On paper, one of the most lopsided matchups of the first week of the NFL season involves the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Seattle Seahawks. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 EST on Sunday, September 8 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
According to our Week 1 NFL odds, the Seahawks are favored by 9.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 44 points.
After 16 seasons under Marvin Lewis, it’s a new era in Cincinnati. Zac Taylor takes over as the new head coach of the Bengals after helping the Rams to the Super Bowl last season as the team’s quarterbacks coach. The Bengals are hoping that the 36-year-old turns out to be the next great offensive mind in football, much like his most recent boss Sean McVay.
Of course, Taylor has a long way to go to bring the Bengals to prominence. Cincinnati hasn’t made the playoffs in three straight seasons and hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. On the bright side, the expectations heading into Taylor’s first season at the helm are minimal. He’s not necessarily under a lot of pressure to win right away after the Bengals lived through an up and down 16 seasons under Lewis.
Meanwhile, things are a little different in Seattle. The Seahawks missed the playoffs two seasons ago but got back there last season after going 10-6. Seattle has made the playoffs seven times during Pete Carroll’s tenure with the team, so it’s a franchise that expects to play more than 16 games this season.
However, the Seahawks have just one division title in the last four seasons. The Rams have clearly usurped them as the top team in the NFC West. If the Seahawks don’t want to find themselves in the middle of a crowded Wild Card race late in the season, they have a lot of work ahead of them in order to overtake the Rams. That means making sure their home stadium remains a fortress and taking care of business against teams perceived to be weaker, starting with the Bengals in Week 1.
I think most people will agree that the Seahawks winning is the closest thing to a sure thing in Week 1. On the other hand, winning by double digits to cover the spread is another thing. But I think the Seahawks have enough of an advantage over Cincinnati on both sides of the ball to make this a one-sided game. I’ll take my chances with the Seahawks being able to cover.
The most impactful player in this game might be one who doesn’t play at all, and that’s A.J. Green. The Bengals were 5-4 last year in games that Green played. However, they were 1-6 when he didn’t play. That tells me everything I need to know about the Bengals and their slim chances to win this game with Green starting the season o the sidelines.
It’s not just that Green isn’t available, it’s that Andy Dalton is still the quarterback. Last year was far from his best, and even the most loyal of Dalton fans in Cincinnati are starting to jump off the bandwagon. Without Green, Dalton will rely on Tyler Boyd and the injury-prone Tyler Eifert as his top targets unless John Ross finally emerges as a viable playmaker. On the bright side, the Bengals can lean on Joe Mixon and the running game. But without Green, the Seattle defense won’t have to respect the passing game, allowing them to focus on stopping Mixon.
Speaking of the Seattle defense, the Seahawks look rather intriguing on that side of the ball heading into the season. Many of the names are different from the Seattle defenses of the past, but the Seahawks still had a borderline top-10 defense last year. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright lead the charge at linebacker, which is why I think the Seahawks will have success slowing down Mixon. The Seahawks also upgraded their pass rush by acquiring Jadeveon Clowney last week. Prior to that, there were some questions with the pass rush. But Clowney changes that and will likely create opportunities for Ezekiel Ansah and rookie L.J. Collier to rush the quarterback as well.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks are in good shape after leading the NFL in rushing last season. Even if they don’t keep up the same pace, Seattle will still have success on the ground, which will open things up for Russell Wilson, who had a career-high 35 touchdown passes last season. Tyler Lockett remains a big-play threat and rookie DK Metcalf could be one of the rare wide receivers to make an impact in his first season. Perhaps more importantly, the Bengals didn’t do much to improve a defense that gave up the third-most points in the NFL last season. In fact, they lost Vontaze Burfict, whose production won’t be easy to replace.
To be honest, I hate judging the Bengals too harshly before Week 1, especially since they have a new head coach. But this game looks like a mismatch on both sides of the ball. I worry a little because the Seattle offense isn’t that explosive unless Wilson can hit Lockett on a long pass. But I don’t think the Seahawks will have to score that many points to win by 10, so I’ll take my chances with Seattle being able to cover.