Bengals vs. Steelers Preview, Week 17, December 28, 2014

199323-330-0Only the Bengals would be a 3.5 point dog one week after waxing the sweethearts of the AFC.  In writing this preview, I just keep flashing back to 2005.  I’m pretty sure that season caused the entire Bengal fandom to experience PTSD.

Marvin’s motto over the last few seasons has been, “don’t flinch.”  After being punched in the face so many times as a fan, it is hard not to flinch.  The Benglas  cuddled with us on Monday night.  They held our hands and kissed us on the mouth.  They were very unselfish lovers.  They gave us hope that this time they were changed men.  We believed.  We let them back in and handed them the keys to our heart.

Now, they have to leave again.  Another road trip to Pittsburgh.  We hope and we believe as we sit and wait, wait for their return.  Will they have a relapse?  We still have questions and so does Vegas.

The game has been flexed to primetime (8:30 p.m.).  This is the biggest game in the NFL thus far this season.

The winner on Sunday night wins the division.  The AFC North division is nothing to sneeze at.  Its big boy football that has brought home multiple Superbowl appearances and wins over the last 15 years.  I’m worried.

After all, this is what I have lived with:

Passing Leader (all-time): Ken Anderson – 32,838 yards
Rushing Leader (all-time): Corey Dillon – 8,061 yards
Receiving Leader (all-time): Chad Johnson – 10,783 yards
Winningest Coach (all-time): Marvin Lewis – 100 wins

Two of those guys, you wouldn’t want in your living room.

How can the Bengals win?

Not by giving up 25 points in the 4th quarter as they did just 3 weeks ago.  The Bengals must play defense and stop the run.  That is their recipe for success. No one can beat the Bengals only throwing. NO ONE.  Dre Kirkpatrick can’t start for the Bengals.  The Bengals backup secondary is better than what most teams have starting.

The last time these two teams met, Andy Dalton threw for 322 yards.  The Bengals rushed for 85 yards and went MIA in the 4th quarter.  They were embarrassed. I have to wonder how much of Dick Lebeau’s game plan was to bet that Andy Dalton couldn’t do enough to win.  I also wonder how much of that loss three weeks ago had to do with Hue Jackson not realizing he was being taken out of his game plan.

The Bengals have an identity now which makes writing a preview a little easier.  They play great pass defense, they sometimes are good against the run and they can pound you on offense if you let them.  Defenses are closing off the Bengals game breakers, leaving Gresham as the go to option.  Dalton has been able to find him.

But this is the Steelers, at home.  Anything bad can happen.  The Bengals have not been good against tight ends this year (or ever) and Heath Miller is having an All Pro year.  Rey Malaluaga must have information on Marvin Lewis.  He continues to fall down way too often. He gives himself up to blockers and seems lost at times, still.  That can’t be part of his positional assignment.

I believe the Bengals will win.  How can you be so sure they will lose after last week?  James Harrison is starting for the Steelers again.  Pittsburgh is aging at some very key positions.  The last time the Bengals lost to the Steelers they had just won three straight games on the road. I see growth.  I feel loved.  But then I look at Roethlisberger’s season and realize that he deserves the MVP.   I am as confused as a drunk girl in a bathroom stall.

I look for the Bengals to run and run and run then find the deep ball.  Dick Lebeau knows how to defend the Bengals and that means Andy Dalton is going to get shots over the middle of the field.  He better take advantage. There is too much on the line.  Legacies are at stake.  Reputations.  The opportunity is too big to pass up.  Lebeau is going to go all in to not be embarrassed like the Broncos were on Monday night.  Dalton and the screen package will be big Sunday night.  The deep ball will return. I wouldn’t want to be Ike Taylor.

The Steelers have played over their heads.  They can’t possibly put up 500 yards against the team we saw Monday night.  They can’t possibly be prepared to stop Jeremy Hill since he has been named starter.  It was the last Pittsburgh game that earned Hill this start.  Hue recognized the team was going in the wrong direction.

Bengals we miss you and we love your face.  We will be here for you.  Don’t take advantage.  Be gentle. Please win.

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