The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 5 as they prepare to take on the Cardinals. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are five things to watch for in week 5.
1. Can The Bengals Notch Their First Win?
This is relatively simple. The Bengals are not a good football team after starting the season 0-4. They are hosting the Cardinals who are also winless on the season at 0-3-1. This is one of the few games remaining on the schedule that the Bengals could win (they also have a week 16 matchup with the Dolphins).
It won’t be easy for the Bengals this week to get into the win column. They are at home, but are on a short week. The Cardinals have the extra day of preparation and have played decent football at times this year. Their tie with the Lions looks a whole lot better now after Detroit has won some tough games. Arizona will put up a fight, but the Bengals have a fighting shot in this one.
2. Can the Offensive Line Contain Chandler Jones and Co.?
The offensive line has not played well this season. While there have been some injuries, it is hard to find a line in the league playing worse than Cincinnati’s. That manifested itself clearly when the Bengals gave up eight sacks to the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Things won’t be much easier against the Cardinals, as they will have to block one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Chandler Jones will be itching to add to his sack total this season. He has already taken the quarterback down three times in four games. Jones has had double-digit sacks in five of the last six seasons, including a league-leading 17 sacks in 2017. The Cardinals rank tied for 11th with 2.8 sacks per game, but with the way Cincinnati’s offensive line is playing, that number could increase.
3. Which Wide Receiver Will Step Up?
The injury bug hasn’t just hit the offensive line, it has also started going at the wide receiver group. A.J. Green is still a few weeks away from returning with his foot injury. John Ross injured his shoulder against the Steelers and could miss around a month. Now the Bengals will need new faces to step up.
Tyler Boyd is the leader of the group now, although he has had an inconsistent start to the year. He has 27 catches for 283 yards. Auden Tate has already done well in an increased role this season with 11 catches for 144 yards. Damion Willis and Alex Erickson, the only other two wide receivers who have registered a catch this season, both have yet to reach 60 yards receiving on the year. For the Bengals to win, they’ll need Boyd to be productive and the others to play well. There will be some opportunity in this game as Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals star corner, is still out with a PED suspension.
4. Can the Defense Contain Kyler Murray?
The defense played an inexperienced Mason Rudolph and allowed him to look great last week. This week they will be facing another young quarterback in Kyler Murray. Their play styles are completely different, but the best thing to do is to get pressure on them to force mistakes.
Cincinnati should blitz more to get pressure on Murray, but also be aware of his running capabilities. Murray will still make plays, but if they can force him into a few mistakes the game can be won. Playing against Murray should give the Bengals good preparation on stopping a quarterback who can run and throw, as it looks like Lamar Jackson will be in the division for a long time.
5. Linebacker Play
ESPN’s Booger McFarland praised the Bengals too much on Monday Night Football, giving a lot of credit where credit wasn’t due. He still pointed out something smart about the Bengals’ defense. McFarland mentioned the front-four can be built around and the secondary has some building blocks, but the linebackers aren’t cutting it. For some reason, the week before on CBS, the announcers were praising the linebacker play for Cincinnati.
Preston Brown and Nick Vigil are seeing most of the snaps at linebacker for the Bengals. Both players have grades from Pro Football Focus of under 50. The rookie Germaine Pratt, who has seen limited playing time, has a grade of 60.6 and may have earned more time on the field, which should improve the overall linebacker play of the team. If Brown and Vigil don’t improve, Pratt should be getting more reps to help him develop.