2. Less Linebackers, More Speed
The biggest weakness of the Bengals’ defensive identity has been their reliance on linebackers. Instead of trending towards slimmer, more versatile personnel, the Bengals like to use hulking bodies like Vontaze Burfict and Preston Brown. This leads to issues covering tight ends and crossing routes.
As well as Burfict and Brown can defend the run, and they’re very good it, this is the week to utilize athlete Jordan Evans more. Burfict played 95 percent of available snaps last week, forcing Evans to drop down to a mere 23 snaps despite his ability to fly towards the ball.
The Chiefs will relentlessly attack the middle of the field if the Bengals are stubborn enough to play their giant linebackers with Shawn Williams near the line of scrimmage. Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce are secondary playmakers on this insane offense but have shown in recent weeks they can easily be effective top options.
Cincinnati will be without Darqueze Dennard due to a sternoclavicular injury and Nick Vigil to a knee injury. Those undoubtedly hurt as both are quality, starting-caliber back-seven players.
Missing both puts a premium on their ability to replicate the Broncos with an effective four-man pass-rush. Thankfully for them, they possess a deep rotation at defensive end alongside super star tackle Geno Atkins. Rush packages featuring three of Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, and Sam Hubbard must do their job to disrupt Mahomes.
Lawson is the most important one of the group. He only plays in nickel, which means his snaps aren’t nearly as high as his pass-rush talent would indicate. He’s devastatingly good and the best edge-creator on the roster. The Bengals must realize this and unleash him this week.