Andy Dalton will be tested in prime time

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Nov 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) passes the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.The Bengals won 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are now 7-0 after winning a playoff type of game against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Now with complete control of the AFC North and a very confident Andy Dalton, the NFL wants us to prove it. The Bengals are now set to play five primetime games. Three of which will be played in the next three consecutive weeks.

The Cincinnati Bengals will play another division rival in the Cleveland Browns in the Battle of Ohio this week. The primetime Thursday night game will be followed by a Monday night showdown between the Bengals and the Texans. Now after Monday night football, the Bengals will take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night to complete three consecutive weeks on the big stage.

Since the Andy Dalton era first began in 2011, the Bengals are 3-7 in prime time games. Dalton has thrown the same number of touchdowns as interceptions and the Bengals completely fall apart on the big stage. This season, the Bengals look like we have taken a step forward. Seven straight wins against quality teams and a confident Andy Dalton has every one around the league wondering if this is really Cincinnati’s year to bring home a Lombardi trophy.

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With the New England Patriots dominating the AFC at 7-0 as well, how can Cincinnati prove that they are the top team in the AFC, even the league? How can Cincinnati dethrone the patriots? Simple, prove to the league that we can win under the lights.

All three of these games are certainly winnable, but Cincinnati has to make sure they take care of business in two consecutive “trap” games. Thursday night against the Browns may be the biggest trap game. Last year in the Battle of Ohio, the Browns came into Cincinnati on a week 10 primetime game and obliterated the Bengals 24-3. Cincinnati fell right into the trap and once again in a primetime game Dalton did not show up.

Dalton only completed 10 of his 33 passes and had his worse QBR since coming into the league. In a game where Cincinnati is the obvious favorite, we cannot fall into the same trap as we did last year. That goes for Cleveland as well as Monday night verse Houston.

The Houston Texans are 3-5 and are no way a threat to Cincinnati, yet this is another reason why they are a perfect game to be labeled as a trap. The team is lead by Brian Hoyer, the former Cleveland Brown quarterback that led Cleveland’s Week 10 massacre of Cincinnati last season. While Hoyer certainly has won games, no one besides DeAndre Hopkins is scary on this team. And while J.J. Watt has been lights-out as usual, the Texans defense has not played up to its potential all season.

The Bengals must play like they are capable of playing in these games. Sunday night versus the Arizona Cardinals on November 22 is a much different story. The Cardinals are 6-2 and in clear control of the NFC West. The NFC West is arguably one of the best divisions in football, but it’s the story lines around the game that makes this game a “must-win”.

For one, the top two teams of the top two divisions playing against each other. This could possibly be a preview of the Super Bowl. Not to mention the quarterback position. Andy Dalton is playing lights-out; although he didn’t play that well early in the Steelers game, he rallied and led his team to a victory. While Dalton has been playing the best football of his career, he will be facing the former no. 1 pick of the Bengals; Carson Palmer.

Carson Palmer was traded back in 2011, after he said he would never play for the Bengals again. The Bengals then drafted Andy Dalton in that years draft. Dalton has panned out and Palmer has caught flame in Arizona. Yet, this wont be the only story. The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense will be going against a couple of familiar faces; Bruce Arians, former OC of Pittsburgh and Jermaine Gresham, a former Bengal who was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft.

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These three consecutive games will show what Cincinnati is truly about. This will show the league if we are legitimate contenders or pretenders. Either way it’s time for Cincinnati to show what we are made of. This is a test, three opponents, three primetime games and hopefully three victories.

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