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Welcoming back the Bengals routine with open arms and a divisional showdown against Baltimore coming

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In the bye week that came and went, the Baltimore Ravens obliterated the Denver Broncos. While the Ravens appeared at the top of their game, the Bengals entered the bye week at the top of their own game. Can you say, collision? Now we've hit the stretch in which the Bengals will have back-to-back showdowns against division powerhouses. This week, it's the Ravens. Next week, it's the Steelers. Is it critical that the Bengals win both games? If the Steelers beat the Broncos and Bengals, and if the Ravens beat the Bengals, then Baltimore and Cincinnati are two games behind Pittsburgh. And after Cincinnati, the Steelers have Kansas City, Baltimore (twice), Oakland, Cleveland, Green Bay and Miami. Yikes.

After the Steelers, the Bengals travel to Oakland, then host the Browns and Lions at home. OK, easier. Then they play in Minnesota, at San Diego and at Giants Stadium against the Jets. Considering we're undefeated on the road, maybe that's not so bad. However, we're not a very good team playing on the west coast.

Date Location Result Score
12.15.2007 San Francisco L 13-20
9.23.2007 Seattle L 21-24
11.23.2003 San Diego W 34-27
9.14.2003 Oakland L 20-23

If you include Arizona on the West Coast, where the Bengals lost the last time playing in Arizona (14-17), then the Bengals have lost four of their previous five games on the West Coast.

That's all beyond the team's control, so they focus on one game at a time. Baltimore.

Other things we could expect.

The debut of Andre Smith. After going through what Smith has gone through from the NFL Combine until now, one has to think that karma will repay the young man in kind. Smith still isn't expected to start anytime soon. However, expect him to play on big-package formations where Smith lines up at Tight End. Dennis Roland has played well enough to further negate the necessity of a quick debut for the rookie tackle. So Smith will be eased into the game, which is typically a better scenario for younger players who tend to be known for maturity issues -- though, in fairness to Smith, those maturity issues could be dissolving after our beat writers wrote about a noticeably thinner Smith.

How do the FedEx Sweepers follow up. Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer had their best performances of the year against the Chicago Bears. They even swept the FedEx offensive players of the week award last week. Baltimore won't be easy. However, the last time the two teams met, Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards and recorded a touchdown on a 28-yard sprint in the third quarter. Palmer threw for 271 yards passing and recorded a touchdown. Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry each recorded 90 yards receiving or more and Andre Caldwell recorded the game winning touchdown with less than thirty seconds left in the game.

Hopefully we don't get Dan Dierdorf this week. I can respect men having man-crushes with great football players. But Dierdorf's man-crush on Joe Flacco was starting to feel uncomfortable. Good game or not, if he started writing Flacco poetry, I was changing to it bowling.