Week 12 of the 2012 NFL season matches up the Cincinnati Bengals with the Oakland Raiders. The Bengals are on track to force the issue in the AFC North for that final wildcard berth, but they need to keep on piling victories on top of each other. Fortunately for them, the Raiders offer up a good opportunity for them to extend their winning streak to three.
Here are three soft-spots the Bengals can look to to help them win this game:
Carson Palmer makes his return to Cincinnati this weekend, and while the majority of Bengals fans will be hoping to pile the misery on him with a strong defensive performance, much of Palmer’s struggles will be a result of his own offense’s ineptitude. Although Marcel Reese ran for over 100 yards last week, the Raiders are essentially a one-dimensional offense without Darren McFadden behind the quarterback.
McFadden will miss the game through injury, while his primary backup, Mike Goodson, looks set to do the same. That leaves the Raiders with a combination of Reese and Taiwan Jones as their running threats. Neither player is overly intimidating and benefited last week from playing against an awful New Orleans Saints‘ defense. Against the Bengals’ front seven, there should be very little running room.
That will force the game onto Palmer, who is regularly asked to throw an awful lot(146 attempts over the past three games). Palmer has eight touchdowns during his last three games, but has also thrown six interceptions. Even though he has, for the most part, played impressive individual football this season, being put in a situation where he has to carry the offense behind a terrible offensive line and playing from behind, has led to important turnovers. With the Bengals’ secondary in excellent form and Geno Atkins continuing to be a dominant force upfront, expect that turnover trend to continue this Sunday.
The Bengals have no major injury issues to deal with entering this game, but the Raiders have plenty. Along with running-backs McFadden and Goodson, the Raiders also look set to continue without leading defensive star Richard Seymour. While that trio haven’t practiced all week, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Brandon Myers and Tyvon Branch have all been limited.
With so many receiving threats dealing with issues this week, the Bengals’ secondary will feel very confident of shutting down the passing game on the way to victory. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals showed last week that they could dominate with their interior offensive line so without Seymour, BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be set for another career day for the Bengals.
The Bengals do have some minor issues as Andrew Hawkins looks set to miss the game. Even without Hawkins however, the recent displays of Mohamed Sanu combined with the Raiders’ lack of talent in the secondary will make it a moot loss.
Outside the Numbers:
Since the beginning of the preseason, the Raiders have completely revamped their secondary so much so that their best cornerback has moved from being their starting safety. Michael Huff and Ron Bartell will start for the Raiders outside, with Joselio Hanson manning the nickel role.
Hanson is a very tough matchup for whoever plays in the slot, but AJ Green will need to be double, or even triple-teamed, considering the players who will likely be assigned to cover him. Green is a superstar receiver who has advantages over whoever he lines up across from every week, but this matchup could be like a division I receiver in college going against a division III defensive back.
If starting safety Branch misses the game through injury, then Jermaine Gresham should be split wide on a regular basis to take advantage of any coverage shifts that the Raiders send Green’s way. Branch is a good physical defender, but Gresham’s physical skills against Matt Giordano, Mike Mitchell or any of the aforementioned cornerbacks would be overwhelming. Andy Dalton should be throwing to the sideline on a regular basis on Sunday.