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Bengals vs Cardinals Week 11 Game Preview: Familiar faces and hard feelings

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The Cincinnati Bengals travel from the cold, but friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium, to the warm desert in Arizona. While they're there, the Bengals have a big game ahead of them, while facing some of their old players.

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Hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned. Or, maybe, an NFL owner scorned.

Many fictional and non-fictional films have been made about football over the years on various networks and the big screen. Whether it's ESPN's "30 for 30", or the NFL Network's "A Football Life" documentaries, or other football films, the mainstream has been privy to a number of stories in the lore of America's most popular sport. While drama has surrounded any and all football franchises, a daytime soap opera could be made of the Cincinnati Bengals' relatively short history.

Whether it's chronicling the team's legendary founder, Paul Brown, the monumental lack of success throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, or the topsy-turvy stories around former players, the orange and black remain one of the most enigmatic franchises in professional sports. Because of the aforementioned struggles and the perception of the Brown family adhering to the NFL standards, while also playing by their own rules, people often wonder just what's going on in the ivory tower erected in The Queen City.

To take a page out of adult version of Kevin Arnold's verbiage, a funny thing began to happen when one ponders the history of the Bengals and their star players. Mike Brown and his brain trust often takes care of their star players in the form of lucrative contracts, yet throughout the years, many of those stars became tired of the family's modus operandi, calling for a change of scenery.

Lemar Parrish, Carl Pickens, Corey Dillon, and, most recently, Carson Palmer, headline the group of scorned producers. One can even throw in Takeo Spikes, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Jonathan Joseph as those who left for greener pastures, be it for simply a career change, the almighty dollar, or the availability of Gatorade. Regardless, both Paul and Mike Brown have a reputation for not bowing to players' demands.

Throughout 2011 though, something changed within the walls of Paul Brown Stadium. After seeming to bow to Marvin Lewis' renewed demands and a subsequent lackadaisical press conference announcing a somewhat-unexpected contract extension to the longtime head coach, a different approach was going to be at the forefront of how the team was going to be run from that day forward.

Whether it was Lewis' extension and/or a myriad of other historical factors, Palmer didn't want to play for the Bengals any longer. Any fan of the Bengals, Raiders, Cardinals or the NFL, likely knows about one of the biggest trades in league history. And, after the spring draft and a surprising start to the Bengals' 2011 season under Andy Dalton and Lewis' most recent rebuilding project, Palmer was shipped to Oakland for two first round picks and a second rounder on October 18th of that year.

In 2012, the Bengals got an initial shot at revenge against Palmer after he one-upped them just a year earlier. Oakland traveled to Cincinnati and the Bengals took it to the Silver and Black to the tune of a 24-point win and Who Dey faithful rejoiced in the former No. 1 overall pick's failure.

However, there has been a cruel twist of fate to both Palmer and Brown before and since the trade--zero playoff wins, Palmer didn't make it to the postseason with the Raiders, and while the Cardinals made it last year, Palmer was out with a knee injury. Meanwhile, the Bengals were relishing in overall team success after No. 9's departure, but even with four tries in January, they had the similar heartbreak the Southern Californian man with the golden arm brought them in th preceding years.

But, like so many other games since he left in the autumn of 2011, it's here and now for Cincinnati. Those who follow the Bengals are divided in two factions when it comes to "The Prime Time Curse". Some believe it's alive and well, while others feel it's purely coincidental. The latter had their day when the Brown family's newest franchise beat an NFL patriarch's old creation on Thursday Night Football by three touchdowns, while the former sang the "I Told You So Chorus" after a 10-6 loss to the lowly Texans.

Everything that could go wrong for the Bengals did on Monday night, as evidenced by mistakes that hadn't been overly-committed in their unprecedented eight-game winning streak. Tyler Eifert was a couple of weeks late on his Jermaine Gresham Halloween costume, as he had just as many drops (three) as catches.

Now, the Bengals are smack in the middle of a scenario that has been one of the only plagues under Marvin Lewis' renaissance--playing football when they are the only team available to watch on television. The Palmer-led Cardinals are at 7-2, as the host the 8-1 Bengals, in a marquee matchup flexed into NBC's weekly spotlight game.

As we discussed on this week's episode of the Inside the Jungle podcast, there are many similarities to both squads this year. It isn't just the former Bengals now in the desert, or the longtime AFC North connection of each squad's current head coach. It's in roster makeup and the style of play on both sides of the ball.

Palmer likes to wing it deep a little more often than Dalton has chose to in 2015, but the embattled Bengals signal-caller has hit his share of big plays throughout the first half of the season. A multi-headed rushing attack and aggressive defenses have all amounted to 15 combined wins between the two teams we'll see on Sunday night.

If you're looking for some key players to the outcome of the contest, we've got a few. The Cardinals secondary comprised of play-makers in Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson will create headaches for Bengals offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson. Cincinnati's offensive version of Merlin looked more like a wet-behind-the-ears Harry Potter against Houston on Monday night, so he'll need to re-stir the potion boiling in his cauldron to get past Arizona's dynamic duo.

As Jess Root of SB Nation's Revenge of the Birds pointed out on our podcast Wednesday night, the Cardinals are ranked in the top ten in major and aggregate statistical categories on both offense and defense. It's an impressive and intimidating factor to face up to when Cincinnati has to travel on the road after such an uninspired loss.

However, the Bengals aren't any slouches either, as they have the No. 11-ranked defense in yards allowed per game, and No. 7 in yards per game on offense. Palmer (fourth) and Dalton (tenth) are both in the top-ten in pass yards, touchdown passes and passer rating this year, so it's a matter of which one of the two makes the fewer mistakes on Sunday night. Irony abounds in that situation, as both have made the back-breaker plays as tenured Bengals quarterbacks.

But, getting back to some key players, it might not be the stars that play the biggest roles. As it often goes with deep teams, supporting cast members might have to be the ones to step up against a good team. Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is doubtful, as is corner Adam Jones, both potentially big losses for Cincinnati in a game they would love to have all hands on deck. Will Clarke and Darqueze Dennard will have to respectively step up if they are absent.

The Bengals' safeties will need to be on high alert this week, as Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and Gresham as Cardinals receiving weapons. After a breakout 2014 campaign, George Iloka has yet to commit or force a turnover. While the Bengals haven't starved for those plays, those stat columns are as dry as the Arizona air, after garnering three interceptions last year. His counterpart, Reggie Nelson, has more than picked up the slack with four interceptions already in 2015, along with a fumble recovery. Safety has long been a position that has plagued Palmer, so these two might need to have monstrous performances.

Arizona has a number of non-household names that have propelled them to their 7-2 start. Defensive tackle Josh Mauro, defensive back Jerald Powers and wide receiver Jaron Brown will be hopeful "Unsung Heroes" this weekend for Cardinals faithful.

All of that said, it might not be the players on the field or their physical attributes that contributes the most to the final score. I've been called a "conspiracy theorist" on our podcast from the callers and co-hosts because of my belief in the "primetime curse", but a 4-12 record in the Dalton era in Sunday, Monday and Thursday Night Football games, including the playoffs, makes me a believer.

It's the mental aspect that will come into play on Sunday night. You would like to think the Bengals got the jitters out last Monday night after a three-touchdown prime time win against Cleveland, but with their old friend Palmer on the other sideline, will it be nerves or positive energy that fuels the Cincinnati Bengals? History shows it will be nerves, but a roll of the dice might suggest the latter.

Bengals 28, Cardinals 27

AC -- I won't be quitting on you anytime soon.