The Seahawks (3-1) head to Cincinnati this week looking to extend a three-game winning streak, while the Bengals (2-3), are looking to build off of a strong showing in last weekend's win that saw their offense get going after a slow start to the season.
"I saw a really exciting Cincinnati team play last week, and they look like they're back and rolling," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "The quarterback (Joe Burrow) looked great, the receiver (Ja'Marr Chase) looked great. They had a terrific ballgame, so I know they'll be revved up to get this thing going too against us. Here we go. Traveling on Friday, east coast, here we come. We'll get cranked up and do it again."
Ahead of Sunday's game at Paycor Stadium, here are five things to watch when the Seahawk face the Bengals for the first time in four years.
1. Can the Seahawks contain Cincinnati's explosive passing attack?
As Carroll referenced above, the Bengals pass-and-catch duo of Burrow and Chase was very impressive last weekend, with Burrow throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Chase, who had 192 yards on 15 receptions.
Burrow has battled a calf injury early in the season and didn't look himself as the offense struggled, but he looked to be all the way back last week, with Chase, the No. 5 overall pick in 2021, the main beneficiary.
Making that duo particularly dangerous is their big-play ability, with Chase having caught seven touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards since he came into the league in 2021, the most in the NFL during that time. That total included a 63-yard touchdown last week. Burrow, meanwhile, has completed 18 touchdown passes of 40 or more yards since 2021.
"Joe Burrow is a terrific quarterback," Carroll said. "He's shown that over the years, his college days. He's a big time QB. Their coach really loves to throw the football and utilize and trust him, and they have terrific receivers. Ja'Marr happens to be their top guy. You can't have a bigger game than three touchdowns and 19 targets and all of that. All of the balls that he took to the house were phenomenal. They're loaded, but that's not all. Joe Mixon is a great player too, and he makes their running game. They just have everything that you need."
The Seahawks like the growth they've seen from their secondary, especially since rookie Devon Witherspoon joined the lineup after missing the opener due to injury, but this will be the biggest test they've faced so far when it comes to a downfield passing attack.
"They present a big problem, and if they have Tee (Higgins) back, that's another guy who's one of the best in the league," said safety Quandre Diggs. "Very explosive offense, they started slow but I think they're starting to pick things up. Excited about the matchup, I haven't played these guys since Joe's been in the league so I'm excited for the opportunity. I know Cali's (Brian Callahan) over there my old quarterback coach in Detroit, it'll be good to see him also."
2. Does Seattle's pass rush pick up where it left off?
After a slow start, the Seahawks have had one of the league's most productive pass rushes, recording 16 sacks in two and a half games, including a franchise-record-tying 11 against the Giants, after having none in the first game and a half.
"We should be able to affect the quarterback consistently with who we have in rush and coverage, and the complementary calls and the guy executing the system," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "Because you got guys that were playmakers between Wagz (Bobby Wagner) and Jamal (Adams) and (Quandre) Diggs and obviously the guys we have up front. Everyone has their shots, and they've got to take advantage of those opportunities when they're there. The fun part is obviously trying to help put those guys in positions to go do that and go have fun and help raise our level of play."
And while another 11-sack game probably isn't a realistic expectation, the Seahawks feel like the grown they've seen out of their pass rush is sustainable. And considering the aforementioned explosive passing attack the Bengals possess, getting that pass rush going could be key for Seattle's defense.
"Every play is important, applying pressure when you have it and you need it," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I don't think he's been sacked this much on a first and second down so, trying to accomplish that. Third down putting him in longer yardage situations has allowed us to apply pressure. So, I think it's just not letting a guy like that just sit back there and just do all of his reads and make all of his throws. You have to be aggressive, and you have to get in his face."
3. A Seahawks offense good at protecting the football vs. a Bengals defense that excels at creating turnovers.
The Seahawks have committed only one turnover this season, the fewest in the NFL, and a stat that is music to the ears of a head coach who preaches an "it's all about the ball" philosophy. Because of the emphasis the Seahawks put on winning the turnover battle, they have consistently been one of the best teams in the NFL in that category throughout Carroll's tenure in Seattle, and to start this season they're plus-five in turnover differential, which is tied for fifth best in the league.
The Bengals, meanwhile, have been one of the league's best teams at forcing turnovers, and interceptions in particular, with their six interceptions ranking fifth in the league, and their eight takeaways ranking 10th.
Facing a tough Bengals defense on the road, Geno Smith and the entire Seahawks offense will have to take care of the football to give the Seahawks their best shot at a win.
4. Can the Seahawks recapture their momentum coming off a bye week?
In theory, a team coming off a bye week has an advantage because players are healthier and well-rested, but there is also something to be said for momentum, and at times it can be hard to recapture that after some downtime. And whether the time off has been the reason for it or not, the Seahawks have not fared well coming off their bye week in recent years, losing each of their past three games coming off the bye, including last season's home loss to the Raiders.
The Seahawks went into their bye week feeling really good about the direction of the team following three straight wins, and now the task is to recapture that momentum against a good opponent on the road.
Only the game will truly tell if the Seahawks got that done or not this week, but Carroll liked what he saw in practice this week, particularly the past two days after practicing in a downpour on Wednesday.
"Thursday and Friday were terrific days for us," he said. "We're back on track and feel very good about it."
5. Will the Seahawks continue to thrive when traveling east?
For the third time this season, the Seahawks will take a long flight east, and for the second time it will be for a game that will kick off at 10 a.m. pacific time, and they'll be looking to improve upon a very impressive record when traveling east in recent years.
For much of the Seahawks' history, going east, particularly for a game in the early kickoff slot, was bad news for the league's most geographically isolated team. But under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have erased the stigma associated with going east, and in fact the Seahawks have thrived in those games in recent seasons.
Including this year's win over Detroit, the Seahawks are 15-3 in games kicking off at 10 a.m. PT dating back to the 2018 season. And regardless of kickoff time, the Seahawks are 16-4, postseason included, playing in the eastern time zone.
Clearly the Seahawks' travel routine is working for the team, and the Seahawks will try to add to that impressive record on Sunday while looking for their first win in Cincinnati since 1993, having only played there twice since then, losing close games in 2003 and 2015.
The Seahawks and Bengals face off on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Bengals.