Game Preview

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Game Preview: Bengals at Seahawks

150930-Dunlap-Carlos_sack_Seahawks (AP)

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 Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (analyst).

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). WLW-AM (700) will join the flagship stations in broadcasting the Bengals game once its broadcast of the Cincinnati Reds game concludes (the Reds game begins at 1:10 p.m. Eastern).

The game also will air nationally on ESPN Radio, with broadcasters Adam Admin (play-by-play) and Tom Ramsey (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals open their 2019 regular season with a 2000-mile trip across the country to Seattle, where they will face the Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. The game will be the much anticipated, regular-season debut of Zac Taylor, who was named the 10th head coach in Bengals history on Feb. 4.

In the seven months since his hiring, Taylor has created a new work environment for Bengals players at Paul Brown Stadium. He has introduced a significant number of tangible alterations, including an expanded coaching staff, new decor in the players’ facilities, improved room configurations in the coaches’ office areas, and a new approach to team practices and meetings.

But intangibly, and more importantly, the first-time NFL head coach has concentrated first and foremost on being a teacher and establishing a new work culture for the players.

With the hiring of Taylor, the Bengals’ coaching staff has undergone the largest overhaul in team history — 16 of the 23 coaches are new to Cincinnati this season. And since NFL teams disclose so little of their playbooks in preseason, there are very few concrete clues available to provide insight about the team’s plans. No one outside Paul Brown Stadium knows exactly what to expect to see when the Bengals take the field against the Seahawks.

Will the Bengals’ offense feature mainly a three WR/one TE/one RB formation, or a two WR/two TE/two RB formation? On defense, will the team line up mainly as a four DL/three LB/four DB unit, or four DL/two LB/five DB unit? What new wrinkles will Taylor bring to the offensive game plan? What new twists will be highlighted on defense?

Regardless of what Taylor and his staff eventually unveil in the game on Sunday, the argument can be made that the Bengals, despite finishing in last place of the AFC North last season with a 6-10 record, are a team which possesses the overall talent to warrant more attention than they have received from national media in preseason predictions.

Even with star WR A.J. Green expected to be sidelined against the Seahawks, the Bengals’ offense still will feature an established three-time Pro Bowl QB in Dalton, the reigning AFC rushing yards leader in HB Joe Mixon, a returning 1000+-yard WR in Tyler Boyd, a world-class speedster in WR John Ross III, and a revamped line with three new starters on the interior. Plus, the offense enters the season having been upgraded simply by welcoming back game-changing TE Tyler Eifert, a former Pro Bowler who missed the majority of the 2018 season after suffering a severe ankle injury in Game 4.

On defense, the Bengals boast what looks to be one of the team’s deepest line units in years, led by seven-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins and two-time Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap, and upgraded by the return of DE Carl Lawson, a sack specialist who missed the second half of the 2018 season after suffering a knee injury in Game 8. The linebackers are boosted by the return of Preston Brown, who recorded an NFL-best 504 tackles from 2014-17, but played in just seven games last season due to injuries. And the defensive backfield will field two former first-round draft picks at CB in Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III, as well as a former second-rounder in Jessie Bates III, who led the team with 111 tackles last year as a rookie.

Seattle figures to present Cincinnati with a challenging test for the regular season opener. The Seahawks were a 10-6 NFC Wild Card team last season and ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards per game (160.0), No. 1 in turnover ratio (plus-15), tied for No. 6 in points scored per game (26.8) and No. 11 in points allowed per game (21.7).

Seattle also enjoys a notable home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field, having earned a 95-41 regular-season record and a 10-1 postseason record at the stadium since it opened in 2002. In addition, the venue itself has twice held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor stadium (136.6 decibels in 2013, and 137.6 in ’14).

The series: The Bengals lead 11-9, including 1-0 in postseason. The series is tied 4-4 in games at Seattle overall, and the two teams are tied 1-1 in matchups at CenturyLink Field.

The teams have met only four times since 2003, with the Bengals winning three of those contests, including two straight. Cincinnati won the last meeting, 27-24 in overtime at Paul Brown Stadium in 2015. Seattle’s last win in the series was in 2007, 24-21 at Seattle.

The only postseason meeting, during the Seahawks’ time as an AFC team, was a 1988 Divisional round game at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, won 21-13 by a Bengals team en route to Super Bowl XXIII.

For openers: The Bengals franchise has posted a 24-27 mark in season openers, including 11-15 on the road. The Bengals are opening on the road for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons, with the one exception being the 2017 opener vs. Baltimore.

The Bengals are 2-1 in previous season openers against the Seahawks, with each game coming when Seattle was a member of the AFC. The teams have opened twice in Cincinnati — a Bengals win in 1981, and Seattle win in ‘85 — and once in Seattle — a Bengals win in ‘92.

The Bengals are opening the season against an NFC team for the first time since 2013, when they fell to Chicago 24-21 at Soldier Field. The Bengals are 3-4 in seven previous season openers against NFC teams, including 3-1 at home and 0-3 on the road.

A week-by-week look at the Bengals 2019 jersey schedule. Four different jerseys will be worn this season.

Historically, it doesn’t hurt: No one will be calling a season opener a “must-win” game. But in 10 of their 14 seasons of qualifying for postseason play (71.4 percent), the Bengals won the opener. In 1981, the Bengals opened with a win over the Seahawks and went on to finish 12-4, win the AFC Central Division and advance to Super Bowl XVI.

Bengals-Seahawks connections: Bengals TE Drew Sample and WR John Ross both played at the University of Washington; Sample is also from Bellevue, Wash. (Newport High School) ... Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll coached at Ohio State University in 1979 ... Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was born in Cincinnati; his family later moved, and he was raised in Virginia ... Seahawks LS Tyler Ott was with the Bengals in 2016 ... Seahawks T Jarmarco Jones, TE Nick Vannett and G Demetrius Knox (Reserve/Injured) all played at Ohio State University; Vannett is also from Westerville, Ohio (Westerville Central High School) ... Seahawks SS Bradley McDougald is from Columbus, Ohio (Dublin Scioto High School) ... Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1981-82 ... Seahawks assistant head coach/defense Clint Hurtt coached at the University of Louisville from 2010-13 ... Seahawks assistant strength and conditioning coach Jamie Yanchar attended the University of Louisville ... Seahawks T Elijah Nkansah (practice squad) played at the University of Toledo.

Bengals’ 2018 O excelled in red zone: The Bengals’ offense last season scored TDs on 32 of its 45 trips to the red zone, good for a 71.1 percentage that ranked third in the NFL. It was the Bengals’ best red-zone ranking at year’s end since the 2013 season, when they ranked second with a 73.9 percentage.

Of Cincinnati’s 32 red-zone TDs, 20 came by pass and 12 came via the running game. Five of the passes went to WR Tyler Boyd, five went to WR John Ross III, four went to WR A.J. Green, and three went to TE C.J. Uzomah. TE Tyler Eifert, TE Matt Lengel and HB Joe Mixon each had one TD reception apiece. Mixon also had eight of Cincinnati’s 12 rushing TDs in the red zone, while HB Giovani Bernard had three and QB Jeff Driskel had one.

Entering their Week 5 matchup with Miami, Cincinnati had come away with points on an NFL-best 34 consecutive trips to the red zone (25 TDs, nine FGs) dating back to Game 9 of 2017. But an INT on their first red-zone trip vs. Miami ended the streak, which was the team’s longest since 2005-06 (40 straight).

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