It's not a rematch of their 1980s Super Bowls, but the Bengals and 49ers showdown on Sunday is certainly not devoid of significant ramifications. The winner of Sunday's game will increase their odds at qualifying for the payoffs, while the loser will lose valuable ground in their respective playoff race.
At 7-5, the Bengals are currently the sixth seed in the AFC standings. The 49ers are holding on to the seventh and final spot in the NFC playoff bracket with five weeks remaining in the regular season. Both teams are looking to get back on track following disappointing Week 13 losses. The Bengals dropped a 41-22 decision at home to the Chargers, while the 49ers fell to .500 following last Sunday's 30-23 loss to the Seahawks.
We'll preview the game along with giving our prediction for Sunday's outcome. Here's how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
When the Bengals have the ball
For the first time since practicing against each other at Ohio State, Joe Burrow and Nick Bosa will square off against one another on the gridiron. Burrow is looking to bounce back after his two-interception performance against the Chargers, while Bosa is surely hoping to add to his current sack tally of 12 during Sunday's game. The Bengals are hoping that receiver Tee Higgins (ankle) and running back Joe Mixon (illness) can play after both players were listed as questionable on the Bengals' final injury report. The 49ers will be without starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who is dealing with a groin injury.
If Higgins and/or Mixon can't play, Burrow will relay more on receivers Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, tight end C.J. Uzomah and running back Samaje Perine to move the ball against the 49ers' defense. While they are 20th in the NFL in scoring, San Francisco possesses one of the NFL's toughest pass defenses, led by Emmanuel Moseley, Jimmy Ward, K'Waun Williams and Josh Norman. It's imperative that the Bengals are able to run the ball against the 49ers, who are 18th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and 21st in yards per carry allowed.
Why the 49ers have the ball
The big question is whether or not Deebo Samuel will be able to suit up after he was listed as questionable for the game. Samuel was able to practice on a limited basis on Friday after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, which is a good sign for the 49ers. The 49ers will be without running back Elijah Mitchell, which means that Jeff Wilson Jr. will receive the bulk of the carries on Sunday.
The 49ers will surely look to attack the middle of the Bengals' defense, as Cincinnati will be missing inside linebacker Logan Wilson. While the 49ers will likely find resistance on the ground against the Bengals' formidable run defense, they should be able to throw the ball against a secondary that has allowed the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL. Jimmy Garoppolo will have to be leery of being too cavalier when he tests the Bengals' secondary, however, as Cincinnati is tied for 13th in the NFL in interceptions.
In a game between eventually matched teams, whoever wins the turnover battle will likely be the team that comes away with the win. While Burrow is probably a more skilled passer than his counterpart, his penchant for throwing interceptions gives the 49ers a slight edge in a game between two playoff hopeful teams. The Bengals' injury concerns at the skill positions is also a reason to go with the slightly favored 49ers.
Score: 49ers 27, Bengals 21