Sunday's game at Paycor Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) has a menagerie of matchups, both obscure and ordained, as the 2-3 Bengals look to head into the bye week saying bye-bye to 3-1 Seattle's three-game winning streak:
_A pair of No. 5 picks square off in Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week, against Seahawks rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who already has a 97-yard pick-six.
"I don't think like that," said Chase after Thursday's practice of the Draft Kings matchup. "If you're in front of me, I have to (beat) you. That's how it is. It doesn't matter if he's undrafted, he still has to be next."
_Mike Hilton, who re-asserted himself as the most versatile and one of the NFL's best slot cornerbacks last week in Arizona, faces Seattle's Tyler Lockett, one of the league's top slot receivers who has the seventh most touchdown catches in the league since 2018.
"One-A and One-B," says Hilton of the Bengals' Tyler Boyd and Lockett among their NFL peers. "(Lockett) is one of the best receivers in all of football. He's been underrated his whole career. He makes a lot of plays and that's what he's known for.
"Lockett is the down-field type. TB is more the intermediate third-down contested catch type of guy. (Locket) can definitely fly down the field. You've got to get your hands on him to slow him down. He's not the biggest guy (5-10, 182 pounds), so if you can slow him down a little bit you can run with him."
Like Chase, Hilton isn't getting pumped because of Sunday's foe.
"I feel like I'm the best at what I do no matter who I'm going against," Hilton said.
_Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his recaptured mobility face a rampaging Seattle defense that had 11 sacks (four defenders had two each) against the Giants in their last game before last week's bye.
"They're really good, very physical, versatile, they do a lot of movement up front and they make it hard on you," said Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "They can rush. They don't have probably the household names but they've got guys that are productive.
"That's how you beat those teams. You've got to be able to move and slide inside the pocket. They're going to create pressure. They're just good at it. They do it really well. How well can you navigate the pressure from the front and find completions and make plays in a pocket that can be a little muddy sometimes."
Burrow hooks up with reborn Geno Smith, who reinvented himself in Seattle last season and is one of four quarterbacks to have four games of least 300 yards with 75% passing since 2022. Burrow is also one of those guys after he went for 317 yards last week on 81% passing.
Smith returns to Paycor for the first time since his rookie season ten years ago, when he threw pick-sixes to Chris Crocker and Adam Jones in the Bengals' 49-9 win over the Jets.
_Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (back) went limited Thursday in his first practice since it went out on him last Thursday. When he missed last Sunday's win in Arizona, second-round pick DJ Turner played well in his first NFL start. Cam Taylor-Britt, the Bengals' newly-crowned No. 1 cornerback as Awuzie recovers, figures to draw the Tee Higgins-like monstrous Seattle wide receiver DK Metcalf. But there's going to be plenty to go around for the 5-11 Tuner against the 6-4 Metcalf, who has muscled for the sixth-most touchdown catches of the decade and 10th-most yards for a wide receiver.
"A lot of times the big learning curve for a rookie comes in the games," said Turner, who feels like he got a heavy dose of Metcalf when he went against Higgins in training camp.
"When it comes to the Bengals, I'm not going to see three better receivers and the quarterback we have. My learning curve could have happened in camp. I've gone up against Ja'Marr Chase, I've gone up against Tee Higgins, I've gone up against Tyler Boyd. I've seen Joe Burrow. It's really helped me mentally to where in games I see it harder in practice. That's a blessing."
_Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, in his 14th season, is known for grinding out elite special teams and this season is no different with three-time Patriots Super Bowl special teamer Larry Izzo as his coordinator. Not only are they in the top ten in kick and punt returns, they lead the NFL in covering punts while allowing just 21 yards on six returns.
And even though rookie punt returner Charlie Jones is on injured reserve with his 81-yard touchdown, the Bengals are ranked third in returns because wide receiver Trenton Irwin went for 28- and 21-yarders last week.
_If the name Shane Waldron is familiar, it is. When the Bengals tapped Zac Taylor as head coach in 2019, media reports said the Bengals also interviewed one of his best friends in Waldron, then the pass-game coordinator for the Rams. Now Seattle's offensive coordinator, Waldron and Taylor have remained tight. Waldron is the only guy Taylor talks to more in the league other than his brother Press, the Jaguars offensive coordinator.
But not this week.
"He sent me a picture last week inferring that he was watching tape last Tuesday of us and I said that's not legal," Taylor joked of Seattle's bye. "We're still playing games. You're not allowed to do that on the bye week. But I think that's the last time we spoke. "
JA'MARR SHRUGS: Chase gets it. When word got back to him that Metcalf suggested Thursday that Witherspoon would contain him, Chase waved it off. He's been there and done that when he took Burrow's side against Patrick Mahomes.
"He's (not) doing anything but praising his teammate," Chase said. "That's what he's supposed to do. At the end of the day, it's about game-time reps and game-time decisions. He's going to get the opportunity to get his matchups and just see who wins that matchup."
Chase is one of the smartest guys in the room and here's how he breaks down 'Spoon, the leading candidate for NFL Rookie Defensive Rookie of the Year:
"His height (6-0) is a big advantage at corner. You don't see a lot of cornerbacks his height," Chase said. "Overall using his speed. He looks like a smart kid on film."
The cornerback, Rig Wooten, is a second-year tower at 6-4. They may not be as famous as their Legion of Boom forefathers of a decade ago, but they're on the come. Callahan sees a definite resemblance.
They're going to smother the run, take away the deep ball, and make you pay for catching it underneath with bruising physicality.
"They invented the Seattle cover three. I mean, they kicked people all over. And they're sort of they've gotten back to it a little bit. It's sort of come back into their system more," Callahan said. "And in 2012 and '13, that system got proliferated all over the league. Teams got good at beating it. And so it sort of died and went away.
"And that's actually very strange. For the first time in my career, I've seen a defense come full circle. Because they've got the players to do it. They've got really long big corners and they've got good safeties, they've got good smart linebackers and they're super physical."
Chase, who has caught the Bengals' longest balls of the season at 63 and 43 yards, knows Seattle takes deep away.
"They may press a little bit and then bail," Chase said. "We'll see what they do. It should be fun."
TEE BALL: Higgins (rib) was listed as limited on Thursday for the second straight day. He did say, "I was running around with the guys and it felt OK," and said it's a possibility he'll play after missing last week. He says he can do normal things now with the broken rib feeling better. But he expects it to hurt if he plays.
"It's football. You get hit," Higgins said. "Suck it up and keep playing. … Nobody better touch me out here (in practice.) The adrenaline is going to be pumping and you get hit, it might sting a little bit, but that's it."