Sunday night's nationally televised game at home vs. the Steelers is a must-win game for Cincinnati (funny, it's also a must-win game for the Steelers, although nobody associated with the Steelers will say that).
With a 3-3 record, the Bengals have lost their past two games (vs. Cleveland and Miami) and already have two losses in the AFC North Division (vs. Baltimore and Cleveland).
Andy Dalton is Tony Romo Lite
Quarterback Andy Dalton has been up-and-down, on and off. He's completed 66.2% of his passes, but ... Under his leadership, the Bengals rank dead-last in the NFL in converting third-down opportunities, with just 26.7% converted. Worse, Dalton has thrown nine interceptions (nine!). Worse yet, he's tossed costly interceptions at key points -- including a pick-six that led directly to Cincinnati's loss in Cleveland last Sunday. Dalton has lost two fumbles this season and been sacked 17 times.
This season, Dalton has been Tony Romo Lite. When he's good, he's pretty darn good. He makes glaring mistakes at inopportune times, however, and when he plays poorly, he's very bad indeed.
Triple Trouble at Receiver
|Troy Polamalu had trouble with Andrew Hawkins last year.|
The Bengals don't have much of a running game this year. Two backups who have hurt the Steelers in years past, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard, are injured and will miss Sunday's game. Starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis ("The La Firm") who was signed as a free agent from the Patriots during the off-season, has been largely ineffective. He has fumbled three times (losing two of them), after having never fumbled in four previous seasons in the NFL.
On Defense, Lots of Talent but Spotty Results
The Bengals's defense ranks just 22nd in the NFL in points allowed but have several players who could start for the Steelers right now.
|Big Ben, getting sacked last Nov. 13|
Fellow tackle Domata Peko (6'3", 322), a favorite of Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, is mobile, fierce and relentless. The Bengals defensive ends, Michael Johnson (6'7, 270) and Carlos Dunlap (6'6", 280), are more-than-capable pass rushers.
Their linebackers are so-so, but ...
Seven (!) First-round Picks in the Secondary
Cincinnati's secondary has a lot of veteran talent and is loaded with first-round draft picks -- seven first-rounders, including all of their cornerbacks. Their pedigree, however, doesn't guarantee they always play well. Notables include:
- First-round safety Reggie Nelson (a six-year veteran who can really hit)
- First-round corner Leon Hall (a six-year veteran back from the torn Achilles that ended his 2011 season and put him on injured reserve last Nov. 13 vs. the Steelers)
- First-round corner Nate Clements (a 12-year veteran who started the first two games at corner and the last two games at strong safety)
- First-round corner Terence Newman (a 10-year veteran who played with the Cowboys until this year)
- First-round corner Dre Kirkpatrick (this year's first-round draft pick who may make his rookie debut after being sidelined with a knee injury and tendinitis since training camp)
- First-round corner and notorious trouble-maker Adam "PacMan" Jones (now a backup and occasional punt returner)
- First-round corner Jason Allen (a seven-year veteran out of Tennessee)
- Second-round pick Taylor Mays (a third-year veteran out of Southern Cal)
- Safety Chris Crocker (a 10-year veteran who knows what he's doing).
That's pretty much what we know about the Bengals. That, and we know longtime head coach Marvin Lewis pretty well. Oh, and we're happy to report that former Ben-Gals cheerleader Sarah Jones "adores her teen boyfriend."