Fresh off their bye week, the 3-3 Cincinnati Bengals will head to Santa Clara for a date with the 5-2 San Francisco 49ers in the hopes of flipping their season around. The Bengals, winner of two straight, can get above .500 with a win on Sunday. If the 49ers lose, they'll drop their third straight game, so a lot is on the line for both squads.
To get more insight on the 49ers, I reached out to Peter Panacy of Niner Noise, FanSided's site dedicated to all things surrounding the 49ers. Peter talked to me about how the Niners have not been playing well in the trenches during their two-game losing streak and it's cost them.
Fortunately, the Bengals have been playing quite well in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball. This could lead to Trey Hendrickson and Co. teeing off on yet another quarterback this season.
Check out my entire conversation with Peter below. I will note that Peter and I spoke before Brock Purdy's concussion became public knowledge so keep that in mind when reading our conversation. He wrote a great piece on why this could end up being good news for the Niners.
Bengals vs. 49ers Q&A for Week 8
Q: What has been the biggest issue for the 49ers during their 2-game losing streak?
Peter: While the issues have been numerous, being an old-fashioned football geek, I can't help but notice the line of scrimmage. The 49ers offensive line hasn't been getting the push, nor has it been handling protection as well, meaning the run game is no longer as potent, and Brock purdy finds himself under unnecessary pressure. Flipping the field, the Niners' once-vaunted defensive line is very average, and Nick Bosa has a scant 2.5 sacks after leading the league a year ago in this category (and getting paid as a result). If San Francisco wants to rediscover its winning ways, it'll have to happen in the trenches.
Q: Who on the Bengals roster worries 49ers fans the most?
Peter: It has to be Ja'Marr Chase, right? Of course. Even if the 49ers blanket Chase with multiple defensive backs, his impact on the field is going to be felt even if it's drawing defenders his way, thereby opening up more one-on-one matchups for Cincy's other top-billed wideouts, such as Tee Higgins or Tyler Boyd. Sure, things may have been frustrating for Cincinnati's offense earlier this season, but Chase is someone who can take over a game (or at least influence it being taken over by someone else).
Q: In one sentence, describe how you think this game will go.
Peter: This is a Christian McCaffrey game.
With the Bengals allowing 5 yards a carry, third worst in the league, I'd expect the Niners to "get right" after struggling to run the ball against both the Browns and Vikings the last two weeks. A lot of that has to do with the offensive line, of course, but McCaffrey is one of those big names capable of taking a game over. Plus, he's been on a touchdown-scoring tear this season, and there's no reason for that to let up. Especially if a strong run game means the Bengals' trio of receiving weapons, paired with Joe Burrow, are all sitting on the sideline for longer periods of time. Oh, keep a lookout for Brandon Aiyuk, too. He's coming into his own nicely this season as San Francisco's top wide receiver.
Q: The 49ers will win if _____.
Peter: Niners win if they are the better team at the line of scrimmage. This is probably the third time I've said this, but so much of San Francisco's recent struggles as of late stem from bad play on the O-line or whimsical efforts from Bosa and the D-line. Trent Williams (ankle) can't come back soon enough.
Q: Give us a score prediction.
Peter: Both teams are desperate, and the 49ers are coming off a short week. That said, it's a home game for the Niners with an East Coast team having to make the long trip west. Plus, San Francisco has to be angry about what happened over its previous two games. Let's go with the 49ers pulling off this one (we're a Niners site, after all), 24-17.
Thanks again to Peter for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to check out his work on Niner Noise ahead of this match-up!