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Week 11 Bengals vs Cardinals: Odds, expert picks, predictions, analysis

Few experts expect Cincinnati to go into the desert and come away with a win over surging Arizona.

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The Cincinnati Bengals will look to bounce back from their first home loss this week when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Sitting at 8-1, the Bengals are coming off a 10-6 loss to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. It was easily the worst offensive performance Cincinnati has had this season despite still ranking among the league's best units. They've topped the 30-point mark four times this year and are averaging 26.1 points per game, the fifth most of any team.

Speaking of offense, that's what Arizona has become know for this year, averaging 33.6 points per game. That's the second best of any team behind only the New England Patriots. In Week 10, the Cardinals went into Seattle and came away with a 39-32 win to improve to 7-2 this year and take control of the NFC West.

This week's matchup will be the first time quarterback Carson Palmer faces his old Bengals team in the regular season as a member of Cardinals. Not since 2012 has Palmer faced Cincinnati in the regular season, though that matchup came while he was with the Oakland Raiders. The deck was stacked against Palmer that day with almost no supporting cast, but this time around, he has a loaded offense that will allow him to show Cincinnati he's still got it.

That's why Pro Football Focus believes Palmer is having an MVP-worthy season thanks to his big arm in the deep passing game that the Cardinals offense utilizes as much as any team:

The Cardinals, by contrast use the deep pass as a staple of their offense. While Brady’s average depth of target is just 7.7 yards down field—the league average is 8.7—Palmer’s average pass travels 11.5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That leads the NFL, and over the course of 40 or 50 pass attempts, represents a massive chunk of additional yardage that the Cardinals are expecting Palmer to pick up with his arm versus what other teams expect receivers to generate with the ball in-hand.

However, as PFF notes, Palmer is one of the NFL's most pressured quarterbacks as he plays behind an average Cardinals offensive line in terms of pass protection, which could be where Cincinnati is able to keep Palmer at bay:

Against Seattle, Palmer was pressured on 31 of his 51 dropbacks (60.8 percent), and 11 more times than he was actually kept clean. Only Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson are pressured more often this season than Palmer’s 41.9 percent, and each of those players invites more of it on themselves by moving around behind the line of scrimmage.

As for who PFF is picking in this one, they actually believe the Bengals come out of Arizona with a one-point win:

Can Carson Palmer continue his magic against the league’s No. 1 scoring defense? I can’t wait to watch this quarterback duel between two guys no one expected to be playing this well. What I think will prove to be the difference is whichever quarterback gets more out of his run game. Both offensive lines have been fantastic, paving the way for their respective running backs, but with less carries, Giovani Bernard has arguably outperformed Chris Johnson this season. I like the Bengals’ chances of moving the football on the ground more than the Cardinals, especially if Mike Iupati is limited after a scary injury last week—although he is expected to play.

Prediction: Bengals 21, Cardinals 20

Confidence grade: -0.5

Palmer isn't the only much-improved quarterback playing in this game. Bengals signal-caller Andy Dalton is in the midst of his best season as a pro, as ESPN's Sam Monson writes:

A year ago Dalton's passer rating under pressure was 57.4 and he had a PFF grade of -11.3 on those throws. This season when hurried, he has a passer rating of 103.3 and a PFF grade of +3.8.

As good as Dalton has been though, Palmer and the Cardinals' offense has been better, and going against a solid but flawed Bengals defense is why Arizona should have more success in this game, according to ESPN's Josh Weinfuss:

The Cardinals are ranked third in offensive efficiency this season, according to the ESPN Power Index. The Bengals are ranked eighth in defensive efficiency. But the Bengals could be haunted by their penchant for allowing long drives. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals are allowing 5.79 plays per drive -- only five teams allow more. By comparison, the Cardinals are allowing 5.11 plays per drive, second fewest in the league. But what’s impressive is Arizona’s ability to score on drives. They’re averaging 2.5 points per drive (second most in the NFL) and just 5.38 plays per drive (22nd).

There may not be a more important one-on-one matchup in this game than Bengals star receiver A.J. Green going against Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, as Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson writes.

Green is the only player to rank among the top four in both catches and yards for a player’s first four NFL seasons. Peterson, the only defensive player ever to catch a pass and complete a pass in the same game, is the first defensive player named to four Pro Bowls before his 25th birthday.

Fast forward to their fifth season. Green has commandeered fourth quarters against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Seattle in piling up an average of 85 yards per game while eying his first 100-catch season, Peterson is ranked third by profootballfocus.com in allowing yards per coverage snap even though he lines up against the other team’s best receiver and follows him to hell and back for the NFL’s third-best defense.

As for what the oddsmakers are saying, they have Arizona as a 4.5-point favorite coming into this game. Here are some of the recent betting trends with the Cardinals and Bengals, courtesy of OddsShark:

  • Cincinnati is 8-0-1 SU in its last 9 games
  • Cincinnati is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
  • Cincinnati is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road
  • The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Cincinnati's last 11 games on the road
  • Arizona is 15-7 ATS in its last 22 games
  • Arizona is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 8 of Arizona's last 10 games
  • Arizona is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games at home

Very few people are actually picking the Bengals to win this game after last week's showing vs the Texans.

  • All eight experts at SB Nation are going with the Cardinals.
  • All four of NFL.com's pickers are siding with Arizona as well.
  • The Bengals received two picks at ESPN, but the Cardinals got 11.
  • All eight of Fox Sports' pickers went with Arizona.
  • Seven of eight CBS Sports pickers are siding with the Cardinals.
  • NFL Pick Watch, which keeps track of every expert pick, has the Cardinals getting 91-percent of the picks this week.