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Showdown at the AFCN Corral


Oh, no, no, no, you pusillanimous turd. You do not get your seat on the bandwagon back, not after you spectacularly bailed after week one. Check back in when you’ve grown sufficient testicular fortitude to stand by your convictions for longer than three hours, m’kay?

Well. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, on to the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom I am reliably informed are not the same team that the Bengals beat back in week 3. Well, good for them, because the Bengals aren’t the same team that beat the Steelers in week 3, either.

They’re better.

Drive-killing miscues on the offensive line have faded, and what was widely believed to be a fatal weakness going into 2009 has instead become a strength. Defensively, there’s the Colts, the Patriots…and the Bengals. RB Cedric Benson has smashed his way the MVP conversation, and CBs Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph have blossomed into an elite pair of NFL corners.

And that’s just scratching the surface. QB Carson Palmer has shaken off the rust of missing 12 games last season and most of the preseason this year. He’s getting in sync with WR Laveranues Coles, who had arguably his best game as a Bengal — six catches, 72 yards — last week. And, of course, there’s still Ocho Condimento.

The defensive line is still producing sacks — five in the last two games — despite the loss of DE Antwan Odom, and pressuring QBs into incompletions and interceptions. And they haven’t allowed more than 87 yards rushing in the last four games.

Oh, and we replaced our crappy long snapper, so now we don’t miss extra points or chip-shot field goals any more. Always handy.

Will the Bengals emerge victorious Sunday? The answer isn’t as important as the question itself. For a long time, the question has been “can the Bengals beat the Steelers?” There’s no longer any doubt about that. The answer is an unqualified yes. The 2009 Bengals are quite capable of beating any NFL team you care to name. But will they? That remains to be seen. However, they’re undefeated on the road, undefeated in the division, are better than they were the last time they faced Pittsburgh — and frankly this game is more important to them than it is to the Steelers. After Cincinnati, Pittsburgh doesn’t have a team left on its schedule with a winning record. Lose this weekend, and 13-3 is still more likely than not. The Bengals, meanwhile, have games against Minnesota, San Diego and the New York Jets remaining. So for all those reasons, I like the Bengals Sunday.