Coming off of a tough loss to the Seahawks in Seattle, the 49ers now turn their attention towards their week 14 matchup with a very talented Cincinnati Bengals team. At 7-5, Cincinnati is firmly in the AFC playoff race, driven by an explosive offense powered by a second-year quarterback in Joe Burrow and an incredibly talented group of skill position players headlined by rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase.
So, where can the 49ers take advantage of this Bengals team? Look no further than their 27th ranked passing defense. Currently, Cincinnati is ranked in the bottom five in passing yards and passing attempts while being in the league's bottom half in net yards per attempt and opponent score percentage (based on the number of drives opposing teams score on).
This is the weak spot on Cincinnati’s defense, which boasts an above-average run defense that is top five in yards and attempts while being 10th and 11th respectively in touchdowns allowed and yards per attempt.
Defensive tackle DJ Reader was one of the more underrated signings of the offseason, who’s having a phenomenal season, regularly clogging gaps in the middle and making it extremely difficult to have sustained success rushing the football against Cincinnati’s front seven.
So with a defense that is more comfortable defending the run, it would appear the 49ers are faced with another game where they will have to be propelled by an efficient and precise passing attack led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While I don’t think they will need to ride Garoppolo’s arm to victory, I do think that they should be reliant on Garoppolo sparking the offense with a quick passing game that can replace the production that may be lacking from a rushing attack facing a tough matchup.
I do believe this will be one of the better games we see from Kyle Shanahan from a play-calling standpoint, as I fully expect Shanahan to place an extra emphasis on generating a considerable amount of yards after the catch and regularly put his best skill position players in space against a Bengals defense that is currently reeling with injuries to multiple starters.
On a side note, I expect second-year wideout Brandon Aiyuk to eclipse 100 receiving yards for the first time this season in this game.