Cincy Jungle contributor Patrick Judis answered some of my questions regarding their squad and this weekend’s match-up.
Battle Red Blog: When Joe Burrow went down, I think the whole league was devastated for Cincinnati. He looked so strong in his first year and reminded me of shades of Deshaun Watson. Since Burrow went down, what are the season’s goals for the team?
Patrick Judis (@PatrickJudis): Burrow really did change the entire feel of this team. They may not have been winning games, but you could tell they were headed in the right direction.
When he went down, I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that no one expected us to win another game, which made Monday night’s upset of the Steelers all the more surprising. The expectations are that this team needs to find ways to win under Zac Taylor, and last week went a long way to help the head coach earn some respect. At this point, wins are more important than picking third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
BRB: Name one player on offense and defense the Texans should keep an eye out for on Sunday.
PJ: Defensively, the Bengals have the best kept secret in the NFL with safety Jessie Bates. He has been Pro Football Focus’ top safety of 2020, and this defense depends a lot on him making plays from center field. He has a great nose for the ball, and it shouldn’t be surprising to see him make a game-changing play when he gets a chance to make a jump on the ball.
Offensively, I guess running back Giovani Bernard is the best person to list here. The offense is pretty lost without Burrow, and if the defense didn’t set them up several times with short fields, this offense still would’ve looked pretty helpless.
The offense did a good job of surprising Pittsburgh’s offense by running the read option with Ryan Finley, which helped open up a few lanes for Bernard. They will need Bernard to go off again to hopefully get a win streak going.
BRB: How hot is Zac Taylor’s seat right now? Was Monday night’s win over the Steelers possibly a “fight for Coach” win?
PJ: The win last week may have been enough to save him for one more year. I think the major thing holding him back is his unwillingness to move on from assistants and coordinators who aren’t doing well enough. Offensive line coach Jim Turner has been terrible developing talent and has plenty of baggage from his time with the Dolphins and the bullying that happened there. Lou Anarumo’s defense has relied on talented players to make big plays, but there hasn’t been much in the way of adapting to the talent that is actually on the roster.
Taylor will be back next season, but there are plenty of reasons why he should be changing up his staff if that happens.
BRB: Former Texan Christian Covington has seen a lot of playing time this season on the D-line, especially after another former Texan D.J. Reader went down. How has Covington looked this season?
PJ: Covington has shown flashes of being a key rotational player in the middle. The Bengals love having a few players in the middle to come in and keep fresh bodies in the middle of the defense. There is reason to believe Covington could develop into a true starter and not just a rotational piece, but be needs to be more consistent with being able to flash he disruptive potential.
BRB: What is your prediction for Sunday?
PJ: Monday night was great, and I’m happy for the players that they got a chance to win against such a big rival. I think this team is playing like their livelihoods are on the line.
When it comes to this point in the season when teams meet that aren’t really playing for anything, it comes down to who really wants it more. I think there are enough talented players on this team that are playing for contracts that the Bengals may have the edge. The players have also been very vocal about getting their first road win.
Cincinnati’s defense carries them to another very close win despite Deshaun Watson’s best efforts.
Bengals 20, Texans 17.