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With Cincinnati in Free Fall Mode, Can Bills Tame Bengals in Week 11?

Saddled with one of the NFL’s fiercest schedules in 2010, the Cincinnati Bengals know the woes the Buffalo Bills have endured this season.  These two teams know a thing or two about being in close games right up until the end, only to be the unlucky party leaving the dance with a loss.

If you quickly glance at the Bengals’ schedule, it’s easy to tell the NFL did them no favors in 2010.  Along with playing Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice,  Cincinnati drew the likes of New England, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New York Jets and San Diego. 

And like most instances, it’s not about the start rather it’s about how you finish.  Unfortunately for the Bengals, their start was drastically better than what appears to be their finish.  Cincinnati began the season 2-1, poised to put up a Bengal-tiger like fight to defend their AFC North title.  But since, the bottom has fallen out.  The Bengals have lost six straight, dropping to 2-7 and looking more and more like gerbals.  Head coach Marvin Lewis has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel.  Pass heavy Cincinnati is seems to have run out of gas.

While the Bengals’ season has been filled with unfulfilled expectations and disappointment, the Buffalo Bills finally conquered their demons a week ago by winning their first game of the season with a 14-12 squeeker over the Detroit Lions.  Now armed with their first victory, the Bills invade Paul Brown Stadium hoping to add to Cincinnati’s misery.

A few weeks ago, the Bengals were playing for a playoff berth.  Now, they’ll simply try and erase an ugly streak they’ve got going against the Bills.  Buffalo carries a nine-game winning streak (2-0 at Paul Brown Stadium) over Cincinnati, tied for the longest such streak by a Bengals opponent.  The two teams have met three times since 2004 and the Bills have scored 33, 37 and 33 points respectively in their meetings. 

Armed with numerous weapons, the Bengals have relied heavily on the passing attack this season.  Despite his past antics and baggage, Terrell Owens has proven his worth this season.  Owens has shown that age is nothing but a number, as the 37-year old ranks third in the NFL with 834 receiving yards and is tied for fourth in the league with seven touchdowns.  Fellow star wide out Chad Ochocinco seems to have accepted playing the role of Robin to Owens’ Batman, hauling in 47 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns.  Complimentary pieces TE Jermaine Gresham and WR Jordan Shipley have benefited from the Owens-Ochocinco duo, combining for 70 catches.

Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer laments the frustrations mounting for his team.  It’s been quite a while since his team put together a full four-quarter, sixty-minute effor that resulted in victory.  This season has been especially troublesome for Palmer, who appears to be both mentall and physically drained being under center in Cincy. 

Despite ranking in the top six in the league in both passing yards (2,395) and touchdowns (16), Palmer has thrown 11 interceptions, tied for fourth-worst in the NFL.  The former USC signal caller threw 13 picks all of last season, and has posted back-to-back weeks in which he’s thrown three interceptions in a game.  After last’s week five turnover debacle against Indianapolis, the Bengals are 2nd in the AFC with 19 turnovers.

Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the Bills back into his former stomping grounds where he played with the Bengals in 2007 and 2008 posting a record of 4-7-1.  Fitzpatrick returns to Paul Brown Stadium with 14 TD’s and 7 INT’s, while posting one of the best marks for quarterbacks on third down this season.  Fitzpatrick is second in the league on third down with a QB rating of 110, 5 TD’s and 1 INT. 

For the first time this season, last week Bills RB Fred Jackson resembled the Fred Jackson of 2009.  After struggling with a hand injury in the preseason and fighting fellow backs Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller for the feature role, Jackson had a breakout game last week agains Detroit with 170 total yards (133 rushing) and two touchdowns.  With Spiller out for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, Jackson is poised to handle the bulk of the rushing duties and regain some of that form we saw a year ago when Jackson blossomed into a 1,000-yard rusher.  It’ll help that he’s facing a Bengals defense that has allowed over 100 yards rushing in seven of their nine games.

A year ago, RB Cedric Benson was one of the key ingredients that buoyed Cincinnati to the AFC North crown and a playoff berth.  A year later, however, and Benson’s involvement in the Cincinnati offense has been non-existent.  In 2009, Benson established career highs in attempts (301), rushing yards (1,251), yards per carry (4.2), and tied his career high with six touchdowns.  Benson ranked 2nd in the NFL averaging 96.2 yards per game last year, but that number has taken a big hit in 201o.   This season, however, Benson is averaging just 69.2 ypg due to the Bengals shift to a pass-happy air attack.  Against one of the league’s most porous run defenses, the Bengals would be wise to incorporate Benson into the game plan;  Cincinnati is 9-1 when Benson either reaches or eclipses the 100-yard rushing barrier.

Prediction:  Bengals 26, Bills 20.  This seems to be the opportune moment for the Bills to claim their second straight win for the first time since October 2009.  Cincinnati is in free fall mode, dropping their last six games following a 2-1 start.  Buffalo is coming off their first win in 2010.  And while neither team is playoff bound, you could call this one the Respectability Bowl.  I’m sure Terrell Owens will be playing with a little extra jump, looking to prove to his former team he can still be an elite receiver, despite his advanced age and wrongly perceived declining skills.  Ryan Fitzpatrick will be looking to do the same against his former mates.  After standing in the shadows of Carson Palmer for two seasons, this is Fitzpatrick’s chance to show he can outduel his former quarterback comrade and walk out of Paul Brown Stadium with a win.   I think the Bengals make a few more plays and narrowly edge the Bills in this one.

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