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Week 11 Bengals vs Cardinals: Player matchups to watch

In arguably the most important game of the Bengals' season, we look at some of the most intriguing individual player one-on-ones of Sunday evening.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals travel west this weekend to face a bunch of familiar faces comprising the roster of the Arizona Cardinals. As we talked about on this week's Inside the Jungle podcast episode, both teams seem to be very similar, in terms of talent and makeup of the depth charts. That's especially true with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians' preference to bring in the aforementioned former Bengals players.

It's the that talent on both sides that will have some of the individual head-to-head matchups on full display Sunday night, causing massive amounts of attention. It's these matchups that have many believing it will be a tightly-contested battle on the national spotlight.

WR A.J. Green vs CB Patrick Peterson:

Call me "Captain Obvious", if you would like, but a star corner against a stud receiver has to headline this post. Green went No. 4 overall in the 2011 draft while the Bengals were re-building and Peterson, a guy Cincinnati contemplated taking instead of Green, went one spot later to Arizona. Both have made the Pro Bowl in each of their first four seasons, with them matching up at times in the NFL's version of the All-Star Game. Both look to be heading there again after 2015.

Much like Green's rivalry with Browns cornerback, Joe Haden, the bad blood with Peterson goes back to the SEC when Green was at Georgia and Peterson was at LSU. The only time, aside from the relaxed nature of the Pro Bowl, the two have gone head-to-head, Cincinnati's star wideout only had two catches for 25 yards on eight targets. In fairness, it was when both Green and Andy Dalton were rookies and were still finding their chemistry. Through nine games this year, Green has 769 receiving yards (on pace for 1351 yards), but only two 100-yard performances in those contests. Meanwhile Peterson has two interceptions in 2015, while clamping down on receivers.

A lot of receiving options, along with his offensive coordinator, let Dalton down Monday night against the Texans. Green had a few nice catches, but disappeared for a stretch and then had the game-sealing fumble late in the contest. Like the rest of the team, the Pro Bowl wideout will be vengeful this Sunday night and look to handle business against the athletic Peterson.

TE Tyler Eifert vs DB Tyrann Mathieu:

After a slew of off-field issues while he was at LSU, Mathieu was drafted by Arians in the third round of the 2013 draft. The current Cardinals coach and former Steelers assistant coach took a page out of Dick LeBeau's creative mind as he has used Mathieu's athleticism in a similar fashion to how the Steelers created a "rover" role for Troy Polamalu. It's paid off to the tune of six interceptions and two forced fumbles in just 35 games played.

Eifert is on pace for a record-breaking season for the position in Bengals history, but is coming off of his worst game as a pro, and, maybe ever. He had three catches and three big drops against Houston, creating a big shadow over his nine touchdown receptions in the previous eight games in 2015. Even though Mathieu stands at just 5'9", he'll likely be at least partially responsible for Eifert and the many routes he'll run. It's unlikely Eifert will have as poor of a night as he had last Monday, but Mathieu will provide a tough task again on prime time television.

DT Domata Peko vs OGs Mike Iupati and Jonathan Cooper:

Would you have guessed that Peko is third on the team in quarterback sacks behind only Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap? With three and other stops on run plays, Peko is having one of the more productive years in his 10th season with the Bengals. Peko's performance will especially be on display given his comments on Carson Palmer this week.

Iupati looks to be back in the lineup after suffering a scary neck-type injury against the Seahawks last Sunday night. He's been a good upgrade to a line who had issues in years past. Cooper, a former first round pick, has had his ups and downs since entering the league in the same draft class as Mathieu. The Bengals will rotate players around, and while Peko usually stands pat in one spot on the line, both guards will be accountable for the Bengals captain.

OL Andre Smith and Kevin Zeitler vs DL Frostee Rucker:

It wouldn't be a proper list without a former Bengals player talked about, would it? Rucker, a former Bengal, had seven of his 19 total sacks in his nine-year career with the Bengals. Arians, ever the AFC North historian, looked to emulate Rucker's early success with Cincinnati by rotating him in and out of the lineup, as well as playing him on the interior and exterior of the line. The success of the plan was on full display Sunday night against the Seahawks when he was part of a group who forced a safety of Russell Wilson and Co.

Smith appears to be back in the lineup after leaving the Steelers game a few weeks ago and missing the last two against the Browns and Texans with a concussion issue, and it's a welcomed addition back to a lineup that has been pretty healthy all season. Zeitler has had another solid, but unheralded season at right guard and both will be responsible for Rucker as he moves around the defensive line. Rucker is somewhat familiar with Dalton and some of the linemen, given his time with the team in the 2011 re-boot, so he'll look to exploit the tricks he knows.

S George Iloka vs WR John Brown:

While the Bengals defense has been more steady and well-rounded than they were in 2014, Iloka hasn't had the big-play impact that he had last season. He's teamed with a solid corps of Cincinnati defensive backs to get a No. 13 ranking against the pass in 2015. Along with slot corners Leon Hall and Darqueze Dennard, Iloka will be responsible for limiting the deep ball that Palmer has been successful on this year.

Brown plays both outside and in the slot, making his blend of shiftiness and speed a dangerous combination for any defense. He's already on pace to break all major personal-best receiving categories he set as a rookie last year, while the Cardinals faced a quarterback carousel. He has had some injuries in 2015 and was totally ineffective against the Seahawks, but Brown is a guy who can take it the distance at any point in a game. With Larry Fitzgerald having a career renaissance in his 12th season, and Michael Floyd finally hitting his stride as the 2015 season, Brown might be a weapon Arizona uses as the Cincinnati defense focuses on the myriad of the Cardinals' weapons.

LB Vontaze Burfict vs RB Andre Ellington:

We don't want to place an significant amount of importance on one player, but since Burfict has been back in Week 9, Cincinnati's defense has allowed an average of just 10 points per game. Sure, they faced the Browns and Texans, who have been largely struggling, but the Steelers' offense, especially under Ben Roethlisberger, has been potent. Burfict, while the team has tried to ease him back into the lineup after a year hiatus from injury and recovery, has been in frequently because of injuries to others and his overall impact. On Sunday night against the Cardinals, the Bengals will likely use Burfict as a 2-3 down linebacker.

Chris Johnson has been a Godsend for Arizona this season in the running game, which has been unexpected, but the Cardinals will also be relying on Ellington for those big plays. While Ellington only has 221 rushing yards, he's getting it at 7.6 yards per carry. With 109 receiving yards, he's also getting those at 12.1 yards-per-pop--by comparison, the exciting Giovani Bernard has 7.6 per catch. Burfict will be a spy player on Ellington for much of the evening, to be sure.