The Bengals travel to the city by the Bay, or the town near it, this Sunday to try and solidify their grip on the AFC North title. With the Steelers revving up right behind them, and Dalton on the sidelines, this is going to be a turning point for the Bengals, and the 49ers would love to ruin their fun for them. Let’s take a look at what the major points in the game are going to be.
Three keys to the game:
1. Andy Dalton’s thumb
Dalton has been on fire this season, and has really driven the Bengals all the way, so last week’s thumb injury was a major blow to the team. With AJ McCarron now behind centre for Cincinatti, it’s his one chance to really show what he can do. If he can come close to Dalton’s performance this season, then this could well win the division for the Bengals. So no pressure.
2. The passing game
Here’s where McCarron needs to shine. The 49ers have a terrible record this season for defending on pass plays, and if the Bengals can find those receivers, I don’t think that there is going to be much work for them to find the end zone. If the 49ers are going to stand a chance, they’re going to need to put those pass rushers in early.
3. 49ers offensive line
The 49ers offensive line fell apart in the last game, and their QB picked up 9 sacks as a result. If they haven’t dealt with those issues, then they are going to struggle to get those points on the board, unless they focus heavy on the running game to make up for it.
Match-up to watch: Andrew Whitworth vs NaVorro Bowman
With the passing game being a safe bet, and the 49ers being aware of the Bengals position, it’s a pretty safe bet that San Francisco is going to be pass rushing a lot in this game. With the Bengals having a tight offensive line, this is going to lead to some great short plays, with some big impacts. Keep an eye on Navorro Bowman, the 49ers Linebacker coming into major contact with Bengal’s OT – and OL leader – Andrew Whitworth. Both players are having good seasons, and should give each other some real pressure throughout the game.
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
The 4-9 49ers are not looking very strong against the Bengals at 10-3. However, with Dalton gone, and a loss to the Steelers off of the back of that, this could be the beginning of the end for the Bengals. With this being the last game of the season where the 49ers could have any impact in the league, they could well come out hard on this one. I think the Bengals are going to take the victory on this one, but only just, if McCarron can get those passes out in time.