CINCINNATI — The Bengals are looking for their first road win of the season on Sunday against Washington.
They're hoping to get back in the win column after last week's ugly loss to the Steelers.
The Bengals enter with a 2-6-1 record. Washington is 2-7 on the season.
This is a must-win game for Cincinnati.
Here are three keys and a prediction for Sunday's game.
The Bengals could have their hands full on Sunday against a tough Washington defensive line. They're loaded with former first-round picks, including rookie Chase Young.
Young was teammates with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow at Ohio State. The two were Heisman finalists in 2019.
"I know him fairly well," Burrow said earlier this week. "We were there together at Ohio State for one year. I think he came in early and so we had a spring ball and a fall camp and a season together, and then another spring ball. We spent some time together, spent some time together in New York as well so we know each other."
Burrow will try to social distance from Young and the rest of Washington's defensive line on Sunday.
They're ranked fifth in the NFL with 28 sacks. The Bengals have given up 32 sacks on the season, which is the third-most in the league.
The good news for the Bengals is Jonah Williams (stinger) and Bobby Hart (knee) should be back after missing the past few games due to injury. They weren't listed on the Bengals' final injury report.
If the Bengals can give Burrow time, then he should be able to carve up a Washington defense that has allowed 27 or more points in six games this season.
Do More Than Contain
The Bengals' "bend don't break" philosophy worked against the Titans in Week 8. They even had some success against the Steelers last week.
The Bengals' defense can't bank on that on Sunday. They need to find a way to pressure Alex Smith. They can't let him sit in the pocket and check it down.
He's a patient player that is comfortable with throwing to J.D. McKissic or any of his other check down options.
“He’s a vet, so he goes through his progressions fast, getting the ball out," Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt said. "He’s got a clock in his head. If it ain’t open then he looks to the next option and if they ain’t open then he’ll throw it to the check down. He's a vet.”
It's up to Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard to find a way to get pressure on Smith. Geno Atkins is back this week. Maybe he can help their cause.
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has to find a way to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Letting Vonn Bell blitz could solve some of their problems. Why not use three safeties and let Bell hang around the line of scrimmage?
Shawn Williams can drop into coverage and Jessie Bates can play his normal free safety role.
Anarumo may have to get creative, but he has to find a way to put some heat on Smith.
The Bengals were getting huge production out of their wide receiver core in Weeks 6-8. It was their best stretch of the season offensively. They averaged 31 points-per-game.
They need to find a way to get things going on Sunday against Washington. Of course Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are going to be involved on offense, but they need someone else to step up.
A.J. Green did against the Colts and Browns, finishing with 15 receptions for 178 yards in two games. Auden Tate made some big plays against the Titans. He finished with seven receptions for 65 yards.
If the Bengals' offense is going to get back into form, then they need Green, Tate or someone else to be productive
This includes tight end Drew Sample and running back Giovani Bernard.
The Bengals haven't shown the ability to run the ball consistently, but if they get things going on the ground with Bernard, it would take pressure off of Burrow and the passing game.
Sample has had a few big games this season. If he can get open and catch 4-5 passes, then it would do wonders for this offense.
The Bengals lead the series 5-4-1. They haven't lost to Washington since 1991. They tied in London during the 2016 season.
Prediction: Both teams need a win. Washington is hoping to keep pace in the NFC East race and the Bengals need to show everyone that they're moving in the right direction.
Cincinnati only has three remaining road games, including this one, on the schedule. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is 0-12-1 on the road since taking over in 2019. He needs to win a game away from Paul Brown Stadium.
Burrow is ready to bounce back from last week's struggles. He's going to get off to a good start and the Bengals will take an early lead.
Things will get dicey in the second half. Smith will bring Washington back, but Burrow will get the last laugh.
The 23-year-old is going to drive downfield and Randy Bullock will kick the game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
Bullock is the hero and Taylor gets his first road win.
Final Score: Cincinnati 27, Washington 24
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