3 Things To Watch – Arizona


This week's matchup not only features two teams looking for their first win of the season, but two first-time NFL head coaches in Kliff Kingsbury and Zac Taylor. Both were former college QBs who were named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as seniors and teammates back in 2007 for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League.

Here are the three things to watch for the Bengals contest against the Cardinals.

1. The Pass Rush – After registering four sacks in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, the Bengals only have one in the previous three games. The pass rush needs to get going in order to help the back end of the defense that has allowed an average of 271 passing yards in the last three games.

At least the Bengals will get plenty of opportunities to get after the quarterback. When Arizona has the ball, they will throw the ball. They have the third-most pass attempts in the league this season with 169. As a result of having a vast amount of pass attempts, the offensive line also struggles with pass protection. The Arizona offensive line has allowed 20 sacks this season, most in the NFL. 

A familiar face Bengals fans will recognize is edge rusher Terrell Suggs. In his time with the Baltimore Ravens, Suggs registered 12.5 sacks against the Bengals, the most sacks against Cincinnati than any other player in NFL history. Suggs is paired with fellow outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who has 44 sacks in three seasons with the Cardinals.

2. New Age Running Backs – From a sheer entertainment perspective, Sunday's game will be fun to watch two of the league's best running backs go head-to-head, Arizona's David Johnson and Cincinnati's Joe Mixon. Both running backs have had slow starts to the season running the football. Most of it is due to game script, but each have big play potential.

Johnson will be heavily involved in the Cardinals' passing game. He already ranks third on the team with 21 receptions for 182 yards. With wide receiver Christian Kirk out with an ankle injury (24 catches for 242 yards), Johnson figures to receive even more looks.

Meanwhile, when Mixon has received touches, he's capitalized. In his last two games, Mixon is averaging 61 yards on 15 carries, good for a 4.1 yards per carry. The third-year running back is well below last year's average of 83.4 rushing yards per game, but has a plus-matchup against Arizona. The Cardinals showcase the fifth-worst rushing defense allowing 146.5 yards per game.

3. Murray Off and Running - Through the first four weeks of the 2019 season, this year's No. 1 overall pick quarterback Kyler Murray has 1,071 passing yards. Along with his 113 rushing yards, Murray is just the fifth player in NFL history with 1,000 or more passing yards and more than 100 rushing yards in his first four career games. 

It's a dynamic skill set that has caught the eye of Taylor.

"Creative," Taylor said on Wednesday. "The play is always alive. He's stronger than you think. He's harder to bring down than you think, because he's not 6-5, 240 (pounds). You see the power in his arm, that's the first thing. When you go to the pro days and you see him in person, the power he generates (is evident). He's a pro baseball player – he obviously has power for all the things he's been able to do. You see that in person, and it's good to see in person because otherwise, you think he's not a big guy and it's more of a controlled passing game. That's not the case. He has the power in his arm to drive down the field. He's the No. 1 pick for a reason. You see it on tape."

Throwback album looking back at the series between the Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals.

Bonus Stat of the Game - Arizona is the only team through four games this season to not snap the ball with the lead this season.

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on FOX. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Thom Brennaman (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst) and Shannon Spake (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).