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Five Good Questions with Cincy Jungle

Time to talk to the other side about this week’s game

We’ve reached that portion of the week where we sit down and exchange some questions with the folks that run the SB Nation website covering this week’s Minnesota Vikings opponent so that we can learn a bit more about them.

This week, the Vikings will have a Saturday matinee against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium to kick off the NFL’s Week 15 Saturday tripleheader of action. Yours truly exchanged questions with Anthony Cosenza of Cincy Jungle, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to the Cincinnati Bengals. Once he posts my answers to his questions, I’ll get them onto our site and linked here. For now, here are the questions that I sent his way, along with his answers.

1) Like the Vikings, the Bengals will be going with a backup quarterback this week, that being former Vikings practice squad member Jake Browning. How much, if at all, has the Cincinnati offense changed with Browning at the controls from what the Bengals were doing with Joe Burrow behind center?

That’s up for debate. When Browning was thrown into the fire against Baltimore when Joe Burrow went down mid-game, they predictably stuck with the plan they had in place for that contest. Supposedly, they saw enough from Browning in a couple of quarters that they decided to stick with that same plan the following week against Pittsburgh, which led to mixed results (and that’s being kind).

Things appeared to have been altered and/or pared down the past couple of games. They implemented many more runs with backs (63 team carries the last two weeks) to lighten the load, as well as more RPO plays, quick-hitters and bootlegs. In short, they’ve cut the playbook to plays that specifically fit Browning’s skills and preferences, even if they somewhat-resemble that of Burrow’s.

Along with this is the Bengals’ offensive line being asked to be placed into fewer true pass protection sets. This plays to their strength as a unit of, well, strength, given their sheer size and skill sets.

2) The Bengals appear to have had their struggles on defense this year, as they’re currently second-to-last in the league in yardage allowed. Do you think that’s an accurate reflection of how the Bengals’ defense has played, and how would you go about attacking them if you were the Minnesota offense?

They have had issues and it’s been both because of their own vulnerabilities, but also other elements outside of their control. With Burrow’s early-season calf injury, the offense was ineffective for the first month of the year and consistently put the unit in precarious positions.

Still, tackling hasn’t been as sound, growing pains from a young secondary and their inability to find pass-rush ability from rotational players have all been issues. However, things have trended up the last three starts under Browning. They Bengals have allowed 20.3 points per game in the last three contests, but there’s a pick-six in there from last week and are averaging three sacks per contest, along with a turnover forced per game.

They’ve also shored up the run defense the past couple of weeks, allowing just an average of 58.5 yards per game on the ground the past two games. This has been a quiet key to their success of late.

3) These two teams come into this one with identical 7-6 records, but the Vikings are currently in the NFC playoff picture while the Bengals are on the outside looking in on the AFC side. How confident is the fan base that their team can climb over the teams they need to in order to make the AFC playoffs?

I think people are just enjoying the ride right now, honestly. When Burrow went down, everyone predictably went into “mock draft mode”, but this team has rallied behind Browning and his efficient style of play. The last two wins were huge because the Bengals had previously dug themselves into a bad conference record hole, so two AFC wins helps.

It would seem that the Bengals can afford no more than one more loss the rest of the way, which is daunting, but they do face three backup quarterbacks in the final four games (Vikings, Steelers and Browns). And, while the Chiefs in Arrowhead is always a struggle (the other game on the schedule), Kansas City appears more beatable this year than in previous ones.

So, I think there’s optimism, but the margin for error and slip-ups is pretty thin. Still, this team’s outlook, attitude and confidence level hasn’t wavered all that much after losing (at least not in recent weeks), which speaks a lot to the players and the coaching staff.

4) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Bengals that you feel will play a significant role if the Bengals are to win on Saturday.

Rookie first-round pick Myles Murphy is a rotational player up front on defense, but he’s been getting more snaps and having more of an impact of late. He has a sack (two total on the year) and a run stuff throughout the past few games. They aren’t huge numbers, but he’s been a presence.

Is Chase Brown still “under the radar”? He came back from an IR stint a few weeks ago and has been part of the major uptick in featuring the running backs. He had the explosive screen pass touchdown catch last week and close to seven yards per carry against Jacksonville. He brings a blend of speed, power and one-cut explosiveness.

5) The folks at the DraftKings Sportsbook have installed the Bengals as a 3-point favorite in this one, though that number has gone down about a point from when the lines opened. How do you see this one turning out? Do you think the Bengals will cover that number?

I think it’s a pretty fair line, but I may not be the best person to ask. I thought the Bengals were going to get blown out against the Jaguars and barely lose against the Colts and it was a total one-eighty from that in each of those.

This should be a close one, I’d think. The one wild card is that the Bengals have already faced Josh Dobbs once this year and had some success against him when he was with Arizona and now are set to face Nick Mullens at quarterback.

Thanks to Anthony for taking the time to answer our questions for this week!