WHAT: Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
WHEN: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
WHERE: at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
ANNOUNCERS: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (field reporter)
SEAHAWKS INSIDE SCOOP
No Beast Mode, which disrupts conservative Seattle's plans in a sometimes vertically challenged offense. Running back Marshawn Lynch is out with an injury. That should help the Bengals' cause, as they attempt a 5-0 start to the season. It will be the second straight game that Lynch has missed due to a hamstring injury. He was hurt against the Bears Week 3. He missed the Seahawks' Monday Night Football game against the Lions.
Lynch has been a rare iron man at his position with a reputation for durability, among other things. He had a 61-game playing streak, one of the longest regular-season streaks for a running back, before he sat out against the Lions. Friend and backfield mate Fred Jackson is questionable with an ankle injury. The former Buffalo Bill was also injured against Detroit. With those two out, rookie Thomas Rawls will be the likely starter for the second game in a row. Rawls is no pushover. He already has a 100-yard rushing game to his credit in Lynch's absence.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The Seahawks have the NFL's second-ranked defense (278.8 yards per game). They are tied for seventh in rush defense (88.5). Seattle ranks fifth in pass defense (190.3). The Seahawks are one of just two NFC teams, along with the Redskins, with top-10 rankings in rush defense and pass defense. They are one of three teams yet to score a touchdown on the ground. Jacksonville and Miami also have not rushed for a touchdown this season.
OUTSIDE THE NUMBERS
Talented tight end Jimmy Graham is not being utilized the same way as in New Orleans where he was used almost exclusively as a receiver. He has more blocking duties in Seattle. However, the Bengals have a checkered history against good pass-catching tight ends, so Graham's activity bears watching Sunday, which has the potential for a breakout game from the former Saint. With talented multi-threat quarterback Russell Wilson, the vaunted defense and playmakers on special teams, the Seahawks have key components in place to be in every game they play with a great chance to win more than most of them, even on the road against an unbeaten team that wants to be like them.
BENGALS INSIDE SCOOP
Quarterback Andy Dalton is off to his best start on the strength of 78-of-116 passing for 1,187 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception. Reports suggest he may be responding after being booed at a celebrity softball game this summer in Cincinnati. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told reporters this week that the softball game, held Sunday before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Great America Ballpark was a “turning point” for Dalton.
The fifth-year quarterback has guided the Bengals to four straight winning seasons and four playoff berths in a row with an average of 10 wins per year, an unprecedented stretch for the team and any of its previous quarterbacks, and there have been many great ones.
Dalton is a two-time Pro Bowler, but he was booed by local fans during his first at-bat in the celebrity softball game in July. Dalton shrugged off the boos, and hit a home run. Later, he said: “I’m not worried about it."
The Bengals' offensive coordinator believes that there is more to it. “I truly believe that was a turning point for Andy,” the coach told Peter King at TheMMQB.com. “I’m not going to tell you it didn’t bother him. It did. When you have the success he has had — four seasons in the league, four times in the playoffs — getting booed in your own city, that has to hurt a bit. But he was able to hit one over the fence for a home run. And he flipped the bat. His message was sort of, ‘You might not like me now, but you’re going to love me later.'”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The Bengals feature the league's second-ranked offense (422 yards per game) against the Seahawks' second-ranked defense. Cincinnati is tied for seventh in rushing yards per game (128) while going up against Seattle's seventh-ranked rush defense. The Bengals rank fourth in pass offense, a good test for Seattle's fifth-ranked pass defense. Cincinnati is the only NFL offense with top-10 rankings in both rushing and passing. The Bengals are the only NFL team not to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
OUTSIDE THE NUMBERS
Bengals opponents up to this point have a 6-10 combined record. They have fattened up against the AFC West Division with three wins against the 2-2 Raiders, 2-2 Chargers and 1-3 Chiefs. They also beat the 1-3 Ravens. The Bengals won't have a win against a team with a winning record after this week if they beat the Seahawks, who would drop to 2-3 with a loss.