Coming out of their Week 7 bye, the Cincinnati Bengals look to continue the little two-game win streak and make it three in a row to truly show that they are back on track. They'll be up against another NFC West opponent -- the only division they've had any success against this season (3-0 vs. the NFC West, 0-3 vs. everyone else) -- this time facing the team that's looked the best from that division, the San Francisco 49ers in Levi's Stadium. It won't be easy to extend that winning streak to three, but it is far from impossible or implausible.
A couple of weeks ago, I called this team a juggernaut and made the bold claim that this matchup against the Niners in their house would undoubtedly be the toughest remaining game on the schedule for the Bengals. Despite dropping their last two games after a flaming hot 5-0 start, I stick by this claim. Don't let the last couple of weeks fool you into thinking this will be a cakewalk, the 49ers are still a very good team.
Yes, they did lose to two teams that they, on paper, are much better than but 1. It's important to add context to these losses, such as the weather in the Cleveland game or the mounting injuries that have contributed to their struggles, and 2. We're Bengals fans. They do the same thing all the time.
So, although they have struggled recently, I still firmly believe this will be the toughest game left on the schedule for the Bengals. So, here are five 49ers in particular who I think will make this return from the bye week extra difficult.
Is there a running back that's better than Christian McCaffrey right now? I think you can make the case for some others but, to me, he's the cream of the crop so far this season. Looking at just his impact as a rusher, he leads the league in rushing yards (598), is second in rushing touchdowns (8), and is eighth in yards per attempt (4.8). That's just what he brings to the 49ers' run game.
The thing about McCaffrey is that he's versatile and is a reliable weapon in any team he's on passing game too. He's one of-- if not the-- best-receiving backs in the league. McCaffrey has led all running backs in receiving yards since he was drafted in 2017 with nearly 4,000 yards, according to StatMuse. Only Saints' Alvin Kamara and Chargers' Austin Ekeler come even close to that amount during that same period, every other running back's production as receivers out of the backfield is a far cry from those three.
Through seven games, McCaffrey is set to have over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 25+ all-purpose touchdowns, which would be an all-time season for a player at his position. Speaking of touchdowns, the Stanford product seems to always just find his way into the end zone, to an extent never seen before in NFL history, as, despite their loss to the Vikings on Monday Night, McCaffrey broke the all-time record for most games in a row with a touchdown, reaching 16 games in a row where he has put 6 points (or more) on the board, passing the record of 15 held by both former Redskin (now Commanders) John Riggins and former Bill O.J. Simpson, according to Sporting News.
Hopefully, Cincy breaks that impressive streak this upcoming Sunday.