This game will show us a lot at how far Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton have come along. For one, they’ll be facing an elite defense, and this certainly looks like a defensive battle that’s about to go down.
With that said, who can take care of the ball and put up enough points? Call me crazy, but Dalton has been on fire lately and even if you don’t buy him as an upper tier quarterback, simply look at his supporting cast. A.J. Green did what he could to play through injury a season ago, but the Pro Bowler was often a decoy. Deep threat Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, who is showing flashes of breaking out, were put on the shelf. That left Dalton with Mohammed Sanu, who is more of a utility player than a go-to target. Green is a playmaker that demands a safety’s attention, and Eifert is winning his 1 on 1 matchups in those instances.
There was a slow-changing of the guard from Gio Bernard to Jeremy Hill in the backfield, which has turned into a reliable timeshare so far this season for the undefeated Bengals.The O-line has been good, and the future up front was solidified when they drafted a pair of offensive tackles in the offseason. Now, we’re seeing a usually good defense benefit from a balance offensive attack, thanks to a competent QB like Dalton that’s spreading the wealth. If defenses are dropping extra players in coverage, well, Cincy prefers to keep the ball grounded to begin with. If they load the box like they’ve been doing, Dalton gets the challenge of finding the 1 on 1 matchup and has been successful through the first month of the season.
The Seahawks will again be without Marshawn Lynch, arguably one the most important player in the league for his team, that isn’t a quarterback. Wilson has been excellent as a decision maker and in the clutch, there’s no doubt about the things he has accomplished in a short amount of time. He plays QB differently, as he scrambled for 849 yards in 2014, making him the toughest dual-threat in the league to contain. He’s been absolutely efficient, minimizes turnovers, and doing just enough for his team to stick in the win column. The thing is, his blocking is the worst its ever been. I’m sure he will develop a better rapport with Jimmy Graham, the best weapon he’s ever had to throw to so far, but he’s never been a guy to win games with his arm on a consistent basis.
Dating back, beyond Monday Night’s win against the Lions, Seattle doesn’t have a prolific offense and they have their streaks of good and bad. It helps to have an elite defense and special teams even, but they travel to Cincinnati to face a team that is just as sound in all aspects of the game. And they have yet to lose. This would be a different conversation on the 12th Man, but I expect the Hawks to find themselves in a similar type of slug fest they had against the Lions. Wilson has several talented targets, an ability to stretch a play and find one of them downfield, and this will be a matchup worth watching against the Bengals defense.
Both defenses have held opponents under 20 points per game. Cincy is lighting up the scoreboard for 30 plus, with the Seahawks putting up around 20 points. That’s another reason as to why Seattle is 2-2 heading into week 5. I have Cincinnati staying undefeated and Dalton putting up better statistics in this one. No “beast mode,” at home, better supporting cast, and the L.O.B. has looked vulnerable along the sidelines. In no way would this be an upset if the 2-2 team knocked off the 4-0 team. It’s a great measuring stick for the signal callers and for where these teams are after a month.