How do you bounce back to relevance after a woeful loss to the Cleveland Browns?
There's perhaps no better way than by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Cincinnati wants to turn the ship around in Week 7, they need to topple the Steelers at home.
Pittsburgh is also coming off of a loss, and to a Tennessee Titans team that they should have mauled.
This could prove to be a pivotal match-up in the journey to the postseason, and these teams are more evenly matched than in years past.
Cincinnati have already lost two divisional games, and need this win a more than Pittsburgh who are yet to face an AFC North opponent.
Here's our keys to a Cincinnati Bengals victory.
The Running Game
Six weeks into the 2012 season and its already looking like the Bengals need to re-address their running back situation. Bernard Scott is injured once again, and Brian Leonard continues to sit out practice.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis—hoped by many to be this year's feature back—has struggled recently. The safest hands in the NFL are not quite so safe anymore, and without game-breaking speed or receiving skills, BJGE is starting to look a little disappointing.
According to Football Outsiders, the Steelers run defense ranks 20th overall, not awful, but not exactly spectacular either.
The Bengals passing offense had to carry the load last week in part due to a beaten up and often woeful running game. The results weren't pretty.
If BenJarvus Green-Ellis can at the very least average over five YPC, the whole team will benefit.
Take away A.J. Green's magnetic hands and Dalton's performance in Cleveland would have been an abomination. He's throwing 300+ yard games, but with interceptions, fumbles and sacks galore. A whole lot of passing yards mean nothing if you don't win the game; just ask Drew Brees.
Jay Gruden appears to have little confidence in running the ball, and Green-Ellis' struggles have given him further justification to go vertical. On the positive side, Marvin Jones has looked great when involved, as had Orson Charles.
If Andy Dalton is going to be looked to more often, he needs to make better decisions. He often spends too long glued to his first read, and is forced to scramble back to the line of scrimmage if he isn't sacked before.
Dalton needs to have a more consistent day.
Dre Kirkpatrick's Debut
Whether he contributes in a meaningful manner or not, the Bengals will get a definite boost if they get their first-round pick on the field on Sunday.
If you want to get the best out of your veterans, throw a young, highly touted rookie into the mix and see what happens.
Kirkpatrick has been out since the preseason with a leg injury, and the Bengals have been extra-cautious in not rushing his return.
Marvin Lewis has also praised Kirkpatrick, and sees a debut in the near future:
“I’ve been really impressed with Dre Kirkpatrick in practice. More impressed than any time he’s been here; even more impressive than when he was here in rookie minicamp,” Lewis said.
If Kirkpatrick plays as advertised prior to the draft, the secondary could see a real improvement.
Given the play of his fellow backs, one tackle would be great...
The Bengals and Steelers will go at it on Sunday Night Football in week 7. Yet while the Steelers are more comfortable on the big stage, they are by no means the favourites.
The Steelers need this win if they want to put to rest the constant accusations that they are too tired and too old to rule the North.
The Bengals need the win if they want to take the torch from Pittsburgh and climb the AFC North ladder to challenge the Ravens.
Cincinnati are coming off of two straight losses and with a bye week just around the corner, there is no better time to get a much-needed win than on Sunday Night Football at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Cincinnati Bengals are only converting 26.7 percent of third downs and that's all there is to it.
It's one of the main problems Marvin Lewis highlighted following the loss to Cleveland, and it's something they cannot afford to have continue against the likes of Pittsburgh.
With or without Troy Polamalu, the Steelers defense is still the Steelers defense and it won't be easy for Andy Dalton & Co. if they face multiple third down's.
The Bengals didn't help themselves in their loss to the Browns. They totalled seven penalties for a total of 50 yards, including a pass interference call on a long A.J. Green reception that stifled any hope of keeping the game close in the fourth.
As with third downs, the Bengals can't afford to put themselves in that position, especially against stronger teams like Pittsburgh.
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