Tennessee at Cincinnati preview

Two former AFC Central division rivals will reacquaint themselves with each other when the Tennessee Titans (6-4) meet the Cincinnati Bengals (3-7) Sunday.
The Bengals hosted the Arizona Cardinals last week and ended up on the short end of a 35-27 score. The Titans are in a shortened week after losing to the Broncos in Denver Monday night.
Field: grass. Forecast: Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers. High in the lower 50s.

Cincinnati scouting report:

Overview – It looked like coach Marvin Lewis turned the franchise around in 2005 when he led them to their first winning season since 1990. Things have regressed since then. Needing just one more win to make the playoffs last year, they lost their final three games to finish with an 8-8 record. This season they’re at the bottom of their division with a 3-7 mark.
Offense – All pass, no run would be the quickest description. The Bengals are fourth in the league in passing (270 ypg) but rank a lowly 26th running the ball (85 ypg). They’re seventh in scoring with 24.6 ppg.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is having a good year, although it’s not quite up to his usual standard. He threw four picks last week and his leading receiver, in both yards and touchdowns, was Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle.
Chad Johnson’s game has also regressed this year. After scoring three TDs in the first two games, he hasn’t reached the end zone since in an eight-game drought. Ocho Cinco still leads the team in receiving yards with 938. T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the league with 79 receptions and leads Cincinnati with 11 TDs. Normally a wideout, the Bengals often use him in the slot in the red zone. Chris Henry has returned after an eight-game suspension to grab 12 balls for 180 yards and one score in two games.
Kenny Watson has outrushed veteran Rudi Johnson 481 yards to 267. He also has a nice 4.5 ypc average, compared to Johnson’s meager 2.6, prompting many fans to call for Watson to tote the rock more often.
The makeshift o-line is having problems, as Tom Gower noted in an excellent article on his observations of the Bengals. Andrew Whitworth, who is struggling trying to replace left guard Eric Steinbach, had two holding penalties last week. Four-time Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson has missed five of the last six games with a knee injury, replaced by Stacy Andrews.
Defense – There’s not enough of it if you’re a Bengals fan. Cincinnati is 31st in the NFL in scoring defense (28.6 ppg), 30th in total defense (370 ypg), 27th in rush defense (127 ypg) and 26th against the pass (248 ypg).
Injuries have been a problem at linebacker, which forced Cincinnati to move Robert Geathers to SLB. Now that they’re a little healthier, Geathers has returned to his normal LDE position, where he’s a pass-rush threat, bookended with RDE Justin Smith, who has only two sacks, below his usual numbers.
Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deltha O’Neal has lost his starting job to first-round draft pick Leon Hall, who leads the team with four interceptions. Johnathan Joseph, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2006, starts at the other corner.
The Bengals leading tackler is MLB Landon Johnson, with 74.

Matchups to watch:

Palmer and the Bengals receivers versus the Titans secondary. The Titans rush game versus the Bengals front seven. Nostalgic fans may want to watch former Titan DT John Thornton against Titans LG Jacob Bell.

Keys for the Titans:

Offense – Getting the running game back on track is a priority. Keep the chains moving, run the clock, and keep Palmer on the sidelines.
Defense – The Titans need to get a strong pass rush to pressure Palmer and help out the secondary. It could be a long day if they don’t.

Prediction:

This could be a trap game for the Titans. They’ve lost two in a row, are coming off a Monday night loss, traveled back early Tuesday morning, have a short week including the Thanksgiving holiday, and then fly to Cincinnati Saturday. Albert Haynesworth’s status is uncertain. Still, the Titans should take advantage of a weak Bengals defense. If the Titans can contain the Bengals aerial attack, they should win. Weather may be a factor and rain should favor the Titans.
Tennessee 27
Cincinnati 21
For a look at the Bengals from their point of view, read what Chris Maier has to say on The Bengal Blitz, here on MVN.
Heard on the radio a few weeks ago: Bengals is an acronym for ‘Bout Every Number Got Arrested Last Season.

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