COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A pair of NFC West contenders travel to Ohio for non-conference NFL matches. What do Cincinnati and Cleveland need to do to send them home with an “L”?
Here are the keys to games for Week 6:
Seattle Seahawks (3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Sunday, Oct. 15 at Paycor Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Ride the wave: Are the Bengals back? Yes and no. It was necessary for the Bengals to shake off a poor start. But the victory was, in fact, against Arizona, which has allowed the sixth most points in the league.
Joe Burrow looked more like his 2022 self, posting 317 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-20 win at Arizona. More importantly, he averaged 6.89 yards-per-pass, with more movement in the pocket and downfield passing, particularly to Ja’Marr Chase (15-192). While Seattle has been sturdy against the run, its pass defense struggles to halt drives, allowing first downs on over one-third of opposing QB pass attempts (60-of-165). Burrow could and should take advantage.
Third down: The Seahawks have scored the sixth most points-per-game this season, thanks in part to a +5-turnover ratio, but they haven’t done themselves any favors on third down, converting just 13-of-45 attempts (28.9%), second worst in the league. Conversely, Seattle is allowing opponents to convert 33-of-63 third downs (52.4%), which also ranks second worst. The Bengals have an opportunity to extend and end drives on both sides of the ball.
Line: Bengals 2 1/2. O/U: 45 1/2.
Prediction: Cincinnati isn’t in ‘must-win’ territory yet, but a loss with the 49ers and Bills on deck puts the Bengals on the outer rim of relevance. Bengals pass the litmus test, 27-24.
San Francisco 49ers (5-0) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Sunday, Oct. 15 at Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Defense faces toughest test: Even after coughing up 28 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, the Browns have allowed 60 points over a four-game stretch, good enough to rank second in the league. To be fair, 14 of those points were due to defensive scores at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. While opponents are scoring 15 points per game against Cleveland, the defense has been responsible for 11.5.
The 49ers, however, have scored the second most points in the league (33.4 points per game), including 42 last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, who were among the top-ranked defenses. San Francisco has scored on over half of their offensive possessions (53.7%), and it’s not just because of Christian McCaffery, who leads the NFL with 510 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Brock Purdy has the highest QB rating in the league (123.1) and ranks second in yards-per-pass (9.3).
Running woes: No one expected the Browns to make up for the loss of RB Nick Chubb, but the difference without him has been staggering. To wit: The Browns still rank fifth overall in rushing. But over the past two weeks (85.5 yards rushing per game), they would rank 25th. Opposing defenses will continue to stack the box until the passing attack becomes a threat. With news of Deshaun Watson aggravating his injured rotator cuff and being out of the game, the odds of that happening continue to plummet.
PJ Walker, who went 2-3 as a starter, with 731 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions in Carolina last season, will get the start. Walker was released by the Bears in August after he lost the backup QB job to Tyson Bagent.
Line: 49ers 5 1/2. O/U: 37 1/2.
Prediction: This one could get ugly. 49ers 28-10.