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49ers vs. Bengals: Previewing The Cincinnati Bengals

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The San Francisco 49ers are traveling to Ohio to face the Bengals this weekend, which means it's time for a preview. Unfortunately, time is not an abundant resource for me this week, so I will not be doing any film analysis on this post. Yep, no blurry images for you guys. What I can provide you, though, is a look at how the Bengals have performed on the surface this season and see how the 49ers match up with them.

Thanks to a fourth quarter comeback, the Bengals won their week one matchup with the Cleveland Browns despite quarterback Andy Dalton being knocked out of the game. They outscored the Browns 14-0 in the final quarter. Last weekend, with Dalton back at the helm, their comeback fell short against the Broncos after being outscored 10-3 in the first half.

Let's take a closer look at the Bengals after the jump.

Injury Report (As of Wednesday, September 21)

DE Robert Geathers: Did not participate (shoulder)
G Otis Hudson: Limited participation (knee)
S Taylor Mays: Full participation (knee)
LB Dontay Moch: Did not participate (foot)

Note: None of these players are listed as starters on the Bengals' depth chart

UPDATE: Cedric Benson has been suspended for three games, but he is appealing the suspension, which means he is eligible to play against the 49ers.

Team Statistical Rankings

Total Offense: 338 yards per game - 19th
Rushing Offense: 105.5 yards per game - 15th
Passing Offense: 232.5 yards per game - 18th

The Bengals offense is pretty middle of the pack in both categories. It's obviously a small sample size and Dalton threw for over 300 yards last week so it did skew the passing offense numbers. I'm not too worried about stopping Cedric Benson and their running game. As it's been for awhile now with the 49ers, I'm most worried about stopping the pass. Hopefully against a rookie quarterback, Vic Fangio finally turns up the heat with more elaborate blitzes.

Total Defense: 301.5 yards per game - 9th
Rushing Defense: 107 yards per game - 16th
Passing Defense: 194.5 yards per game - 8th

They are middle of the pack so far this season defending the run. Unfortunately, the 49ers' offensive line hasn't exactly blown defenders off the ball this year. If Jim Harbaugh keeps playing things conservatively...err I mean...close to the vest, then the offensive line is going to have to do a better job run blocking. Looking at the numbers, the Bengals have done well against the pass, but the Browns aren't exactly an elite passing team and the Broncos ran about 60 percent of the time last weekend. I don't think they are as good against the pass as they look on paper.

Keys to the game

Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line
If Alex Smith has time to throw, he can be effective as a passer. The same goes for Gore. If you give him room to run, he will gash the Seahawks for 200 yards (twice). The offensive line has probably been the biggest disappointment of the season so far, along with play-calling. Perhaps the two are connected? With all of the draft picks that have been invested in the offensive line, they have to perform better.

Stop the run
Make the Bengals depend on their rookie quarterback. Dalton's safety blanked at this point is Cedrick Benson. From what I've seen in the past, the 49ers don't really struggle as much with bigger backs, which Benson is. The 49ers are pretty tough to run on in between the tackles. If the 49errs can shut him down, then they can really turn up the heat on Dalton and force him to make mistakes or take sacks.

Pressure Andy Dalton
Oh man, look at that transition I just set up right there. I literally just talked about pressuring Dalton in that last paragraph right? Defensive coordinators usually blitz inexperienced quarterbacks early to see how if they can beat the blitz. I expect Vic Fangio to do the same on Sunday. Let's hope the 49ers can make the Bengals rethink those "red" flags Dalton had before the draft this year.