The Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) head across the Atlantic Ocean to battle the Washington Redskins (4-3) in front of an international crowd this Sunday.
Current Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis traveled to London back in July of 1988. As part of an internship for African-American coaches, Lewis was an instructing novice for Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers. The same year that ended with a Super Bowl XXIII victory over the Bengals started with an exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium.
On Sunday, Lewis will return to that same venue where the Dolphins beat the 49ers that day over 28 years ago. This time, however, Lewis will be on the sidelines as the head honcho of the Bengals, not an apprentice with the late Dennis Green under Walsh and the Niner dynasty of the 1980s.
Cincinnati (3-4) once again broke a two-game losing streak with a victory at Paul Brown Stadium. Facing the winless Cleveland Browns, the Bengals tallied 559 yards of offense — most since Oct. 1990 — in route to a 31-17 victory, helping them pull within a game of Pittsburgh for the top spot in the AFC North.
One week after beating his former offensive coordinator (Hue Jackson), Lewis does not have to wait long to see another familiar face coaching against him. The Redskins are led by Jay Gruden, former offensive coordinator under Lewis from 2011-2013, helping mentor quarterback Andy Dalton during the early stages of his career.
After winning a division title last season, Gruden’s Redskins have shaken off an 0-2 start to win four of its last five contests. Last week against Detroit, a late touchdown drive led by Matthew Stafford snapped Washington’s hopes of a five-game winning streak in a 20-17 decision.
Kirk Cousins and Dalton are dubbed very similar, but different. Both put up great numbers, but receive, by some, a fair amount of scrutiny. Cousins was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Redskins, 100 picks after selecting Robert Griffin III with the no. 2 overall pick by trading four picks to the St. Louis Rams. For the past three seasons, it was a juggling match between Cousins and Griffin.
In 2013 & ’14 combined, Cousins threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (14) as the Redskins were 2-9 in the game he appeared in. A concussion injury in the preseason sidelined Griffin in 2015, and Cousins never relinquished the starting role while RGIII was only active for one game.
Cousins tallied a career year — throwing for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, leading Washington to its second division title since the turn of the century.
So far in 2016, Cousins has passes for 10 scores compared to six picks, good for an overall passer rating of 92.3
By contrast, Dalton has never had to worry about his starting role. In 2011, the Bengals took him in the second round and its been his offense ever since, leading the team to two AFC North title and five postseason trips.
Dalton has continued where he left off in 2015; when he was an MVP candidate through November. In seven games, the Bengals are 23rd in points per game (20), but Dalton is fourth in passing yards (2,065), third in yards per attempt (8.39), is one of two QBs in the AFC to start every game and have an overall passer rating of 100-plus (Phillip Rivers), and has not thrown an interception in a career-high four games (139 pass attempts).
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) October 28, 2016
As Morrison’s tweet suggests, it’s very rare for a team to have a completely healthy 53-man roster just one week near the halfway mark of the season. However, that’s the boat the Bengals sail in right now. Jeremy Hill was a full go in practice and for travel to the UK after missing most of the final quarter against Cleveland with a chest/arm injury.
Meanwhile for the Redskins, its injury report is lengthy with 10 total questionables. Only running back Matt Jones, who has 533 yards from scrimmage this season, has been officially ruled out with a knee injury.
Notable game-time decisions include tight ends Vernon Davis (groin) and Jordan Reed (concussion), as well as defensive back Josh Norman (concussion/wrist) and wide out Jamison Crowder (groin). You can see the full list here.
The Bengals will hope to bring a running game that led them to a 559-yard outing against Cleveland last week. Hill tallied his first 100-yard outing since his rookie campaign, pounding out a career-high 168 yards on nine carries and a 74-yard touchdown. Giovani Bernard and Rex Burkhead added 103 combined rushing yards, too.
Washington ranks 25th against the run this season, yielding nearly 120 rushing yards per contest.
- The Bengals are 15-5-1 against the NFC since 2011
- Cincinnati hasn’t lost multiple games against the opposing conference since 2010
- Washington defense: 25th v. run, 20th v. pass, tied-18th in scoring
- Cincinnati defense: 23rd v. run, 16th v. pass, tied-18th in scoring
- Washington offense: 13th run, 3rd pass, tied-16th in scoring
- Cincinnati offense: 9th run, 4th pass, 23rd in scoring
- Redskins have been in five games decided by one possession (3-2)
- Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan have combined for 12 of the Redskins’ 19 sacks this season
- Dalton has thrown 40 touchdown and just 17 interceptions in 20 career games against the NFC (14-5-1)