Cross Talk Q&A With SI Bengal Maven Writer Tommy Jaggi
Tyler: What's the biggest reason for Bengals 0-4 start to the season?
There are a lot of factors that come into play here, but at the root of the Bengals problems is an offensive line that is playing like one of the worst units in the league. Since week one, their offensive line play has headed in the wrong direction. They allowed 8 sacks against the Steelers this past week.
Tommy: The Cardinals are 0-3-1 on the season. What is the biggest reason for their slow start this year?
Simple answer, Cardinals just aren't that good. Which is why they finished with the worst record in the 2018 season and landed Kyler Murray. There is hope for the future as Murray has shown flashes as why he was the #1 overall pick. Arizona was able to get a tie against the 2-1-1 Detroit Lions who should have beaten Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs last week.
The offensive line struggles had reduced the ground game and made the team nearly 100% reliant on Murray's arm to carry them. The problem with this is the same offensive line also can't give Murray the protection he needs to get the ball down field.
Tyler: Bengals struggled mightily stopping the Steeler's passrush Monday night giving up 7 sacks. With Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones coming into town, how will Cincinnati adjust their line protections?
We all know what a threat Chandler Jones is against opposing quarterbacks (as evidenced by his 30.0 sacks between 2017 and 2018). Jones already has 3.0 sacks to his name this year. Remarkably, Suggs has 3.5 already at age 36; Zac Taylor knows this. I expect him to use tight ends and running backs often to chip on the edge. If he doesn't, it will be a long day.
Tommy: A quarter of the way through the season, what is Arizona’s strongest and weakest positional group on the team?
If this was a week ago, I would have said the wide receivers, but with injuries to Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd the position has weakened. With that said, right now the edge rushers are a strength of this team. Both Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs have been playing well and getting constant pressure on opposing QBs.
Offensive line is the team's biggest weakness. It's hard to know how Kliff Kingsbury's "air raid" offense would actually look with a functioning line that can create run lanes and protect their QB.
Tyler: Joe Mixon is having a rough start to the 2019 season. He is averaging just 37.3 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Cardinals run defense hasn't been stellar, do you see Mixon having a big week?
Joe Mixon wasn't good in weeks 1 and 2, but has since started to return to form a bit. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in week 3 against the Bills, and 4.1 yards per carry against the Steelers last week - posting at least 60 rushing yards in both contests. Mixon will still have to work hard for his yardage, but it's entirely possible he could see his best rushing performance of the season against a shaky Cardinals run defense.
Tommy: The Bengals played a very poor game against the Steelers and the 49ers, but almost won games against the Seahawks and the Bills. What will be the biggest challenge Cincinnati must deal with this week against the Cardinals?
Death by a thousand paper cuts. Cardinals will dink and dunk on you all day with their short passing game and dump off passes to David Johnson. Murray is 3rd in passing attempts with 169 through 4 games which is over 42 per game. Crazy number for a rookie, even in today's league.
David Johnson already has 21 catches for 182 yards and 2 scores this season through the air. The Bengals have already given up 291 yards and two touchdowns on 31 receptions to running backs this season. All those figures rank in the bottom two out of all NFL defenses. Johnson should have a big game if things don't change.
Tyler: With the way the 0-4 season is shaping up thus far, are Bengal fans looking to "tank" to finally replace Andy Dalton at QB?
As much as some fans would love to see this happen, I don't think this is the approach they have in mind. They hired Zac Taylor to turn the organization around. While the Bengals don't stand a realistic shot this year, they are still going to try to win, and they may be able to pull a few games out. In reality, though, Andy Dalton is likely in his final days - which should please many Bengals fans desperate for a change at the helm.
Tommy: Kyler Murray shows signs of life, but is on pace to be sacked 80 times this season. How will the Cardinals offensive line fare against Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Sam Hubbard?
Well considering A.Q Shipley has a 52.6 grade according to PFF and Cards fill in at RT Jordan Mills has only a 38 grade. It's going to be difficult like every week for Cardinals to protect Murray during this matchup. Arizona will be required to get the ball out quick. David Johnson will be a key factor to slow down the the pass rush with the short passes and screen game.
Tyler: What about the Cardinals should scare Bengal fans most in this matchup?
This one is pretty easy: Kyler Murray. Cincinnati struggles against both the pass and the run. Unfortunately, Murray can beat them both ways. Though his numbers are nothing to write home about, Murray has faced some pretty tough competition against teams like the Lions, Seahawks, and Ravens. I expect him to have a big performance against the Bengals defense on Sunday.
Tommy: Who is your Cardinals ‘sleeper’ for this game, and what do you expect them to be able to do against the Bengals?
I've mentioned David Johnson a few times and expect him to have a big game and be a key to Arizona's success, but Cardinals edge rushers vs Bengals offensive tackles. Chandler Jones (72.9) and Terrell Suggs (73.8) will be facing Andre Smith (49.4) and Bobby Hart (46.4), advantage Cardinals. Both Cardinals have created turnovers with their sacks. Jones has 3 forced fumbles and Suggs has 2 himself.
Tyler: What are your predictions and score for the game?
This is a battle of two winless teams, so anything can happen. However, the Bengals are playing at an all-time low after a 27-3 blowout loss to the Steelers. Though Cincinnati is playing at home, I give a slight edge to the Cardinals in this contest. I'm predicting Arizona comes out on top with a final score of 27-24. The Bengals drop to 0-5 on the season.
Tommy: Both teams are winless a quarter of the way through the season. Who comes out victorious in this contest?
It's a coin flip. If Cardinals were playing at home I'd probably choose them, but with the game in Cincinnati and a 1pm game. It's going to be a close one. I think it's going to be whoever can protect their QB better. With this game being the dreaded 10am road game for Cards, I'll go with a score of 27-24 Bengals.