The 9-5 Bengals host the 3-11 Chiefs in front of a newly announced sellout at Paul Brown Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST.
What’s at stake
For the Bengals, it’s the third consecutive week that they can clinch the AFC North division crown with a victory. They lost all chance at a first round playoff bye after last Sunday’s loss at San Diego. However, they are still in the running for the third seed in the AFC playoffs, enabling them to secure a lower-seeded opponent in the first weekend of playoff action. The Chiefs are out of the playoff picture, playing only for pride and for momentum heading into the offseason.
Kansas City lost a shoot-out at home to Cleveland, 41-34. Cincinnati lost at San Diego 27-24 on a 52-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding with 8 seconds left in regulation.
Records & Rankings
- Offense: 19th overall (6th rushing, 21st passing)
- Defense: 5th overall (3rd rushing, 15th passing)
- Offense: 27th overall (22nd rushing, 26th passing)
- Defense: 30th overall (31st rushing, 19th passing)
Bengals: Starting S Chris Crocker (ankle) and DT Domata Peko (knee) are both listed as Doubtful. Everyone else is good to go or probable, including KR/RB Bernard Scott, who participated fully this week after missing the last three games.
Chiefs: Starting DE Glenn Dorsey is likely out again with a knee issue. The Chiefs have nine players on injured reserve.
- Bengals QB Carson Palmer faces a former college teammate and roommate in Chiefs QB Matt Cassel.
- Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco is 79 yards short of 10,000 for his career. Ochocinco is in his 9th year, all with the Bengals.
- Bengals RB Larry Johnson faces his old team for the first time. The Chiefs cut him back in November. They are the only NFL franchise Johnson does not have carries or yardage against.
- With a victory, Marvin Lewis passes the legendary Paul Brown on the list of winningest coaches in franchise history.
- Game day, December 27th, is 364 days from the last Chiefs-Bengals match-up (won by Cincinnati 16-6). It will also be Carson Palmer’s 30th birthday.
- Distrubingly, while 6-0 in the AFC North, the Bengals are currently 0-4 against all other AFC teams, including 0-3 versus the AFC West.
Although the Bengals come into the contest riding a 2 game losing streak, they should be able to handle the Chiefs to secure their second playoff berth in Marvin Lewis’ seven year tenure. The Bengals are superior in nearly every statistical category, are playing at home in front of a sold out crowd, and have much more at stake.
On offense, the Chiefs will have a difficult time trying to stop the Bengals running game. Cincinnati will be able to throw Cedric Benson, Larry Johnson, and Bernard Scott at the Chiefs’ 31st-ranked run defense. The Chiefs gave up 286 yards to Jerome Harrison last week, and face a tougher test against the Bengals. If the Chiefs choose to load the box to stop the run, it may not make much difference, as it did not stop Harrison. Look for the Bengals to continue to push the running game using an unbalanced line that includes T Dennis Roland lining up at TE or in motion. Also making matters difficult for the Chiefs, the Bengals may have rediscovered their long-mothballed passing attack last week at San Diego. Carson Palmer enjoyed his first 300-yard passing day of the season, which included several nice throws down the field, including a beautifully executed 49 yard TD pass to Chad Ochocinco. Expect Cincinnati to continue to cultivate the new found passing game with passing plays for Quan Cosby and Laverneaus Coles. The Chiefs will likely try to shut down the expected emphasis on the running game with run blitzes on first and second down to try to get the Bengals into 3rd-and-long situations. From there, they’ll hope to create a return of a sputtering, penalty-ridden passing game from the Bengals offense.
As for the Chiefs offense, they have shown in recent weeks that they are building a potent attack. Cassel has been improving as the season has worn on, and the Chiefs will have WR Dwayne Bowe back for the second straight week off of a league suspension. Journeyman WR Chris Chambers has also added some pop to the passing game. However, Cassel has had difficulty staying clean in the pocket, and has been sacked 41 times, and has 13 interceptions and 13 fumbles on the year. Jamaal Charles is turning into an elite threat at the RB spot, averaging a whopping 5.4 yards per carry, but he should have a tough task gaining yardage against the 3rd ranked run defense of the Bengals. Look for the Chiefs to try to pass on the Bengals early to try to soften up the Bengal middle. They will probably attack CB Leon Hall, who is coming off a bad game last week. It will be crucial for S Tom Nelson, playing in place of the injured Chris Crocker, to play a bigger role in support. The Bengals will work to contain Charles, and blitz the Chiefs’ depleted offensive line and force Cassel into quick throws.
Regarding the kicking game, the Chiefs have to be concerned about giving up two kickoff return touchdowns last week to Joshua Cribbs. The Bengals will be glad to test the Chief coverage unit with Quan Cosby and Bernard Scott, who already has a kickoff return touchdown this year.
The Bengals can once again clinch the division with a victory, and for the first time in 3 weeks, they do it at home and facing an inferior opponent. Beating the Vikings in the Metrodome and the Chargers in San Diego would be tough for anyone, even the Colts and Saints. The Bengals had to play those games back-to-back and sandwiched around the Chris Henry tragedy and funeral. They should be anxious to get the win for “Slim” that they couldn’t get last week. Larry Johnson should have some additional motivation, and the Chiefs cannot stop the run. I see a close game until late in the second quarter, as the Bengals open up a two-score lead at the half and cruise to a 31-17 win.