ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - DECEMBER 18: Wide receiver Jerome Simpson #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball ahead of outside linebacker Chris Chamberlain #57 of the St. Louis Rams in the second half of the game on December 18, 2011 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals defeated the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
Good morning Bengals Nation and happy holidays! It's Christmas Eve so enjoy spending your day in one of two ways: with family or some last minute Christmas shopping. Hopefully by now you're done with your shopping, but if not then you have approximately nine hours to finish.
Alright so the Bengals get to continue their uphill battle for the playoffs on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals. It's relatively simple for the Bengals. If they win then they stay alive in the playoff hunt. If they lose then they can pretty much kiss the playoffs good-bye and look forward to next season. And the same goes for the Cardinals, but everyone within Bengals country is okay with them losing this one.
Alright so here are some keys for the Bengals today.
- The offense needs to show up in the first half. Last week against the St. Louis Rams the Bengals only managed three points in the first half. As badly as I wish that was a typo, it isn't. The Bengals were only able to mustard out a field goal in the first quarter. If the Bengals want to win today then they are going to have to put up some points in the first half. And in order for that to happen they must be able to convert on third down and move the ball down field during their quest to reach the end zone. They cannot hope for a second half offensive explosion this week. There's a chance that the Bengals won't be so lucky this week.
- Have a repeat performance from the running game. Last week the Bengals rushed for 110 yards on 34 carries while reaching the end zone twice. I feel as if that doesn't happen as often as we would prefer. The running game has to come through in crucial situations, especially when they are in the red zone. If the Bengals can't score touchdowns while in the red zone then their chances will decrease dramatically.
- All of the receivers not named A.J. Green need to show up and make catches. We already know that Green is a beast and has had a monstrous rookie campaign, but after Green the rest of the Bengals receivers have been an enigma. Jerome Simpson was suppose to be the number two receiver, but he has looked more like a number four receiver due to lack of consistency. And Jermaine Gresham needs to have a big game. Last week the Rams defense held him in check limiting him to only three catches for 16 yards. This week Andy Dalton and the rest of the Bengals brass are going to need the Jermaine Gresham from week four to show up. If you don't remember, Gresham caught four passes for 70 yards and one touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. At the time the Bills were good and everyone was raving about them. And now look at them. Anyways, the Bengals know Green is undoubtedly going to have more coverage on him so Simpson, Gresham, and Andre Caldwell all need to show up.
- Convert on third downs. The Bengals reverted back to their old ways by only converting three of their 11 third downs. That can't happen this week. Either give the ball to Brian Leonard and let him work his magic or they need to set themselves up for shorter third down situations. Regardless, Cincinnati needs to convert on more third downs in order to keep the Cardinals defense on the field longer.
- Stay healthy. This is the most obvious one so I decided to save it for last this time. As usual, the Bengals lack depth at certain positions so if for some reason Green has to leave the game then the Bengals passing game becomes weaker. As for the offensive line, the Bengals are already without Bobbie Williams and his replacement, Mike McGlynn hasn't looked that comfortable this season. They lack depth on the front line and if they suffer an injury then it's going to be interesting to see how the Bengals handle themselves for the rest of the game.
Alright so it's prediction time. Since this is a must win for the Bengals, I see Cincinnati continuing their battle for the playoffs by defeating the Cardinals 23-20. It's going to be close, but if the Bengals defense can repeat their performance from last week then they should be in good shape for today's game.
Alright here is what you may have missed or overlooked from Friday.
- Tight end Jermaine Gresham was suppose to be one of the building blocks for the Bengals. And so far he has been sort of an enigma since being drafted. One game he looks like the tight end that everyone envisioned him to be while other games he looks like a complete bust.
- Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is asking the NFL to ditch its blackout policy.
- The final injury and practice report for the Bengals and Cardinals. Heading into Week 16 the Bengals are healthier than usual.
- Get caught up on the latest news from around the AFC North.
- The Brown family has completed a deal to purchase 30 percent of the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Here is the television coverage for the Bengals and Cardinals game.
- Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones is currently under investigation.
- The head trainer for St. Xavier High School is going to monitor both teams as part of new league rules.
- Does anyone want to know what the Colts' 19-16 win over the Texans means for the Bengals?
And on a final note Merry Christmas to everyone! Enjoy the holiday with the ones that you care about.