The Bengals enter this game with a 3-4 record and are coming off of a 31-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals are three-point favorites in this contest.
Here are some of the key matchups to watch on Sunday:
● Washington coach Jay Gruden vs. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis
These two have great familiarity with each other. Gruden worked as Lewis’s offensive coordinator for three seasons (2011 to 2013) before leaving in January of 2014 to take the Redskins’ head coaching job. It’ll be interesting to see how this chess match plays out. Gruden obviously knows Lewis’s philosophies and tendencies, and he knows some of the personnel. But the Bengals do have a new offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator, although Gruden knows that defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, who served as linebackers coach during Gruden’s time in Cincinnati. Gruden groomed quarterback Andy Dalton and should have good insight on how Joe Barry’s unit should best attack the passer. Thus far, Gruden has done a good job of pushing the right buttons and directing the Redskins to victories in these must-win situations. We’ll see if he can do it again this week.
● Washington CB Bashaud Breeland/Josh Norman vs. Cincinnati WR A.J. Green
Another week, another talented pass-catcher for the Redskins to defend. Green leads the NFL with 50 receptions, and his 775 receiving yards rank second only to Julio Jones. Green has three touchdown receptions on the year and averages 15.5 yards per catch and 110.7 yards per game. If healthy, Norman (concussion) will draw the assignment of trying to contain Green. But if he doesn’t receive clearance to play, look for Breeland to face off with the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout, and don’t be surprised to see some safety help over the top.
●Washington RT Morgan Moses vs. Cincinnati DE Carlos Dunlap
The Redskins are hoping that left tackle Trent Williams can heal up from a knee sprain in time to play in Sunday’s game so Kirk Cousins has his best blind side protector. But there’s a tough matchup on the other edge as well. Moses will draw the assignment of trying to slow Dunlap, who has five sacks to lead the Bengals. In last Sunday’s game against Cleveland, Dunlap had a sack, three quarterback hits and four hurries.
● Washington OLBs Trent Murphy/Preston Smith vs. Cincinnati LT Andrew Whitworth
The Bengals are in a wait-and-see pattern with their top offensive lineman as well. Whitworth is in the concussion protocol. However, they have optimism that he will get the green light to play, and that’s important because even with Whitworth, Cincinnati has struggled to protect Dalton, giving up 22 sacks, second-most in the league. (By comparison, Washington has surrendered only 10 sacks in seven games). Murphy has had a hand in a sack in six straight games now, and Smith has shaken off his slow start to the season to register a sack in each of the past two weeks.
● Washington TE Jordan Reed vs. Cincinnati S Shawn Williams
If he receives the green light to play, which Reed said he fully expects, the Redskins’ offense gets back its most unstoppable weapon and Cousins’s go-to guy on third downs and in the red zone. Cousins moved his unit up and down the field last week, but they still struggled to score. Reed’s return should help there. Williams, who has an interception, 39 tackles and two pass breakups, will likely draw the task of trying to contain Reed.
● Washington ILBs Will Compton/Mason Foster vs. Cincinnati RB Jeremy Hill
The Redskins haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past two games, after getting gashed by running backs in their first five games of the season. This week they brace for Hill, who averages five yards a carry and also has four touchdowns. Washington’s defensive linemen have done a better job of taking away running lanes, but Foster and Compton still need to meet backs at the line with better quickness to contain them. The Redskins aim to take away the run and put pressure on Andy Dalton. However, if Hill gets going, it’ll make for a long day.
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