Last year the Cincinnati Bengals swept the AFC North on their way to winning the division championship. But that was then, and this is now.
The Bengals come into Monday night’s showdown with the Steelers with the exact opposite record that the Steelers have. The Steelers are 5-2, while the the defending champion Bengals are 2-5.
The Bengals are tied with the Cleveland Browns for last place in the AFC North. Moreover, the Bengals are in the midst of a slump that saw them go 0-4 during the month of October.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the poor start by the Bengals is that they have abandoned the formula that they used to win the division in 2009. The Bengals won the division by playing “Steeler football”; they ran the ball and played stout defense.
The Bengals were primarily a running team in 2009, and running back Cedrick Benson was the star of their offensive attack. But this year, the Bengals have thrown the ball almost 100 times more than they’ve run the ball. Cedrick Benson is an afterthought in an offense that now seems to focus on wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ocho Cinco, and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham.
In his first season with the Bengals, T.O. has emerged as Carson Palmer’s favorite target. He leads the team in receptions (45), yards (629), and touchdowns (5).
Oddly, the biggest weakness on the team seems to be Palmer himself. He’s tied for the lead in interceptions in the AFC. When pressured, Palmer has been prone to throwing errant passes. This should bode well for Steelers’ linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, who absolutely LOVE to pressure passers.
But perhaps the biggest change for the Bengals has been their defensive letdown. The Bengals were the 4th ranked defense in the NFL last season. Their defense was ranked higher than the Steelers’. But this year, the Bengals’ defense is ranked 19th in the NFL, and doesn’t seem to be able to stop anyone.
In particular, the Bengals’ rushing defense seems particularly vulnerable. They allow 120.7 rushing yards per game. This should have Rashard Mendenhall salivating. Mendenhall hasn’t had a good game since Ben Roethlisberger returned from suspension. The Bengals may be just what the doctor ordered to get Mendenhall back on track.
Of course the Steelers shouldn’t take the Bengals lightly. After all, the Bengals swept the Steelers last season. Also, the game will be played at Paul Brown Stadium in front of the Bengals’ home crowd, so they will have that advantage.
Fortunately, Steelers fans always manage to secure lots of tickets to games in Cincinnati. So I’m confident that there will be plenty of Terrible Towels waving in the crowd.
Monday Night Football has always been friendly to the Steelers as well. The Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin have won 5 straight games on MNF, and will look to make it 6 this week.
If the Steelers play their game, they should be able to beat Cincinnati, despite being on the road. The Bengals’ defense simply isn’t stout enough to stop the Steelers offense. However, the inverse is not true. The Steelers should be able to successfully shut down Carson Palmer and the Bengal’s offense.
I predict a Steelers win (that should surprise no one), by a final score of 24-13.
Here we go Steelers, here we go!
Today’s featured Steelers gear:
Not only are we Steelers bloggers, but we’re also Steelers fans. We search hard for the coolest Steelers stuff. We try to find Steelers gear that we want. Then we make you aware of them in case you want to add them to your Steelers collection.
We love this Modern & Retro reversible full zip jacket. This jacket features a great reversible look starting with an embroidered twill team name across the front of both sides; the microfiber side boasts of the current team logo in embroidered twill appliqué on the back and right sleeve with team color piping, while your retro, canvas side sports a throwback logo on the left sleeve and contrast, team color sleeves for unstoppable team spirit style that never gets boring!.
It’s like buying two Steelers jackets for the price of one. How cool is that?!!
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