The 49ers are now 2-point favorites over the Bengals over at DraftKings SportBook after opening up the week as 1-point underdogs.
Cincinnati is in a similar situation as the 49ers, with them both having a chip on their shoulder. The Bengals are coming off a terrible loss after two dominating wins. San Francisco is 3-0 in Eastern Time Zone games this year — let’s see if they can continue the streak.
We look at four reasons the 49ers can beat the Bengals below.
George Kittle and the Niner pass-catchers
George Kittle returning to All-Pro form was one of my three burning questions entering the season. Kittle singlehandedly dismantled Seattle last week with nine catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Not to mention that Kittle has scored in four of his previous five games. Kittle should continue to get eight-plus targets a game.
With all the clamor around Jimmy Garoppolo, it is fair to say that the pass-catchers have to play better. Brandon Aiyuk and Trent Sherfield both had moments against Seattle that they would love to get back. Aiyuk’s costly drop on third down in the fourth quarter forced the Niners to punt.
This is *not* DPI…both players were locked up with each other throughout the whole play. Tough to make that call once contact is initiated. You can see Sherfield use a mini chicken wing to box out the CB.— KP (@KP_Show) December 6, 2021
Good no call. Be mad Sherfield didn’t catch the ball. https://t.co/nxBcm5e5LV
Garoppolo had several misses in the game but he put the ball on Sherfield’s numbers to win the game and he dropped it. I loved the no-call because both of the players were hand fighting. Garoppolo throws a great ball but the game should not have come down to this. Let’s hope Garoppolo cleans it up next week.
Kyle Juszczyk, Sherfield, and Aiyuk will continue to have stress on them to make plays with Deebo Samuel’s uncertain return.
DeMeco Ryans pulling tricks with the bruised 49er defense
Niners’ defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has done everything he can to keep this team in games this year. His job got two times harder, with Emmanuel Moseley scheduled to miss a few games. Ryans’ play-calling has stayed aggressive throughout the season with bump and run coverage paired with minimal safety help.
Cincinnati has three wide receivers capable of winning on all levels of the field. Limiting explosive plays and playing with great technique is a must for the Niners secondary this week.
The 49ers have allowed the lowest yards to tight ends this season. This year, C.J. Uzomah is not a household name, but he had two big games against the Jaguars and Ravens. On the bright side, Fred Warner returned to practice Wednesday after missing the first game of his career.
Getting Warner back allows Ryans to do more creative things. The Niners quietly had one of their most productive games in getting to the quarterback last week. That trend needs to ascend as losing Moseley could leave the cornerbacks vulnerable. I think Ryans switches it up this week and does more zone-blitzing to help out the depleted cornerback group.
Joe Burrow has a turnover in his last 8 games
49er fans know the feeling of shooting themselves in the foot. Cincinnati has a lot in common with the Niners. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is the second most sacked QB, and he leads the NFL in interceptions. Burrow surrendered three turnovers (2 interceptions and was strip-sacked) against the Los Angeles Chargers last week.
His turnover streak dates back to Week 5 and the Niners cannot look past that thinking this game will be easy. The number one draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is more than capable of winning this game.
Ryans’ defense has forced at least two turnovers in their last four games. With consistent pressure, Nick Bosa and the defensive line will speed up Burrow’s process and force more bad decisions.
Relying on turnovers isn't ideal but San Francisco’s defense is on a hot streak and forcing turnovers increases the chances of winning. Burrow did not practice Wednesday as he is dealing with an injured pinky finger on his throwing hand. Not having the ability to grip the ball to his liking is another reason the defense should be licking their chops for a turnover.
San Francisco should be in do or die mode
I mentioned that the 49ers have a three-game gauntlet after the Seattle loss. San Francisco’s secondary will immediately be tested by the best receiving core of the three Sunday. Last week’s loss did not kill San Francisco’s playoff hopes, but it made it a tad bit harder.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks to get the offense back on track after going scoreless in the second half against Seattle. Garoppolo’s poor performance last week puts him on the hot seat as the Niners try to finish their playoff push. Cincinnati's porous pass defense should be exploited with the many weapons he has.