Although the Kansas City Chiefs enter their NFL Week 11 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals after losing eight of their first nine games, the Chiefs pose a greater challenge to the Bengals than that record would depict. After easily beating the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants last week, the Bengals are on a high, with many fans talking about a potential playoff spot in spite of their current losing record of 4-5.
One reason fans are so excited, is what is being perceived as an easy schedule. The Bengals have two games in division against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, but have five games against teams with losing records before then. A loss against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium today would quell all that excitement and likely end their chances of getting a playoff spot however.
The Chiefs are coming off of an overtime loss against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, when they played better than they had all season. Then again, the Steelers do have a habit of playing down to their opposition, but the Chiefs were still executing plays in a way that will breathe optimism throughout their roster. Offensively, they are a limited group with Matt Cassel under center. Last week, Cassel was primarily a game manager playing within a cautious scheme before he threw the game sealing interception to Lawrence Timmons in overtime.
After Eli Manning‘s struggles against the Bengals’ defense last week, the Chiefs will likely approach this game the same way with Cassel. That will put the primary focus on Jamaal Charles running the ball, with limited opportunities for Jon Baldwin and Dwayne Bowe, who have favourable matchups on the outside against Leon Hall and Terence Newman.
Newman and Hall are playing very good football right now, but neither has the presence to handle the bulk of Bowe and Baldwin. Hall will also likely spend some time in the slot covering Dexter McCluster, which puts the pressure on Adam Jones/Nate Clements to step up to contain one of the bigger receivers.
As the offense looks to manage the game, the Chiefs’ defense will provide a more stern test for the Bengals’ offense than the Giants did last week. The Bengals were helped against the Giants by a big special teams play early on as well as a bomb to AJ Green when he was wide open.
Don’t expect the Chiefs to let Green free so easily, as one of the few bright spots on their defense this season has been cornerback Brandon Flowers. Flowers is one of the very best press man cover cornerbacks in the NFL and plays a very physical style with his opposition. Unlike Corey Webster last week, Flowers won’t cede anything easy to Green throughout four quarters.
With Green’s impact likely being curtailed, Andy Dalton will be forced to throw the ball around the same way that he did last week. If that is to happen, he needs his protection to stand up to the Chiefs’ talented pass rushers, both on the interior and the edges, while multiple receivers must step up again to carry the offense.
Andrew Hawkins‘ status for the game remains uncertain, while Mohamed Sanu will face a tough matchup against Javier Arenas who will follow him into the slot. That pits the inconsistent Jermaine Gresham against the equally inconsistent Eric Berry. While Berry hasn’t had a good year so far this season, he is a player who remains capable of creating turnovers and should have had at least one interception last week against the Steelers.
Having Dalton throw at Berry repeatedly is not an appealing option, no matter how much he has struggled this year. Instead, the Bengals will likely look to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield. Green-Ellis is another player who hasn’t overly impressed this year, but without Glenn Dorsey, and with Dontari Poe underperforming, the Bengals should be able to get good production running the ball right up the middle of the Chiefs’ defense.
The Chiefs may be 1-8 entering this game, but you’d be a fool to think that the Bengals are going to steamroll to an easy victory in Missouri.
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