Bengals vs. 49ers: Big Questions, Bold Predictions

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Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. McCarron’s First Start

Will A.J. McCarron lead the Bengals to victory?
It’s the obvious question that is burning in the minds of Bengals fans everywhere. A.J. McCarron has only thrown 36 passes in his NFL career and this will be his first opportunity to start a game. His first significant action came last Sunday against Pittsburgh after Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury early in the first quarter. McCarron had a few bright spots, but made the mistakes you would expect from an inexperienced QB. The most positive takeaways from the Steelers game had to be McCarron’s presence in the pocket, leadership, and arm strength. McCarron looked comfortable leading the team and displayed his precision passing ability on several occasions. On the downside, he struggled reading coverages at times. All in all, it was a game that could have been better, yet could have been a lot worse.

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Sunday’s contest will be against a less daunting but still threatening adversary, the San Francisco 49ers. McCarron will be at the helm for the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL and will be facing the 30th-ranked defense. He will have a strong supporting cast around him, even without

Tyler Eifert

. Perhaps the biggest threat to McCarron will not be a player, but instead the 49ers defensive coordinator, Eric Mangini. Mangini is no stranger to the Bengals, as he coached their division rival Cleveland Browns for two seasons in 2009 and 2010. Mangini is a defensive mastermind with a talent for disguising coverages. McCarron may be vulnerable to such complex schemes. The young quarterback will need to rely on his instincts and teammates in order to be effective on Sunday.

PREDICTION: McCarron will rise to the occasion.
It won’t be a Pro Bowl-caliber performance, but A.J. McCarron will do what it takes for the Bengals to beat the 49ers. His final numbers will be 230 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. A good supporting cast will provide a safety net for McCarron, who will become the first University of Alabama QB to win an NFL start since 1987.

Next: Who Will Make a Difference on Offense?

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