The Cincinnati Bengals could be facing their former quarterback for a third time in three years Sunday when they travel to play the New Orleans Saints.
Backup quarterback Andy Dalton has started the last two games for the Saints while Jameis Winston has been out with back and ankle injuries. While Winston’s status is unclear for this week, the potential reunion with Dalton would be fitting for a game with several similar storylines.
Former LSU stars Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase will be returning to the Superdome for the first time since they won the 2019 NCAA championship in that same facility. The game also marks the return of former Saints draft picks Vonn Bell and Trey Hendrickson to New Orleans for the first time since they left as free agents in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and Eli Apple faces one of his three previous teams after a stint there in 2018-19.
Dalton is 2-0 against the Bengals since his departure from Cincinnati in 2020, beating them while with the Cowboys that season and with the Bears last year. In those two games, he completed 25-of-34 passes for 241 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and was sacked three times, though he exited the matchup last year early with an injury.
In his two outings with the Saints this season, he has produced a better passer rating than Winston at 98.5 and a better completion percentage at 69.2 percent. He is 1-1 after leading New Orleans to a 39-32 win over Seattle on Sunday, following a 28-25 loss to Minnesota in London in his debut Oct. 2. Cincinnati is 4-10 in matchups against its former quarterbacks. The last win came in 2016 against the Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Burrow and Chase will return to the Bayou looking to get a Bengals offense on track against a Saints defense that ranks among the bottom half of the league in points allowed (25.6 per game, 25th of 32 teams) but that allows an average of just 211 passing yards (12th best).
“(The offense) is not up to the standard we think it’s capable of being, but when we’ve had to be good, we’ve been good enough to put ourselves in position to win,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “We just haven’t won. So, inconsistent I think is probably the best descriptor of where we’ve been, and that’s every part of it. That’s run game to pass game to individual performance to protection to all that stuff. It’s all factored in over the course of the season. We are what our record says we are. We’re a 2-3 football team that’s not produced and played on offense as good as we’re capable of.”
Cincinnati’s defense has been up to every challenge, and Sunday the Bengals will face a top-10 running game led by former backup QB turned utility player Taysom Hill, who rushed nine times for 112 yards and three touchdowns and threw a touchdown against Seattle.
Sunday also could be a big day for Bell, who has three interceptions in the last two games. The Saints have the worst turnover differential in the league at minus-8, and the Bengals are at plus-1 (ninth).
Hendrickson likely has some extra motivation after his 13.5 sacks in 2020 weren’t enough to keep him in New Orleans. He proved that sack total was no fluke last year when in his first season with the Bengals he produced 14 sacks. He has 2.5 sacks through five games this season.
“It’s our job to keep points off the board, and that’s where we can grow this week,” Hendrickson said Sunday on the defense’s performance to this point.
Bengals at Saints, 1 p.m.