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Tonight's game might not be a slaughter

In case you didn't know, Chad Johnson won't play tonight.

Moving on.

NFL Films (via reminds us that the Steelers 38-10 win over the Bengals, wasn't the beating that the score indicated; remembering seven points on a necessary 16-yard touchdown pass with two minutes left in the game for a 28-point lead (dude, Barbaro is dead... all right). They write after watching the coaches tape, that "it's clear that Thursday night's score won't be as gruesome as you might think."

In truth, the Bengals defense was spotty early in the season, got really bad against the Texans, but generally improved against the Jaguars and Eagles during their undefeated in November string, allowing less than four years per rush, and less than six yards per pass. Though not really impressive, it's not just the yards they're referencing; NFL Films documents two plays of a 17-10 Steelers lead heading into the fourth quarter that changed the complexion of the game.

After Lawrence Timmons sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick, forcing the Bengals to punt, Ben Roethlisberger completed a 50-yard touchdown pass that "broke the game open". They write:

1. Nickel cornerback Geoffrey Pope, the rookie that Washington ran by, is no longer on Cincinnati's active roster.
2. The Bengals did not blitz on the play and Roethlisberger had a clean pocket.
3. With plenty of time to throw, the Steelers were able to get multiple receivers deep, putting free safety Chinedum Ndukwe in a conflict.

They make an additional point, after watching the Eagles tape.

  1. The Bengals are blitzing more and blitzing better.
  2. Their nickel corner is no longer rookie Geoffrey Pope but rather veteran Jamar Fletcher.

I believe, for a chance to win, the Bengals will need to stop Willie Parker and create turnovers to give the offense good field position. We're not going to drive 10 plays, 80 yards on the Steelers defense; I'm as much a homer as anyone, but I'm also realistic. However, if we create turnovers, specifically on their side of the field, the Bengals can cash those gifts as field goals, if not touchdowns. OK, field goals.

NFL Films isn't taking other things into account, like injuries, rookies and three days rest after a gruesome 75-minute football game that ended in an Eagles-wrecking tie. So take it as it is. Will the Bengals play like they have nothing to lose, or will the sudden Chad Johnson distraction take center stage? Yes. If you looking for positives, well, that's a start.