Week 1 of the regular season is finally here! With the preseason officially behind us, the Bengals take to the road as they head to Seattle to face the Seahawks. Let’s take a look at what to watch for in the season opener.
Game Time: 4:05 PM ET
Location Seattle, Washington
What to Watch For
John Ross’s Return
John Ross missed all of training camp due to a lingering hamstring issue. Head coach Zac Taylor says Ross will have a key role against the Seahawks, despite having missed all of camp. He has proven capable of being a productive piece in the offense, scoring seven touchdowns on limited touches last season. It will be interesting to see how quickly Ross can adapt on the fly in a new offense. Sunday will give us an idea of what to expect in the future.
Offensive Line Play
It is no secret the offensive line has been a major concern for Cincinnati heading into the 2019 season. With rookie first round pick Jonah Williams already out for the year, training camp provided an opportunity for every lineman on the roster to earn his stripes.
Rookie fourth round pick Michael Jordan took full advantage earning a spot as the starting left guard. Trey Hopkins was a bit of a surprise as he unseated last year’s first round pick Billy Price to take the starting center position. The new front will face an early test in Seattle against newly acquired edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. How well or poorly they perform will go along way with a fanbase that’s not overly optimistic to begin the season.
Can the Rookies shine in debuts?
Cinderella stories emerged all throughout training camp. Jordan and undrafted free agent Damion Willis not only secured their spots on the 53 man roster, they earned starting roles. Jordan will start at left guard while trying to help keep QB Andy Dalton upright and pave the way for RB Joe Mixon. Willis will be tasked with holding down the outside wide receiver position while filling in for injured star A.J. Green. With the young bucks getting their first taste of the NFL, they will have a chance to continue writing a true underdog story.
Fantasy Football Outlook
Tyler Boyd: Start
Fantasy football is back, unfortunately, A.J. Green isn’t. While that is bad news for the team, this could be a spot for Tyler Boyd to see a ton of targets out of the slot. Boyd emerged as one of Dalton’s favorite targets becoming his security blanket on third down last year. Look for Boyd to have a nice day.
Projection: 7 receptions, 105 receiving yards, 1 TD.
Joe Mixon: Must Start
Joe Mixon comes into the season as the clear cut workhorse in this Bengals offense. He will see a heavy workload carrying the rock. Last years AFC leading rusher will look to continue his breakout ways. Mixon is a must start.
Projection: 20 carries for 115 yards, 1 rushing TD, 5 receptions for 45 yards.
Fantasy Sleeper Play
The underdog story as mentioned above is the reason Willis is a sleeper candidate. He will be starting in place of Green. So, he could see decent volume in the passing game. It is hard to project the undrafted rookie’s numbers this week. So, we will play it conservatively.
Projection: 4 receptions for 60 yards
Keys to the Game
Feed Joe Mixon
If the Bengals want to pull off the upset as a nearly 10 point underdog on the road, they will have to rely heavily on Joe Mixon. Mixon can carry the load if it’s placed on his shoulders. It won’t be pretty. However, if he can get it going on the ground the Bengals could possibly grind this one out while controlling the tempo of the game and keeping the Seattle offense off the field.
Quick Passing Game
There’s plenty of concern along with the offensive line with starting left tackle Cordy Glenn being out and Jordan making his first ever start. Seattle has added pass rush help when they acquired Clowney via trade. How do you counter shaky offensive Line play? A quick passing game. If the Seattle pass rush proves to be too forceful, Dalton will have to make quick decisions and get the ball out quick when dropping back to pass.
Stout Defensive Line Play
There is a strong feeling that Sunday will be a smashmouth football game between two teams who want to pound the rock. The defensive line will be tasked with trying to stop the Seattle ground game. Running back Chris Carson is a popular candidate to have a fine fantasy day against the Bengals. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Andrew Billings need a strong performance upfront that would play a vital role in helping the Bengals pull off the upset.