Sporting a lovely 7-7 record after having started the season 1-6, the Arizona Cardinals travel to Cincinnati to play the 8-6 Bengals. Both teams have playoff hopes but currently are on the outside looking in. Whoever loses is eliminated, while the winner will still be an outsider for another week, unless another team's win eliminates them.
It will be a battle between young quarterbacks. Rookie Andy Dalton has started every game this season for the Bengals and, while it has not been announced, the Cardinals will likely counter with backup John Skelton for his sixth start of the season.
The Skelton story is well known by Cardinals fans. He sports a 4-1 record as a starter and has another win after he came in to replace an injured Kevin Kolb after just three offensive plays. He has been maddeningly inconsistent, looking oft times terrible and sometimes brilliant in the first three quarter. However, he has been mails in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati has been feasting on the weak this year, They have seven of their wins against sub-.500 teams. Obviously, as the Cards are 7-7 and one of the hottest teams in the league, they should pose a stiff test for the young Bengals.
The two teams have not played one another since 2007, when Antrel Rolle picked off three passes, returned two for scores and would have had a third if it weren't for a penalty that negated the TD. It is notable that coach Marvin Lewis has yet to beat Arizona, but they play each other so infrequently that it is hard to consider that significant.
It does not look to be a high scoring affair. Arizona is 22nd and Cincinnati 23rd in total offense. Both rely on their defense to keep teams close. The Bengals have the sixth best overall defense in the league, while Arizona is 20th. However, the Cards defense has allowed only eight TDs in the last seven games, a stark contrast from the first seven games of the season in which they allowed 20.
The Bengals have taken good care of the ball. Their turnover ratio is even. Arizona is -11.
A key matchup for the game will be that of a pair of rookies that know each other well. Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green is having a spectacular rookie campaign, as he has hauled in 61 passes for over 1000 yards and seven scores. For the Cardinals, rookie Patrick Peterson will cover him defensively. Peterson has been nothing short of special on special teams, as he has returned four punts for touchdowns, but has been up and down defensively. He is now, though, doing very well in coverage down the field, so it will be fun to see the two lock up. Both have had success against one another in college, both having played in the SEC (Peterson at LSU and Green at Georgia).
Both starting running backs are on the verge of milestones. Beanie Wells is six yards from 1000 on the year, while Cedric Benson needs 41 for the Bengals. Likely they will both reach it, but the team that limits the opposing back will probably find themselves in a position to win.
Statistically, both teams are very evenly matched. Arizona has scored 33 TDs, Cincinnati 32. Arizona has allowed 30, the Bengals 32. Both average just over 320 yards offensively. The Bengals hold the ball a little longer that Arizona (30:12 to 27:58).
All things point to a close game that comes down to the wire. If that is the case, you have to like Arizona's chances, who have made a habit of coming from behind late. We will soon know what will happen. Make sure to join the game thread that will be up just before the game and chat about the matchup and the broadcast.