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Five Things To Watch: Bengals vs. Seahawks

DE Trey Hendrickson celebrates during the Bengals-Cardinals game in Week 5 of the 2023 season.
DE Trey Hendrickson celebrates during the Bengals-Cardinals game in Week 5 of the 2023 season.

The Bengals return to Paycor Stadium to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. The game airs at 1 p.m. on CBS. Here are five things to watch:

1. Joe and Ja'Marr back on track

The Bengals' Pro Bowl duo of Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase rekindled their all-world connection last Sunday at Arizona, leading Cincinnati to its second win. Burrow had his 17th career 300-yard passing game, finishing with 317 on a 78.3 completion percentage with three touchdowns.

Each of those passing scores went to Chase, whose historic day included a franchise single-game record 15 receptions for 192 yards. The third-year pro has seen his top performances contribute to team success, as Chase's 166.5 receiving yards per game in the Bengals' two wins are the most by any NFL player in their team's victories this season (minimum two wins).

Burrow and Chase look to follow up their outing in the desert this week against a Seahawks defense that is allowing 280.0 passing yards per contest (30th in the NFL). Seattle also has yielded a league-high 18.5 catches per game to opposing wide receivers in 2023. If the Bengals can once again lean on their two stars offensively, Cincinnati will be in strong position to even its record at 3-3.

2. Hendrickson's havoc

Edge rusher Trey Hendrickson has showcased his ability to take over games as of late, totaling five sacks in the past three weeks alone. That culminated with a season-high 2.5 in Week 5 at Arizona, including a strip sack of quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the fourth quarter that led to a Sam Hubbard fumble recovery.

While Hendrickson continues on his elite pace, Cincinnati also has enjoyed pass-rushing contributions across the board, making Lou Anarumo's defense among the most difficult to prepare for. B.J. Hill (2.5 sacks) and Sam Hubbard (two) are consistently finding themselves in the opposing backfield, while safety Dax Hill and linebacker Germaine Pratt have gotten in the sack column on overload blitzes.

This week presents possibly the toughest matchup yet for Hendrickson and his defensive teammates. Seattle has allowed just seven sacks on the season, the fourth fewest in the league, and boasts a well-balanced offense that keeps opponents guessing. Another vintage Hendrickson performance that makes veteran Geno Smith uncomfortable in the pocket would provide the Bengals an advantage in a key area.

3. Mixon faces stout run defense

Seventh-year running back Joe Mixon has quietly put together an efficient start to the 2023 season. The team captain has recorded at least 50 rushing yards in each game, including a season-high 81 last Sunday, for a total of 328 — tied for the 11th most leaguewide. Even with the passing game clicking on all cylinders, Cincinnati relied heavily on its bell cow back against the Cardinals as Mixon's 25 carries were his most since Week 1 of the 2022 season.

Mixon and the Bengals' offensive line now turn their attention to Seattle's sixth-ranked run defense that is limiting opponents to just 87.5 yards on the ground per game. The Seahawks were near the bottom of the NFL in that category last season, but revamped their front seven with free agent additions including defensive end Dre'Mont Jones and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Through four games, Seattle is allowing just 3.18 yards per carry, the lowest rate in the NFL.

Mixon's single-game yardage total has increased each game this season, and he'll look to build on that trend while also having a chance to climb up the Bengals' record book. With 5706 career rushing yards, he enters Sunday 36 shy of Rudi Johnson (5742) for third place in franchise history.

4. Kenneth Walker III vs. Cincinnati run defense

On the other side of the ball, Seattle running back Kenneth Walker III has been a critical member of the Seahawks' offense in his second pro season. Walker leads the team in touches (72), rushing yards (283) and rushing touchdowns (five), and has found the end zone in three straight games.

Cincinnati's run defense has been as battle-tested as any unit in the NFL this season, facing vaunted rushing attacks in Cleveland, Baltimore and Tennessee. And though they did yield 142 yards on the ground to Arizona, the Bengals gave up just two in the fourth quarter and stood tall on several of the Cardinals' second-half runs — most notably a fourth-down stop by Germaine Pratt late in the third quarter.

The Bengals this week look to progress in that area and make a balanced Seahawks offense more one-dimensional.

5. Turnover battle

Both Cincinnati and Seattle rank in the top 10 leaguewide in turnover differential, with the Seahawks tied for fifth (plus-five) and the Bengals tied for ninth (plus-four). A major contributor to the Bengals' two wins has been their ability to create takeaways, with two interceptions in Week 3 against the Rams and two more picks, along with a fumble recovery, last Sunday at Arizona.

Cincinnati's offense, meanwhile, has operated efficiently this season with just four giveaways, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. If Burrow and company can continue taking care of the ball while building on explosive plays from last week, the Bengals have a strong opportunity to head into the bye at .500.

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