By Dave Thomas
After evening their record Monday evening at 2-2 with a hard-fought 13-10 win over visiting Detroit, the Seattle Seahawks go for their third straight victory of the season when they visit undefeated Cincinnati (4-0) this Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals, who have been a perennially strong regular-season team and then crashed in the AFC playoffs, have won in a variety of ways this season to hold a firm grip on first place in the AFC North. Meantime, the Seahawks are right back in the NFC West race, trailing division-leading Arizona (3-1) by only one game.
Bengals Will Focus On Wilson, Turn To Dalton
As one of only three unbeaten (New England, Denver) in the AFC after a month of play, Cincinnati will undoubtedly try and limit the abilities of Seattle’s Russell Wilson under the center.
Despite coughing up a pair of fumbles in the win over Detroit, Wilson threw for nearly 300 yards and rushed for 40. With Wilson at the helm, the Bengals will have to do their best to contain him and cause havoc in the Seattle backfield.
Heading into their fifth game of the season, the Bengals have gotten contributions from a number of players on the offensive side of the ball, allowing starting quarterback Andy Dalton to spread things around.
In the ground game, Cincinnati has been led to date by Giovani Bernard’s 297 yards rushing, with Jeremy Hill adding 163.
While the Bengals can run the ball, the focus is mostly on Dalton.
Through four games, the former TCU star has thrown for 1,187 yards (averaging nearly 300 yards a game) and nine TD’s, giving him a solid QB passer rating of 123.0.
Dalton’s top targets have included A.J. Green (417 yards, three TD’s) and Tyler Eifert (222 yards, three touchdowns).
Over on the defensive side of the ball, Cincinnati turns to Vincent Rey (36 total tackles), Reggie Nelson (one interception) and Carlos Dunlap (three and a half sacks). Through their first four contests, Cincinnati has outscored the opposition 121-77.
Can Seahawks Make It Three Straight?
So, what will it take for Seattle to continue its modes two-game winning streak?
For starters, take the home crowd out of the game. While Paul Brown Stadium is not the loudest home venue by far, the Bengals definitely feed off the home crowd. Seattle must get out to an early lead and keep the crowd’s noise to a minimum.
With starting running back Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) having sat out Monday’s win over Detroit, the Seahawks had to turn to rookie Thomas Rawls to move the ball on the ground when Wilson wasn’t. After a 100-plus yard performance in a 26-0 win over Chicago a week earlier, Rawls was held to less than 50 yards against the Lions. Getting the run game going and allowing Wilson to do some of his magic too will be critical.
Lastly, Seattle’s defense will be called upon to limit Dalton’s talents.
While Dalton has gotten the reputation of not being able to move his team in the playoffs, his regular-season numbers are typically strong. Getting in his face and limiting Bernard’s running abilities will definitely put Seattle in a winning position, albeit if they don’t have another three-turnover performance like it did against Detroit.
In the all-time series, Cincinnati holds a slim 10-9 advantage, including 1-0 in the post-season (when Seattle was in the AFC West).
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.