The Bengals had a potential season defining win over an NFC nemesis in the San Francisco 49ers and look to keep up the momentum verses a team the Bengals have had success with during the Joe Burrow era in the Buffalo Bills
What we learned last Sunday is that the Cincinnati Bengals are back to elite form as they swept the NFC West division with a statement win over the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, CA. In the NFC hierarchy the Eagles and 49ers were running neck and neck for supremacy in the conference which makes sense being that was the NFC Championship game from a year ago. The Bengals coming off a bye week a little earlier than normal but timely to heal Joe Burrow’s calf and get Joe close, if not back to hundred percent, was very beneficial for Cincinnati. Burrow’s mobility was tested early on which film review by Joe Goodberry, Brian Baldinger, and Dan Orlovsky broke down exclusively in the film room. Brian Baldinger showed the play where Joe climbed the pocket, pushes the back of Orlando Brown Jr., escapes pressure from Eric Armstead and rolls out and hits Tee Higgins in the flat. Burrow mentioned that he worked on his explosion and athleticism in the offseason but was frustrated he could not show it due to the calf injury but the explosion and athleticism was on full display in Levi Stadium on Sunday.
Kudos to the offensive line that held up against the vaunted 49ers pass rush and dominated in run blocking for Joe Mixon. It looked like Mixon had sipped from the fountain of youth running with a reckless abandon being back home in the Bay area. Mixon finished with 16 carries and 87 meaningful yards on the ground. The passing game now has its rhythm as Burrow is taking advantage of Tyler Boyd and the mismatch of nickle/slot corners trying to guard Boyd. Burrow hit Boyd for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone in the first quarter. Tyler should win over the middle at will. The bye week also helped Tee Higgins (rib injury) round back into form and start to look like his normal self. Brian Callahan and Zac Taylor schemed up a fake wide receiver screen to get Ja’Marr Chase a free release on a fade route that Dan Orlovsky broke down on X (formerly Twitter) outlining Brian and Zac’s creativity to free up Chase and get him wide. I can not stress enough the value in adding Orlando Brown Jr to this team. Brown is crucial to protecting Joe’s blindside and giving him to push the ball downfield now that he is healthy. Jonah Williams has also played at an elite level at right tackle keeping defensive ends at bay and letting the Bengals passing attack flourish. Football is a simple game in that if you watch the line of scrimmage, 95 percent of the time it will tell you who is winning the game. The Bengals defense with Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill and Sam Hubbard all had phenomenal games against the 49ers that defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo broke down as well. Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson both had game changing interceptions. DJ Turner, Mike Hilton, Cam Taylor-Britt are playing at an elite level in pass coverage and run support for the front six being Lou runs with 4 down linemen, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs set as the Bengals base defense.
Looking ahead to the AFC Conference Sunday night showdown between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, a few things stick out. Even with a bum right shoulder on Josh Allen, Lou Anarumo and the Bengals have to maintain gap discipline and rush lanes so that Allen does not hurt the Bengals running outside the pocket. Lou should leave a spy with Germaine Pratt or Mike Hilton, especially in man coverage when defensive backs are turned so Josh Allen does not get a free release scrambling for back breaking yards on the ground that keep the chains moving. Make Josh play from the pocket! Take away the Bills favorite passing target in Stefon Diggs. A new addition that the linebackers and safeties must be aware of is rookie TE Dalton Kincaid. DK is a wide receiver-like tight end. The Bills ground game also looks to get an extra boost with the addition of Leonard Fournette.
As for the Bengals offense lead by Joe Burrow, the game plan should be close to what was used to counter the 49ers pass rush, running Joe Mixon, and quick passing game. The Bills have Ed Oliver, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller back from a knee injury along with A.J. Epenesa. To keep the Bengals offensive line out of bad situations the running game should be used early on as the Bills defensive line is undersized and built to rush the passer but not as effective stopping the run. Cincinnati must stay ahead in the down and distance to win this ball game and have total control instead of making this game close letting the Bills pass rush wreck the game. All that being said, both teams know each other well and I look for a dominant win by the Bengals in front of a primetime crowd at Paycor Stadium.