One of the more intriguing matchups of Week 5 in the NFL will take place at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati as the Seattle Seahawkswill be looking to upend the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. These two teams last met during the 2011 regular season when Cincinnati defeated the Seahawks at Century Link Field by a score of 34-12.
Seattle escaped with their lives on Monday night with a 13-10 win over the Detroit Lions. The narrative all week long has been about K.J. Wright’s illegal batting of a Calvin Johnson fumble out of the end zone. Without question, there should have been a penalty called on Wright. The Lions did have an opportunity to get a stop defensively when they surrendered a 50-yard pass completion to Jermaine Kearse on 3rd-and-2 from the Seattle 28-yard line. If Detroit had stepped up and stopped the Seahawks with 1:34 remaining they still would have easily had a shot to drive back down and get a field goal to send the game into overtime.
Cincinnati will be looking to get off to its first 5-0 start since the 1988 season. One of the big reasons why they are sitting at 4-0 is the improved play of quarterback Andy Dalton and consistent play defensively. Dalton is completing 67.2 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdown passes and just one interception. The ability to take care of the football and get it in the hands of playmakers like A.J. Green at wide receiver, Giovani Bernard out of the backfield and Tyler Eifert at tight end creates matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Defensively, the Bengals have been outstanding at stopping the run as they are only allowing 85.8 yards per game on the ground to opposing offenses.
Seattle at Cincinnati
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Cincinnati -3 O/U 44
Three Things To Watch
1. Seahawks' Offensive Line
The non-stop turnstile that is the Seahawks offensive line that has allowed an absurd 18 sacks so far in four games and many other pressures and hurries on quarterback Russell Wilson has got to stop. Alvin Bailey has come out this week with comments such as, "there are 31 other cities" he would rather be in on Twitter and setting off a social media firestorm with some overzealous 12s. Bottom line, Bailey and the rest of the offensive line need to direct their focus on the only place that matters and that is on the field. If the offensive line wants to get Seahawks fans off of their back the solution is crystal clear — play better and don’t make Russell Wilson run for his life on a regular basis.
2. Seahawks' Defense vs. Bengals' Offense
While Andy Dalton deserves a lot of credit for his performance to date, it does have to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt considering the level of opponent that he has faced. Dalton has only faced the No. 15 defense in Baltimore and No. 29 in San Diego while making plenty of hay stat-wise, while Kansas City and Oakland are statistically two of the worst teams defensively in all of football. So this will be a significant step up in competition for Dalton to navigate a Seahawks defense that has held opponents to 18 punts in the last 20 defensive possessions. It is going to be key for Kam Chancellor and the Legion of Boom to set the tone right away and make Dalton and the Cincinnati offense work for everything that they get.
3. Playing on a short week
Seattle faces the great challenge of traveling east with an early kickoff after a very short week with the Monday night game against Detroit. This is going to test the overall mental toughness of this Seahawk team and they will need to find a way to avoid digging an early hole for themselves in the first half. Under the reign of head coach Pete Carroll this football team has gotten better at dealing with the 10 a.m. pacific time kickoffs, but unlike the game against the Rams a slow start will doom this football team against a Bengals team that is primed to move to 5-0.
Cincinnati should not have a ton of success against the Seahawk defense as a whole but they will do just enough to find a way to get a narrow win and move on to 5-0 on the season. Seattle has not shown anywhere near enough on the offensive line to prove that they can be relied upon over the course of four quarters to generate the consistency needed for Russell Wilson to get into a legitimate rhythm to make enough plays for the Seahawks to move on to 3-2. Also, if Marshawn Lynch is unable to go again then Seattle will be in even bigger trouble as the Bengals then will dare the Seahawks to beat them in the passing game with the understanding that even if they get some big plays, over the long haul Cincinnati will be able to handle the inconsistent pass protection of Seattle.
Prediction: Bengals 19, Seahawks 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow him on Twitter @scottwhittum.