The San Francisco 49ers will come into Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday in Ohio. This is a big non conference game for both teams that has current playoff implications. For the 49ers, a win would help solidify their spot in the NFC wildcard while a loss would likely knock them out of their current wildcard spot. As for the Bengals, they are in a similar situation. They can either confirm their AFC wildcard spot or even surpass the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with a win. A loss could knock them out of the wildcard, so there is a lot on the line for the Bengals this week.
The 49ers are a one point favorite going into this game but they have had a rough season so far with a lot of bad and close losses as well as a plethora of injuries at almost every position. After winning three games in a row to get their record above .500, the 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks last week who only had three wins on the year. It was a close game but the 49ers were stopped on a goal line stand from Seattle to turn the ball over on downs and lose the game with under 30 seconds left by seven. That was the second loss to the Seahawks this year and they have suffered some other tough losses such as a two point loss to Green Bay and a loss to the Arizona Cardinals without Kyler Murray. The 49ers are a good team but many of these close losses may have gone the other way if they were fully healthy.
The Bengals are one of the surprise teams of the NFL with a current record of seven wins with five losses after getting just four wins all of last season. Joe Burrow has been great for them and he has some dangerous weapons in rookie Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Similar to the 49ers, the Bengals have suffered some bad losses on the year to two teams that are well under .500 with a loss to the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets. The issue for the young Bengals has been consistency and this will be necessary for them to hold their wildcard spot for the rest of the year. They are a good young team as their best players are rookie Ja'Marr Chase and second year quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow leads the NFL in interceptions with 14 so he will need to make better decisions in this game and as the year goes on.
Joe Burrow is expected to suit up for this game but he did suffer a finger injury to his throwing hand in week 13 that noticeably was affecting his throwing motion that is now diagnosed as a dislocated finger. This could again affect how he throws against the 49ers and it will be something to watch throughout the game. The 49ers defense will be licking their lips to get their hands on some interceptions with Burrow throwing so many and now with his finger injury he could be less accurate than usual.
The running back position for both teams could be interesting in this game as Joe Mixon is currently suffering from a non-Covid illness that forced him to miss practice Wednesday and the 49ers surprise standout rookie running back Elijah Mitchell is in concussion protocols and is unlikely to play. The 49ers already lost running backs starter Raheem Mostert, third round pick Trey Sermon, and Jeff Wilson to injury so the next man up is JaMychal Hasty who only has 52 career carries in two seasons. Former Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill was signed to the team this week to help with some running back depth.
The 49ers also will likely be without one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Deebo Samuel after he didn't practice Wednesday. George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk look like they will be heavily involved again this week against the Bengals as Kittle had nine catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns last week. He will be key for the Bengals to shut down.
The Bengals will need to protect the ball against this San Francisco defence in order to be competitive in this game. They will also need to take advantage of big plays as that is what they specialise in and the 49ers have given up a lot of big plays so far this season. Cincinnati has a good run defense that will need to stop this 49ers rushing attack that is utilised on 48.3% of their plays which is third most in the NFL. The key for the 49ers will be to continue to find success in the pass game if the Bengals are able to shutdown their rushing attack without Mitchell and Samuel who is also key to their run game.