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3 keys to a 49ers victory: Brock Purdy set to play vs. Bengals

The 49ers will look to get back on track against the Bengals at home in Week 8.

Cincinnati Bengals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers had an ideal 5-0 start to the season, but have dropped consecutive games to the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings on the road.

Returning home for Week 8, the 49ers will look to get back on track in a tough contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 49ers, who stand at 5-2 on the year, are set to have quarterback Brock Purdy, who cleared concussion protocol on Saturday, but will be without wideout Deebo Samuel once again, while left tackle Trent Williams has yet to practice this week.

The Bengals, on the other hand, stand at 3-3, coming into the week fresh off their bye, and will be without only backups Chase Brown and Akeem Davis-Gaither.

Heading into the game, the 49ers are seen as 5.5-point favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the over/under placed at 43.5 points.

Here’s what you need to know about the 49ers’ opponent on Sunday.

Opponent Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals have been a story of two tales in 2023, starting the season off 1-3 with blowout losses to the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans before winning their last two games.

The health of quarterback Joe Burrow, who suffered a calf strain in training camp, has been the major concern for the Bengals over the first portion of the season.

But, Burrow looked better over the last two games, and now is poised for a better second half following a bye week where he was able to rest.

Additionally, the Bengals will hope that wideout Tee Higgins, who suffered a rib injury recently, can get back on track after averaging under 30 yards a game thus far.

Thus far, the Bengals have struggled offensively, primarily due to sporting one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL.

Cincinnati averages just 69.8 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, with the team yet to have eclipsed the 100-yard mark this season.

The passing game has also yet to truly kick off, with the Bengals averaging just 186.5 yards per contest through the air.

Defensively, Cincinnati allows 355.8 yards per game, good for 27th in the NFL, but allow just 21.2 points per game.

Can the Bengals continue their winning streak, or will it be the 49ers getting back on track in Week 8?

Keys to the Game

Run game: The most important factor in this game seems to be the running game, specifically on Cincinnati’s side.

The Bengals have really struggled on the ground, and more importantly, haven’t committed to the run, hence the fact that Cincinnati has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.

The 49ers defense is good at eliminating opponents by making them one-dimensional, which usually occurs by taking away the run, and that could be the factor in this one.

If Cincinnati is able to establish a run game, their passing game will become more lethal against this 49ers defense, but if not, then San Francisco can find ways to dial up the pressure and get the ball out of Joe Burrow’s hands quickly, eliminating explosive plays.

On the other hand, the Bengals have struggled to defend the run, allowing 142.8 yards per game, good for 29th in the NFL, and five yards per carry, good for 30th in the NFL.

That hasn’t been a good formula against the 49ers, who sport one of the more prolific rushing attacks in the NFL.

While the rushing attack has been limited recently, San Francisco has a chance to get back on track in Week 8, which could ultimately come down to the health of Trent Williams.

Getting to the quarterback: The 49ers struggled to get to the quarterback on Monday, as Kirk Cousins maneuvered the pressure well, while getting the ball out quick enough to throw for 378 passing yards on an efficient night.

Following the game, defensive end Nick Bosa acknowledged the differences between the 2022 and 2023 defenses, pointing out the blitzing and other factors, while defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said he needs to place his players in better situations.

The 49ers need to rush four more often, putting faith in their defensive line, but more importantly need to get to the quarterback, especially against Joe Burrow.

Otherwise, they’ll allow Burrow, with his calf injury, to get into a groove, and that’s where he’s been most dangerous in 2023, especially with JaMarr Chase at his disposal.

Jake Moody: In both of the 49ers’ losses, San Francisco has seen inconsistencies from their rookie kicker.

Jake Moody missed two field goals against Cleveland, including the game-winning 41-yarder, and then missed a 40-yard field goal against Minnesota.

The 49ers still showed confidence in Moody, trotting him out to kick a 55-yarder in a high-leverage situation, which he drilled, but it’s certainly an area of concern, given how close the games have been.

San Francisco may find themselves in another close battle against the Cincinnati Bengals, and could need Moody in another high-leverage situation. Can he deliver this time around?