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Six-Pack of Hu-Dey: Bengals need to clinch the AFC North this weekend to avoid limping into the playoffs

Bengals rate of penalties keeps growing. Through 14 games this season, the Bengals are the second most penalized team in the NFL. They have earned that moniker by committing 101 penalties for 783 yards lost (tied for sixth most), which is 331 yards more than the Bengals second-most productive wide receiver and 56.4% of those penalties are the five-yard variety; mostly false starts, delay of games, offsides, neutral-zone infractions, etc.. At least 60% of the team's fouls have come from the offense, which includes (but not limited to) 21 false starts, 20 offensive holding calls and an embarrassing 11 delay of games.

Andrew Whitworth leads the offensive line with 11 penalties, including five holding calls and four false starts. Chad Ochocinco has eight including five false starts, which is astonishing considering wide receivers move at the snap of the football. The offensive line, including tight ends, account for at least 39% of the team's penalties.

What's worse is that the team's rate of penalties keeps growing. The last five games account for 47% of their season's penalties.

But how important are the lack of penalties this year? The top five most penalized teams have either clinched a playoff spot or are competing for the wild card.

On the other hand: Cincinnati is averaging 7.75 yards per penalty -- only seven teams are flagged for more yards per foul.

Note: we charted the penalties by going through each game in's Gamebooks. Because we manually collected the stats and the fact that the Gamebook could have their share of errors, there's a possibility our numbers are off.

Bengals redzone offense is still on vacation. Redzone offense, when an offensive unit reaches the opponent's 20-yard line, is one of the more interesting statistical breakdowns in the NFL. It determines, or at least shows, statistical proof between the great offenses, the efficient offenses and the offenses that do just enough for the defense to claim the win. Furthermore, good teams generally have good redzone offenses, such as New Orleans, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Arizona and New England, all of whom average over two touchdowns per game in the redzone. Teams like Cleveland, Oakland, St. Louis and Buffalo average less than a touchdown in the redzone per game.

Simply put, a good redzone offense that scores touchdowns is the difference between leaving four points on the field every opportunity. Scoring more points is always a good thing, right John Madden? For example, if the Bengals entered the redzone three times and only scored field goals they've left 12 points on the field. That's exactly what Cincinnati did against San Diego. They entered the redzone four times, scored 20 (including the two-point conversion) out of at least 28 points. Convert just one of three field goals, and the Bengals win.

At one point, the Bengals offense had the best touchdown percentage in the redzone in the league. Against the Chicago Bears in week seven, the Bengals scored an amazing six touchdowns, along with a field goal, on seven redzone trips. Through the first eight games of the season, the Bengals scored a touchdown on 69% of their redzone appearances -- record of 6-2 during that stretch. In the six games since, the Bengals have only scored five touchdowns in their previous 19 redzone appearances -- and have gone 3-3 during that stretch.

Redzone offense and penalties -- the bane of the Bengals offense.

Is there concern growing about the Bengals rushing offense? Largely due to the vastly improved offensive line, the Bengals rushing offense ranks sixth in the NFL and, for the most part, has crushed last year's overall performance. You do have to wonder if that's a result of having an offense that rushes 49.6% of the time which ranks second-most in the NFL? Or averages 32.2 carries per game, which ranks third-most in the NFL? Regardless, only five teams have recorded more plays of 10 yards rushing or more than Cincinnati and only the Jets, Panthers and Chris Johnson have more rushing plays of at least 20 yards or more. In 11 of their 14 games this season, Cincinnati has recorded 100 yards or more and twice, they've surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark.

However, the Arizona Cardinals are the only division leader that's fumbled more than Cincinnati's ground game and the team's 4.1 yards-per-rush ranks 20th in the NFL. As well as the Bengals rushing offense has performed, they've been stuffed (no-gains and negative yardage) 43 times (fifth most in the NFL) and their 46.5% conversion ratio on third and short is middle-of-the-pack 17th.

And the most glaring deficiency is that the Cincinnati Bengals haven't scored a rushing touchdown in four straight games after recording seven rushing touchdowns through the first eight games of the season. Cincinnati has scored a rushing touchdown in only one game (twice against Oakland) in their previous six; which is a bit misleading because both touchdowns were scored by quarterback Carson Palmer. You have to go all the way back to November 8 during Cincinnati's 17-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens the last time a Bengals running back scored a rushing touchdown.

Some will claim the issue is predictability. Perhaps there's truth to that. My belief is that if you're better than the other team, then you should be able to run any play that you want and be successful at it.

Should Cincinnati consider making Larry Johnson the feature back against the Chiefs? The three teams that the Chiefs have beaten this year are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins; two of those wins were after releasing Larry Johnson. Five of their 11 losses were within eight points. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has rushed for 297 yards in the past two games -- an NFL high -- with a rushing touchdown in five of his past six games.

On the other hand, Cincinnati has gone 0-3 this year against the AFC West. Yikes.

Since we have a history of running backs playing against their former team, it makes sense to observe the fact that the running back that holds the second-most yards rushing in franchise history for the Kansas City Chief will be playing against his old team this Sunday. Cedric Benson played his old team, the Chicago Bears, on October 25 and rushed for 189 yards on 37 carries. After what Johnson has been through, albeit all of it his own fault, Cincinnati should use the emotional edge that Johnson would have and take advantage of it.

UPDATE: Even though Larry Johnson has said that revenge isn't on his mind, Benson has said the same. We have to believe that anyone that's cut from a team and plays that team later, would want to prove that they made the mistake of cutting him in the first place.

The Bengals need to clinch the AFC North this weekend. Quite simply, the Bengals need to win this Sunday. Not only could the Bengals clinch the division banner this weekend at home, they could do it against a team that's 3-11 and struggling. Furthermore, you don't want to have to wait another week and play the New York Jets in New York, who are most likely missing the playoffs. And teams that miss the playoffs tend to be the most dangerous; not only are they auditioning for next year, they're just as prideful as any group in the NFL and like the role of spoiler (remember how much loved that role last year?). So if the Jets miss the playoffs, what would they have to lose?

Baltimore, on the other hand, has to win out to keep their hopes for a division title alive. And they have to win their final two games on the road in Pittsburgh and Oakland. If they lose either game, Cincinnati clinches no matter what they do.

The issue, to me, isn't so much whether they'll clinch or not -- I have no reason to believe that they won't. But this team is in the middle of a two-game losing streak, having lost three of their past five games. Unless the goal is only making the playoffs and not winning a playoff game, they need momentum. Winning the final two games, starting this weekend, would help gain that momentum rather than weakly limping into the playoffs.

How will the Bengals respond after Chris Henry's funeral? The Bengals played their guts out for Chris Henry, who passed away several days before their marquee game against the San Diego Chargers. They responded similarly after the unfortunate death of Mike Zimmer's wife, Vicky, beating the Baltimore Ravens with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 27 seconds left in the game. It was an inspirational performance by a team that keeps growing together through tragedy. After the win, the team stood by their coach as he and his family said goodbye to his wife. Emotionally drained, the Bengals were outscored in the second half against the Houston Texans the following week and lost 28-17.

Most of the team flew to New Orleans on Tuesday to say goodbye to their friend and teammate. After a very emotional week for the team, which included a tough last-second loss to the Chargers, you have to wonder how much gas this team has right now. After all, these guys aren't robots. They're human and in many cases, very young.