The Cincinnati Bengals (4-0) are looking for legitimacy at home at 1 p.m. ET Sunday when they welcome in an NFC West foe. They are meeting the Seattle Seahawks (2-2). Here are things to watch for during the game:
Why watch? On display Sunday will be a battle of wits between University of Pacific alum Hue Jackson and Pete Carroll. Engineer of the Seahawks' famed "Legion of Boom" defense, Carroll will be out to counter Jackson's every creative move on the Bengals' offense. As Cincinnati's offensive coordinator the past two seasons, Jackson has installed in the Queen City a truly explosive scheme that rests upon the big-play ability of his various receivers and running backs, and quarterback Andy Dalton's apparent precise passing ability. Jackson has said he doesn't mind long drives, but he prefers having an offense that can stun a defense by scoring quickly on a big chunk play. Some of the more creative wrinkles Jackson's offense has featured this season include rookie offensive tackle Jake Fisher catching a pass, having other linemen go out into the slots, and implementing a slew of pre-snap motions and formation switches. Last year, Jackson also had receiver Mohamed Sanu throwing passes, including one that Dalton caught for a touchdown. Sanu has yet to throw a pass this season.
Before he was drafted in 2012, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson trained with Sanu. He's known about Sanu's athleticism since then. During a conference call with Bengals reporters this week, Wilson joked that he'd "tell our defense to watch out for him throwing it." Don't rule a Sanu pass out of the realm of possibility this week. The Seahawks entered Week 5 with the league's second-ranked defense.
Keep your eyes peeled ... On the first half. Cincinnati has made it a habit of owning the first two quarters this season, outscoring opponents, 66-18. The Bengals' defense has yet to allow a first-half touchdown. Seattle's offense has only scored one through the first four games. As a result of those statistics, much of the talk all this week revolved around the Bengals' ability to get off to fast starts and to sustain them. In fact, the Bengals have gotten off to so many good starts that they have only trailed for one minute, 58 seconds all year. These types of leads have had a very real impact on play calling, too. They have permitted Jackson to be more creative at virtually any point of a game, and they have allowed defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to vary the types of blitzes and line pressures he brings. Another quick lead could be promising for a team out to remain undefeated.
Did you know? Dalton has quite the impressive history with teams from the NFC. He boasts a 12-3-1 all-time record against those squads, and that includes a win at Seattle as a rookie in 2011. He's posted a passer rating of 100 or above in five of his past seven games against NFC teams. His career high was 143.9, set last November at New Orleans. Many of Dalton's games against the NFC have been close, too. His three losses have come by a total of 12 points, and 11 of the wins have been decided by an average margin of 10.7 points. This is Dalton's first game against an NFC foe this season.