Happy Friday, everyone!
A big shoutout to Patrick Judis of our Bengals sister site, Cincy Jungle, for partaking in this week’s “Questions with the Enemy” segment.
There’s one big, quarterback-driven storyline that’s front and center in this week’s matchup with the 7-4 Bengals and of course we dug into it. For entertainment’s sake, we’ve also got two offenses with plenty of star power and firepower. What else could you want? Defense who? First one to 50 wins, as God intended.
Let’s get into it.
1.) Finally, after waiting far too long, we finally have the Joe Burrow vs. Justin Herbert matchup on tap for this Sunday. Two quarterbacks taken in the top 10 picks of last year’s draft and arguably two of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL finally get their shot at each other in year two. What is the current outlook on Burrow as the team’s long-time franchise quarterback? Is he the answer for years to come?
He has been as advertised. There was some doubt from people following the injury and his first couple of games this season. However, he has gotten this offense humming again.
The best part is we still aren’t seeing the best Burrow can be. He is doing some stuff at the line of scrimmage before the play, but as he learns and matures he will likely start to look like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning getting a play setup to take advantage of what he is seeing from the defense.
He also has been showing recently that he can beat teams by throwing to more than just Ja’Marr Chase. He has done a much better job of spreading the ball around to all of the playmakers at his disposal.
2.) How are the fans feeling about the team’s performance so far this season? Is the consensus that this team is overachieving? Underachieving? Or are they right where everyone believed they would be heading into week 13?
As far as grounded fans who paid attention goes, I think they are slightly overachieving expectations. Not as far as their record goes, but how they are doing it. If you would’ve told me Cincinnati was going to blowout the Ravens and sweep the Steelers this season I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would have told me they would be 7-4 I’d say the best case scenario of the season is playing out.
So much hinged on free agent acquisitions from the past two seasons panning out like Chidobe Awuzie, Vonn Bell and Mike Hilton in the secondary. They needed Trey Hendrickson to keep up his 2020 pass rushing pace and for D.J. Reader to control the interior of the defensive line.
They also need Chase to come in and pick up where he left off with Burrow. As well as the former first overall pick coming back from his injury playing well behind a healthier offensive line with Riley Reiff at right tackle.
You can pretty much look at any move this team has made the past couple of offseasons and say it has worked out gloriously for them this season. Before the season they were huge if’s. Fans could see the future was bright. We just didn’t think it was so close.
3.) If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about scheming to attack this Bengals defense? Are there any weak players/position groups that you would attempt to exploit?
Honestly, the defense from top to bottom is pretty solid. When they struggled it was a matter of issues tackling more than anything else.
Quick passes are a must. That is what the Jets did to make Mike White look unstoppable. You just have to hope Austin Ekeler can win in the open field against this great zone coverage the Bengals have been playing.
Eli Apple used to be the guy to test, but he has a game changing interception in each of the last two game.
4.) Same question but flip sides of the ball. If you were defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, how would you go about trying to stop this Bengals offense? Which players should the defense focus on stopping the most?
This is another hard one. It would’ve been Chase a few weeks ago. However, since the Ravens game, teams have made a huge effort to take him away. That has led to Joe Mixon having more space to work with in the running game and better matchups for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Not to mention C.J. Uzomah has more than a few plays designed for teams paying too much attention to all those other skill position guys.
The best way to stop this offense is get a lead early, capitalize on turnover opportunities and pray that if you blitz it gets pressure quickly.
5.) Go ahead and give us a final score prediction along with a few sentences on how you think this game will shake out.
Given how badly the Chargers have struggled against the run recently, we will probably see more of the Mixon show than anything else from the Bengals. Cincinnati probably ends up hitting a big one to Chase who has been quiet for too long.
This one probably ends up closer than the final score with Herbert keeping the Chargers in it for awhile, but eventually Bengals pull away late.
Bengals 41 Chargers 31