift line can hold up will decide the game.
Sep 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson (58) celebrates his sack with nose tackle D.J. Reader (98) against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati, on the other hand, clearly has some problems generating pressure, hence the attempt to claim Takk McKinley on waivers. Sam Hubbard is back to help Carl Lawson rush the passer, yet the team didn’t sack Big Ben at all last week as he threw four touchdowns. Granted, Alex Smith and/or Dwayne Haskins aren’t Big Ben, but Lawson is playing for a new contract and in general, it’d be nice to see Geno Atkins get back and help apply pressure.
Measuring stick and draft slotting
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Cincinnati, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Call this what it is -- a matchup between rebuilding teams with draft positioning at stake. Whether the Bengals can hit the road and win this game will hint at whether the rebuild is going well enough under Zac Taylor -- and maybe whether he should keep his job. WFT is a mess that just revamped the entire organization, has a first-year coach and no answer at quarterback. It’d be an inexcusable loss, even if it did help draft positioning.