It’s Time For A Bengals-Cardinals Preview

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This is a really evenly matched game. The Cardinals are hot, having won 6 of their last 7 and improving their record to 7-7. The Bengals are cooling off a bit, but they still hold the better record at 8-6. This game shouldn’t be looked at as an opportunity to ‘take care of business’ because I would argue that the Cardinals have been playing just as good as the Bengals, if not better, recently.

Personally, I think last week’s performance against the Rams would have only beat one team – the Rams. Especially the way the Colts are playing now. The Bengals offense only had one option available to them early in the game, target AJ Green. The other receivers didn’t step up and the run game was crap. There’s a lot of things that went wrong in the Rams game, but the important thing is that we got the win, and we ‘took care of business’. I know Marvin isn’t satisfied with that performance though, and hopefully the Bengals put together some solid days of practice this week.

On to the Cardinals, here’s a few keys to the game:

1. Make Beanie Wells Disappear: The Cardinals big runningback can have huge days, and he can also disappear for only 20-50 yards in a game. I should know, he’s been on my fantasy team in my money league. If the Bengals can stop Beanie Wells early, then the Cardinals will abandon the run and turn to their QB, John Skelton. However, if the Bengals don’t stop Beanie Wells in the first two quarters, the Cardinals will continue to ram the ball down the throat of the Bengals D.

It helps that Beanie has been running with a nagging injury for the past month or so. He’s actually questionable for this game, but still expected to play and start. His average yards per carry has seriously dropped recently, but he’s still a very good goal-line back. The Bengals must work hard to group tackle him and bring him to the ground.

2. Go Deep With AJ: Here’s some fun stats: Bengals receiver AJ Green actually leads the league in receptions of over 35 yards with eleven such receptions. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is second with nine. Green has had at least one catch of 35-plus yards and six total in his last 5 games played. Green is also 5th in the NFL with nineteen catches of 20 yards or more. The Cardinals have been susceptible to the deep ball this season, surrendering 54 completions over 20 yards, which is fifth-worst in the league.

The Cardinals may choose to have a deep safety all game to limit AJ Green and his deep-catch potential. If they do that, it tends to leave only seven men in the box to defend the running game. Which means the Bengals will run the ball often. Fortunately, starting RT Andre Smith and FB Chris Pressley are probable for this game after missing the last game. And that may mean a big day for Benson.

3. Don’t Let Patrick Peterson Bring One Back: Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has already proven himself a master in the return game. He has brought back 4 punt returns for touchdowns this year. Peterson also ranks second in the NFL in average punt return yardage (15.9) and he will be the fifth top-ten punt returner that the Bengals have faced this season.

Fortunately, the Bengals punt coverage team is up to the task. Only one of these returners was able to bring back a return longer than 15 yards, which was Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown during his 60-yard punt return TD. They’ve allowed an average of only 7.6 yards per return.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

CB Nate Clements vs. WR Larry Fitzgerald: Clements has faced Fitzgerald several times before in his career when Clements was with the San Fransisco 49ers. In their last 5 matchups, the all-pro receiver has topped 75 receiving yards only once. Clements had a great game last week against the St. Louis Rams; he’ll need to step up again big time this week.

WR AJ Green vs. CB Patrick Peterson: Green will face one of the bigger corners in the NFL with Peterson this week. Peterson is just over 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, meaning Green will really have to step up the physical part of his game. However, Peterson hasn’t exactly done well in coverage this year. AJ should be able to jump up and over Peterson in this matchup.

INJURY UPDATE

WR Andre Caldwell is the only Bengal on the active roster that will miss this game due to injury. RT Andre Smith, FB Chris Pressley, and RB Brian Leonard are all probable to play this week after missing last week’s matchup. LT Andrew Whitworth missed the first two practices of this week with a knee injury, but he returned to practice and is also probably. Most importantly, AJ Green is probable after being limited in practice all week with a shoulder separation. Green will probably need to have a few cortisone shots during the game to reduce the pain. On defense, almost everybody is healthy!

Unfortunately, the Arizona Cardinals are equally healthy. No one of importance missed practice this week, but QB John Skelton will make the start over the recovering Kevin Kolb. Skelton is a backup QB, but the Cardinals have experienced success with Skelton under center. The Cards are 5-1 since Skelton has taken over.

STRIPEHYPE’S GAMEPLAN

This is a conservative gameplan, since both teams have solid defenses and inconsistent offenses. The Bengals rank a little better on both sides of the ball in terms of season averages, but the Bengals must not take this matchup lightly.

They need to play high-percentage football here. That means run the football, play good defense, and limit the turnovers. That’s how the Bengals have won all year. Stop the other team’s offense quickly and get our offense as many chances as possible. QB Andy Dalton has cooled off a bit in the last few weeks, and he’ll need as many drives as possible to get the offense truly going. The secondary wideouts must step up, as Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden pointed out earlier in the week, “The other guys just have to do a better job of taking advantage of opportunities.”

RB Brian Leonard will be back this week, which will help on third down. The Bengals have only converted 8 of 24 third down attempts in the last 2 games (when Leonard was absent).

The Bengals defense needs to take advantage of John Skelton in the Cardinal’s backfield. He has thrown 10 interceptions in his five games as a starter, and the Bengals must capitalize. Not to mention, the Bengals offense can’t turn the ball over themselves. Dalton was picked against the Rams, and Benson fumble the ball 3 times (he hadn’t fumbled all year before this). Fortunately, the Bengals recovered all 3 fumbles and the interception wasn’t too costly.

In the end, I think we will see an improved Bengals offense and defense this week. Having everyone (realtively) healthy really helps. The Bengals will be able to run the ball a bit better than they did last week with Andre Smith and Pressley returning. And the Bengals D-line will continue to wreak havok against opposing QBs.

Prediction: Andy Dalton’s 4th- quarter TD drive puts the Bengals up by 4 late in the game. A close and exciting game, but too close for comfort. Bengals 24-20.