Bengals-49ers face game with big playoff implications

It’s the swinging door game of the season, right?

The Bengals win this one to go to 8-5 with four games to go and the path to those 10 wins that should get you to the playoffs widens. Lose with a trip next week to Mile High, where it’s never been easy for them, and Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are shaping up in back-to-back home games for the vacation they need as much as the Bengals.

But the Bengals are home on Sunday and you think the odds must be with them a week after a team from the West Coast came east to catch them. And while the main injuries came out of the woods in December, the 49ers are just as pissed off.

With three of their top four linebackers on Sunday, the Bengals spent Saturday raising two practice squad fans who have yet to take a photo this season for them in a Joe Bachie, squad match. training until late October, is expected to make his first NFL debut. It’s a tough duty against a top-ten running game and a beastly tight end averaging 13.5 yards per catch and five touchdowns in one of the league’s best, George Kittle.

Meanwhile, the Niners are almost as decimated at the cornerback, where they are reduced to their saves. One of them, Josh Norman, leads the team in shots on goal on a defense with the most interference yards in the league and the most total yards. The Bengals missed a 40-yard pass in November and December, but they are still tied for second in the league with ten after the Chargers passed them first with their three last week at PBS. And Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (ankle) has had a questionable week, but Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd are there to test Norman’s 125.7 rating when targeted, which stats from Next Gen, is the third highest among cornerbacks with 200 cover shots.

Both quarterbacks must therefore protect their defenses with smart and efficient games. Burrow is battling the interception bug with 14 caps, a league-high, while Jimmy G. has just eight. Both clearly have the big game at their disposal with the league’s second and third best yards per attempt and while Higgins has had a questionable week, Niners big play man Deebo Samuel after missing last week.

You wonder why they are trying to get away from Jimmy G. since he has a pretty good winning percentage since 2019, including the playoffs, at 24-12. He lives from the action game. He’s 7-7 when he throws it at least 30 times, which he did in losing his Super Bowl and last week to Seattle.

With the Bengals having their starting offensive line back, the priority is to protect Burrow’s finger. That’s why all eyes are on Burrow Buckeye’s pal Nick Bosa at defensive end and his clash with Bengals left tackle Jonah Williams. Burrow picked up a sack last week on Williams’ side and he’ll have to defend against Bosa’s 12 sacks in 12 games which PFF says is the sixth sack Williams has allowed this season.

Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson has his own massive clash when he places his best eight straight NFL games with a sack against monstrous 49ers left tackle Trent Williams. Hendrickson leads the league with 60 pushes, says Next Gen, and PFF only has Williams for 14 while allowing just one sack.

Which prompted a question during the week. Would the Bengals ever move Hendrickson away to his right side in order to get a better game? Understandably, head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo didn’t say what they would do on Sunday.

“There might be a time and a place for it,” Anarumo said.

But the short answer seemed to be that it wasn’t 4:25 p.m. Sunday on PBS.

“It’s like going to brush your teeth with your left hand instead of your right,” said Anarumo, who says he spoke to Hendrickson about it. “It’s just not the same. It’s that detailed for those elite edge rushers.”

If that thing needs to be decided ahead of time, keep an eye out for Bengals running back Joe Mixon.

In the spirit of a questionable week, he has not practiced with an illness the entire week and is listed as questionable. But Taylor looked like he was going. He would have a hard time staying off the pitch. He grew up in the Bay for Frank Gore’s 49ers. And when has 22 or more touches this season, the Bengals are 4-0. And they’re 9-3 in his career when he hits 22 at PBS.

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