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Cardinals vs. Bengals preview: Sunday Night Football matchup features '2 eerily similar' teams

Cincy Jungle joins us to talk about the big game.

The day is finally here. The Cincinnati Bengals, sitting at 8-1, are in town to play the Arizona Cardinals, who sit at 7-2. It is is by far the best matchup of the week, and everyone in America can watch it. To preview the game, Scott Bantel from SB Nation's Cincy Jungle answered a few questions for me. He also was a guest on our Revenge of the Birds Radio podcast.

Here is what he answered:

What exactly has happened with the Bengals offense recently? Yes, they blew out Cleveland in the second half, but Pittsburgh and Houston really made things tough. Is there concern for the offense against Arizona, who has one of the top statistical defenses in the league?

The Bengals have a tough task going up against a very good Cardinals defense and I think that is where the concern lies. I don't sense any concern though regarding the offense. As you mentioned, they were clicking against the Browns two weeks ago, and the Texans game was more self-inflicted issues - penalties, drops and fumbles. Going into that game, Tyler Eifert had three drops on the season. He had three drops (and one wrong route) in that game alone - all of which would have been first downs and would have extended drives. Eifert is very sure-handed and I don't anticipate those drops becoming a problem and bleeding into this game.

The Steelers game was just simply two heated rivals playing tough football. The Bengals/Steelers rivalry is one of the better rivalries right now in the NFL and is just an extremely difficult and physical rivalry and as the Cardinals found out, it is tough to score a lot of points in Pittsburgh, even when the defense is not as strong as it once was. As long as the offensive line can provide Andy Dalton some time, I think the offense will be able to put up points. The question will be, will it be enough points against an equally explosive Cardinals offense?

What is it that the Bengals do well on defense? Where are they vulnerable?

The Bengals strength on defense is their defensive line. Geno Atkins is one of the best defensive tackles in the league and can push the pocket in the middle and Carlos Dunlap is amongst the league leaders in sacks. But, what makes this line so good and effective is their depth. The Bengals rotate seven or eight linemen each game in an effort to keep their linemen fresh, and it works - the Bengals are tied for sixth with 26 sacks through nine games. Unfortunately, with Michael Johnson out this week, the line will not be as deep as normal.

As for vulnerabilities, the Bengals weakness on defense is at the linebacker position. While the return of Vontaze Burfict has made this less of a weakness, he is still not 100  percent and this is where teams will try and exploit the Bengals -- particularly in pass coverage. If I were an opposing offensive coordinator (unfortunately I am not), I would look to get someone matched up on Rey Maualuga or Vontaze Burfict. If you can get a good pass catching tight end or running back matched up on one of those linebackers, it will normally turn out favorable for the offense.

The season has been very good (obviously) so far for Cincy. What has been the biggest surprise, what has been most satisfying and what has been the biggest disappointment through nine games?

The biggest surprise thus far has been the 8-0 start. This is a good football team and I had them winning the division, but due to the difficulty of their schedule (second-toughest at the start of the season), I had them winning the division at 11-5. Even the most optimistic of Bengals fans didn't have them 8-0 at the midway point.

It is hard not to point to the loss to a bad Texans teams as the biggest disappointment, but I would have to say the biggest disappointment thus far has been the play of Jeremy Hill. As a rookie in 2014, Hill compiled 929 yards and 5.4 yards per carry over the last nine games of the season, both NFL highs during that stretch - ending the season with 1,124 yards, 5.1 YPC and 9 rushing touchdowns. As a result, Hill entered the season as the starter and Bengals fans (including myself) were extremely high on Hill and putting him up there as a top five back. Through nine games in 2015, Hill has only 359 yards and is averaging a pedestrian 3.2 YPC. Though he does lead the team with 5 rushing touchdowns, he has been extremely ineffective everywhere else and the offense seems to come to a halt when he enters the game. He had some fumble issues early in the year and tweaked his knee a bit, so possible the knee or fumbling concerns are in his head, but if the Bengals want to make a deep run in the playoffs - especially once the weather gets colder - they are going to need their big back (6'2", 240 pounds) to get going.

What do you expect the Bengals to try to do to slow down the Cardinals offense?

The key for the Bengals will be pressure on Palmer. Palmer is having an MVP caliber season and when he has time in the pocket, few quarterbacks throw a prettier ball- he is like a human jugs machine! However, as this Bengals team knows, Palmer does not operate well without a clean pocket. When the pressure starts getting to Palmer - especially when defenders are around his feet - Palmer has a tendency to make head scratching throws where he appears not to see a defender - generally a safety or a linebacker over the middle. The Bengals are tied for sixth in the NFL with 26 sacks and should be able to put some pressure on Palmer, especially with Geno Atkins coming right up the middle. Even if they don't sack Palmer, they need to make him uncomfortable back there. However, if the Bengals pass rush can't get to Palmer, it will be a long day for the Bengals.

Bottom line -- who is the better team, the Cards or the Bengals? Why? And who will win on Sunday?

That is a tough question and I am going to take the easy way out and say it is a push, because I think these are the two most balanced and well-rounded teams in the NFL and both are eerily similar. You have the number two scoring offense (Arizona) facing off against the number one scoring defense (Cincinnati) and the Bengals have held their last three opponents to just 10 points apiece. That being said, the Bengals aren't going to hold this offense to just 10 points, especially with Adam Jones and Michael Johnson in street clothes. In fact, I see this being a high scoring entertaining game the very well may come down to who has the ball last. During my preseason picks, I had the Bengals losing this game. Prior to last Monday night's game, I had the Bengals suffering their first loss in Arizona. However, the Cardinals are coming off a very tough and emotional division win and though Bruce Arians says there won't be a letdown, there often is. On the other side, the Bengals are coming off a very embarrassing national loss, and when you throw in the fact that there are about 10-15 players still on this Bengals team that played with Carson Palmer in 2010 and, rightfully so, believe Palmer quit on them in 2011, I think the Bengals pull out a close one. Bengals 37, Cardinals 34.

A heartfelt thanks to Scott, who was ever so gracious to take the time for not one, but two previews. I wouldn't mind getting to do this again in February with him and the Bengals.