The Sunday slate in Week 11 includes a surprisingly intriguing matchup of two rebuilding teams when the Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1) visit the Washington Football Team (2-7). Storylines abound in this AFC-NFC showdown.
The top of the storyline list is this year’s No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks in quarterback Joe Burrow and defensive end Chase Young facing off for the first time. The former teammates will most assuredly wind up face-to-face at some point (if not multiple times) in this game.
Of course, it would have been even more intriguing had Dwayne Haskins held onto the starting quarterback job. Haskins beat out Burrow for the starting job at Ohio State in college, leading to Burrow’s eventual transfer to LSU where he set the world on fire en route to a national championship.
As far as game narratives go, toss in celebrated rookie Burrow facing another first-overall draft pick. Alex Smith went first in 2005 and found success in the league. Then, after a gruesome life-threatening injury on Nov. 18, 2018 (and nearly 20 surgeries), the 36-year-old finds himself back under center for Washington. It is perhaps the most mind-blowing comeback story in the history of the NFL.
Starting running back Joe Mixon (foot) who signed a big contract extension just prior to the season has been placed on injured reserve. He will miss at least three more weeks after not having played since Week 6.
Reliable veteran Giovani Bernard has filled in well, though his rushing totals over three games (just 36 rushes for 129 yards and a touchdown) are not nearly as valuable as his usage in the passing game. On Burrow’s dropbacks, Bernard has been a machine in the blocking game and has also caught 12 of his 16 targets while adding two more trips to paydirt. Cincinnati simply must establish the run in this game, even if it is not working early. Bernard has significant burst through the line and should not be abandoned.
The Bengals have a host of players returning for this game that were missing from the ugly loss to the Steelers last week. Defensive backs Mackensie Alexander and LeShaun Sims, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, offensive linemen Bobby Hart and Jonah Williams are all expected back. Additionally, the best safety in the NFL this year, Jessie Bates, lies in wait for errant throws by Mr. Smith.
For his part, Burrow had his first egg-lay against Pittsburgh and will surely want to make hay to keep pace in the Rookie of the Year race with Justin Herbert.
Smith has only started one game for Washington but has appeared in the last three. The Football Team lost each of those games, and the quarterback tossed for 752 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions (an 80.3 rating), while being sacked ten times. Smith is a game-manager, which is a weakness for Cincinnati. The short passes over the middle are a detriment for the Bengals and you can expect Washington to attempt long, drawn-out drives in order to keep Burrow and his receivers off of the field.
Perhaps the most valuable weapon for the home team in this game is running back J.D. McKissic. He has accumulated 62 targets and reeled in 41 of them out of the backfield, and the edge play of Cincinnati can be exploited by athletic pass-catching running backs. He is likely to be more dangerous than Antonio Gibson (103 carries for 436 yards with seven touchdowns) in this game.
The key to this affair will be Washington’s pass rush. The blueprint to beat the Bengals is to bring the blitz often, something Tennessee did not do in losing but Pittsburgh did in winning. Young will likely be matched up with each tackle in Hart and Williams at times. With each of them coming off an injury (knee and stinger, respectively), whichever one looks more vulnerable will get attention from Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator that shunned a Cincinnati offer to go to Washington… yet another storyline.
Date: November 22, 2020
Start Time: 1:00 P.M. EST
Location: Washington, DC
TV Info: CBS
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Point Spread: CIN +1 (-110) | WAS -1 (-110)
Moneyline: CIN -105 | WAS -125
Over/Under: O 47 (-110) | U 47 (-110)
There has been very little movement on the line since it opened as a pick ’em, but a few more dollars have landed on Cincinnati to bring it to a one-point spread. The total is best avoided as these are two teams with issues on both sides of the ball; one week each of them could put up numbers against a lesser opponent, but both have opportunistic defenses against an evenly-matched foe.
If a gambler typically relies on their gut, there’s very little risk in the moneyline. Neither side’s odds are enough to demand a bet but are both reasonably safe. Based on Cincinnati’s performance last week, the desire to atone and the return of key contributors on both sides of the ball, the best play appears to be to take the one point the Bengals are getting and run with it.
As of the time of this writing, weather does not appear to be a factor. In fact, very little wind and high-50s temperatures make for ideal football conditions. This is a far cry from what Cincinnati had to deal with last week in Pittsburgh. Washington jumps out to an early lead at home but Burrow won’t be denied after his poor Week 10 performance. The Bengals’ defense bends but does not break, and after letting the Football Team back into the game in the fourth, the visitors return home with their third win of the season,
Final Score: Cincinnati 24, Washington 21
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