In possibly the worst matchup of week 11 in the NFL, the two-win Cincinnati Bengals head to Washington D.C to take on the team without a nickname, who also has just two wins. The difference is that Cincinnati can be mathematically eliminated from the division race with a loss (they are currently 6.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North with seven games to play), but Washington, owners of a .222 winning percentage, is just 1.5 games behind the front-running Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. There could conceivably be a five or six-win team win the NFC East this season. Can 2020 get any more strange?
The Bengals are 6-2-1 against the spread this season after their 36-10 loss to the Steelers last week. They entered the game as a 6.5-point underdog. That broke a string of three straight games in which they had covered the spread. The over-under is 6-3 in Bengals games this season. Washington is just 3-5-1 against the spread this season, while the over-under is 4-4-1. Washington has failed to cover the spread in each of their last two games, including last week’s 30-27 loss to the Detroit Lions as a 2.5-point underdog.
Bengals playing for prideThe Cincinnati Bengals, who are the only AFC North team with a losing record this season, have nothing to play for except pride as they enter week 11 of the NFL season. The Bengals were trounced last week against the Steelers, as they gave up 333 yards passing and four touchdown passes to Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals fell behind 22-7 at halftime, and eventually trailed by a score of 36-7 early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Joe Burrow had his worst passing game of the season, completing just 52.5% of his passes for 213 yards (his third-lowest total of the season). He threw one touchdown pass and had no interceptions, but he was sacked four times in the game.
“I'm not too down in the dumps, because I know I'm not going to play like that very often," Burrow said on espn.com. "I might play like that hopefully never again -- maybe once a year."
Cincinnati did manage to run the ball effectively in the game, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, but they had to abandon the run early because of their large deficit. Samaje Perine led the way with a season-high 48 yards on seven carries, while Giovani Bernard, who got the start in place of the injured Joe Mixon, had just 30 yards on eight carries. Defensively, the Bengals held the Steelers to just 44 yards rushing and a 2.2 yards per carry average.
Leading-rusher Mixon did not practice on Thursday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. He has missed the last three games, so if he doesn’t get any practice time this week, it is unlikely that he will see the field against Washington. If he is forced to sit out again, Bernard will once again get the starting nod. He has just 173 yards rushing this season and two rushing touchdowns. He has rushed for an average of just 43 yards per game in his three games as a starter.
Cincinnati has won just one of their last five games, but Burrow has been getting better as the season has progressed (the Steeler game notwithstanding). In his three previous games before last Sunday, he averaged 322.7 yards passing per game, including a 406-yard performance against the Browns. Burrow has thrown for over 300 yards five times thus far in his rookie season. For the season, he is completing 65.4% of his passes for 2,485 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Burrow’s main target has been Tyler Boyd, who has 60 catches for 625 yards and three touchdowns, while Tee Higgins has a team-leading four touchdown receptions.
The Bengals are in the bottom half of the NFL rankings in nearly every offensive and defensive category this season. They are averaging 357.7 yards per game, while they are giving up 398.2 yards per game, which is 26th in the league. They have been outscored by an average of 27.8-22.7 per game this season. Cincinnati has a minus-nine turnover margin this season.
Besides Mixon (foot), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (concussion), cornerback LeShaun Sims (concussion), wide receiver Tee Higgins (illness), wide receiver Mike Thomas, cornerback Tony Brown, guard Alex Redmond (biceps), and Xavier Williams are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Football Team looking to stay in division race despite just two winsThe Washington Football Team have played much better in recent weeks than their 2-7 record indicates. They have lost three of their last four games, but those three losses have come by a total of seven points, and their one win in that span was a 25-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Washington quarterback Alex Smith threw for 390 yards against the Lions in his last game, his second straight 300-yard game. He has 752 yards passing in just three games this season, with one touchdown pass and three interceptions.
Running back Antonio Gibson has had a decent season for Washington, rushing for 436 yards and seven touchdowns, while J.D. McKissic has been a force in the passing game. The 27-year-old running back is second on the team with 41 catches and third with 291 yards receiving. Terry McLaurin leads the receiving corps with 57 catches for 787 yards and three touchdowns.
“That’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking for a guy with J.D.’s skill set that can do those types of things,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said in his weekly press conference. “J.D. is a Christian McCaffrey-type player. He can run the ball inside, outside. He’s a threat, most certainly, out in the route, and he understands protections.”
Washington has one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season, ranking 28th in total yards (323.9 per game), 30th in rushing yards (91.9 per game), 29th in points (20.0 per game), and 28th in turnovers (16). They do, however, have a pretty good defense. They are giving up just 24.2 points per game, and they have the best pass defense in the NFL, giving up just 194.7 yards passing per game. They are seventh in yards given up per game at 320.7 yards per game this season.
Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (hamstring), placekicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), defensive end Ryan Anderson (knee), linebacker Jared Norris (hamstring), offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas (ankle), and safety Deshazor Everett (ankle) are all listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.