WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
The Cincinnati offense continues to be led by the rookies in Dalton and Green, who hooked up for a touchdown for the fourth time this season last time out, an 11-yard pass in the first quarter. Green (29 receptions), the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft, leads all rookies in receptions, receiving yards (453) and touchdown catches and finished with five grabs for 51 yards versus the Colts. Dalton (1311 passing yards, 7 TD, 5 INT) also gave some looks to No.2 wideout Jerome Simpson (22 receptions), who pulled in six passes for 101 yards. In all, Dalton threw for 264 yards on 25-of-32 passing without a pick or a sack and completed passes to nine different players, with wide receiver Andre Caldwell (17 receptions, 1 TD) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (25 receptions, 3 TD) having four catches each. Benson (458 rushing yards, 2 TD) rushed for just 57 yards and scored once versus the Colts, with Lewis opting to give Scott (85 rushing yards, 1 TD) a season-high 11 carries, perhaps to get him ready for extended work in this game.
Seattle leads the league with just 3.2 yards allowed per rushing attempt, so Cincinnati may opt to test the Seahawks’ banged-up secondary. Having already lost cornerback Marcus Trufant (23 tackles, 1 INT) to a season-ending injury, his replacement in the starting lineup, Walter Thurmond (12 tackles), was also lost for the rest of 2011 because of an ankle injury suffered versus the Browns that required surgery. That moves rookie Richard Sherman (10 tackles) into the starting role alongside Brandon Browner (29 tackles, 1 INT). With a another pair of rookies and seldom-used special-teamer Kennard Cox filling out the rest of the depth chart at corner, safeties Kam Chancellor (38 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) and Earl Thomas (37 tackles, 1 INT) will be on high alert. An increased pass rush would also help, and that is defensive end Chris Clemons’ speciality. Clemons (20 tackles, 5 sacks) has six sacks in his past five games, logging two versus the Browns. Seattle ended that game with five quarterback takedowns, getting one each from Chancellor and linebacker David Hawthorne (40 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT), who led the club with 11 tackles. Massive stopper Red Bryant (14 tackles) was credited with half a sack in the loss, while rookie linebacker K.J. Wright (20 tackles) finished with seven tackles.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle’s offense was struggling even before posting just 137 yards of offense versus the Browns, as it ranks 31st overall at 262.8 yards per game allowed. The Seahawks’ 16.2 points per game is also tied for 27th in the league. Whitehurst completed 12 of his 30 pass attempts and was sacked three times. He was also picked off once without a touchdown pass. Jackson (1012 passing yards, 6 TD passes) has also struggled with ball control, getting picked off five times while being sacked 18 times in his five starts. Undrafted rookie receiver Doug Baldwin leads the club and is second among NFC rookies with 20 catches and 330 yards to go along with a pair of touchdown catches, but did not grab a reception versus the Browns. Seattle will also need more than the two catches wide receiver Sidney Rice (17 receptions, 1 TD) managed, as running back Leon Washington led the club with four receptions. With Lynch (239 rushing yards, 2 TD) out, Washington got seven carries for 39 yards and Justin Forsett added another 23 on eight rush attempts. Wide receiver Ben Obomanu (17 receptions, 2 TD) is tied for second on the club in catches, while counterpart Mike Williams has been held to just nine on the season.
Cincinnati comes into this game ranked second in the NFL with 278.5 yards allowed per game. The club ranks fifth against both the pass and the run and is giving up just 18.5 points per game as well, good for fourth in the league. The Bengals have held their opponent under 300 yards in five of their last six games, including 273 surrendered to the Colts. Cincinnati also has a plus-3 turnover differential and has the second-most forced fumbles this season with seven. They forced a pair versus Indianapolis, with end Carlos Dunlap (8 tackles) taking one 35 yards for a game-icing score. Cornerback Nate Clements (24 tackles) had six tackles and a forced fumble in the win, while fellow starter Leon Hall (19 tackles) had an interception, just the team’s second of the season. Those two are backed up by former Seahawk Kelly Jennings, and the Bengals could also have Adam Jones active for this game. The oft-troubled corner has yet to play this year due to a herniated disc in his neck, but is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list. Cincinnati will be without linebacker Rey Maualuga (38 tackles) due to a sprained ankle, however. Safety Reggie Nelson (40 tackles, 1 sack) had a team-high seven tackles versus the Colts and end Michael Johnson (16 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT) came away with a sack.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Moving the ball against the Bengals’ defense is a tough task, so the Seahawks have to take advantage when they get deep into Cincinnati territory. Getting there might be the harder part, as the Bengals have allowed opposing teams to score all 13 times they have reached the red zone, giving up seven touchdowns and six field goals.
Dalton and Green have an opportunity to put up some big numbers in this game given the injury problems the Seahawks’ secondary is battling. Green has shown an ability to make big plays despite his inexperience and Dalton has been playing safe with the ball for most of the season. This could be the duo’s big coming out party.
Whoever gets the start under center for the Seahawks needs to be protected. Seattle is tied for the league lead with 23 sacks allowed, while its quarterbacks have been hit 50 times, second-most in the NFL. That constant pressure has limited the team’s ability to put up points.
Prediction – The surprising Bengals sit at 4-2, and now they head to the great northwest to play a Seattle team that was held to three points in Cleveland last week. Charlie Whitehurst is probably going to start again, and that doesn’t bode well for the Hawks, who have little in terms of playmakers on offense. Seattle will need to get Andy Dalton to make a few mistakes, and hold down Bernard Scott who will play for the suspended Cedric Benson. This should be another low scoring game, with the Hawks defense doing enough to pull out a late win. Seattle 13 Cincinnati 10