CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 21: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on November 21 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
It would seem rather improbable that Cedric Benson would play this week. Afterall he pled no contest in a deal with prosecutors that agreed on 20 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for two assaults that took place nearly 14 months apart. Though he only spent less than four of those days in jail, Benson was reportedly notified that he was facing a three-game suspension -- something he and his agent denies -- for his July assault that took place during the lockout. On Tuesday he faced an appeals process and all that resulted from it is no decision being made nor timetable known. And he's convinced, largely due to the meeting he had with the NFL, that he's playing, at least this week.
“I’m playing this week. I know I am,” Benson said. “We had a good meeting yesterday. I had a lot of facts to back us and now we’ll hope for the best outcome and see what happens.”
And the Bengals need him this week. In the first quarter last season against the Bills, Benson ran nine times for 55 yards rushing on the back of an insanely efficient Carson Palmer, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 132 yards passing, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 148.1. Cincinnati wasn't able to keep up the pace while the defense practically shutdown, allowing six touchdowns in the game's final 32 minutes.
This year the Bills, while leading the league with a 37.1 scoring average, have gotten off to slow starts with a combination of penalties and turnovers -- namely Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions. The result is a 21-point deficit against the Patriots and 18 points against the Oakland Raiders. The Bengals have as good a chance as any to win this game against the Bills, provided they mirror New England's first half ball control with an effective rushing offense like Oakland.
That being said, like all NFL games, the Bengals can't make mistakes -- their margin of error this weekend is miniscule. They can't fail to convert 19 of 21 third down opportunities. They have to do a better job scoring touchdowns in the red zone and the defense can't fall apart at the seems; they'll have to have one of their best performances of the year. In other words, this team has to be perfect. But they can do it.