The Bengals will be in the NFL spotlight to start the 2020 season as they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.
The opener is a culmination of a sizzling offseason for the Bengals. The franchise spent more than $140 million in free agency this offseason and added reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow as second-year head coach Zac Taylor and the front office rebuilt the roster following a 2-14 season.
It's also a new look for the Chargers. For the first time in 5,116 days and 224 regular-season games, the Chargers will have a new signal caller under center in veteran Tyrod Taylor.
Here are the three things to watch in Cincinnati's 2020 home opener.
1. How Does Joe Burrow Look – All eyes will be on the new Bengals signal caller. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy after he completed 76.3 percent of his passes last season, throwing an FBS-record 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions while leading LSU to a 15-0 record and national championship.
Burrow dazzled in training camp, displaying complete control of the offense, but how will Burrow perform in his first NFL game? That is one of the biggest unknowns after a mostly virtual offseason, with no organized team activities, minicamp or preseason games to get reps and build chemistry with his receivers and line.
2. Who Will Stop The Run – These are two defenses who ranked in the bottom half of stopping the run last season. The Chargers were 18th against the run, while the Bengals finished 32nd.
Cincinnati made significant moves to help their run defense adding defensive tackles D.J. Reader and Mike Daniels, along with linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Vonn Bell. The additions, plus the familiarity with year two of coordinator Lou Anarumo's scheme, should make a significant difference in stopping the run. The Chargers have one of the most versatile running backs in Austin Eckler, who rushed for 557 yards, but recorded 92 receptions for 993 yards last season.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon will also see a remodeled Chargers unit. Los Angeles added in free agency defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Chris Harris Jr to go with the Chargers' second first round pick in the 2020 draft, linebacker Kenneth Murray. One noticeable absence will be Chargers safety Derwin James. An All-Pro during his rookie season in 2018, James missed 11 games last season because of a stress fracture in his right foot and will likely miss the entire 2020 schedule as well.
3. Generating Turnovers – The Bengals and Chargers were two of the worst defenses at generating turnovers last season.
The Bengals tied for 28th last season with 16 takeaways and the Chargers ranked last with 14 turnovers created. In fact, the Chargers' defense had only four takeaways the last eight games of last season. Conversely, the Bengals last season went 0-6 with a minus turnover differential.
With a revamped defense, the Bengals will look to have more playmakers on the field to stop opposing offenses and create more turnovers this season.
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Trent Green (analyst) and Melanie Collins (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7) Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst). The game also will air nationally on Sports USA Radio, with broadcasters Larry Kahn (play-by-play) and Hank Bauer (analyst).