The Bengals were riding high off of 2011, with the emergence of rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green; however, the first half of 2012 has been a struggle. The Bengals are on a three game slide and coming off a bye week, looking to get things turned around in a tough second half of the season.
The Browns are no longer on the schedule, with Cincinnati set up to play tough divisional games in December against both the Steelers and Ravens
In order to right the ship, Andy Dalton will need to avoid turnovers and BenJarvus Green-Ellis will need to begin proving to Cincinnati fans why the Bengals were so ecstatic to pick him up in the offseason.
Peyton Manning and the red-hot Denver Broncos come into Cincinnati as the Bengals come off their bye week. Peyton Manning struggled getting his feet wet as the Broncos got off to a 1-2 start. However, Manning has quickly gotten comfortable.
He has posted a league-best 127.9 passer rating with 12 touchdowns to one interception in the last four games. Denver has won three of its last four, taking sole possession of the AFC West.
Manning is in a league of his own, becoming the first quarterback to ever throw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and complete 70 percent of passes for four straight games.
The Bengals are moving in the opposite direction with three straight losses.
The Bengals have struggled to run the ball with new addition BenJarvus Green-Ellis, resulting in several poor decisions by Andy Dalton. Dalton has thrown at least one pick in every game this season, with six during the Bengals' three-game losing streak. This may be the last chance for the Bengals to save their playoff lives.
Matchup to Watch: A.J. Green vs. Champ Bailey
Prediction: Broncos 27, Bengals 17
The Giants, with an NFL-best 24 takeaways, should cause problems for Andy Dalton. Safety Stevie Brown, with three interceptions in the last two weeks, will be keeping his eye on the red-headed quarterback.
Look for Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck to wreck havoc in the Cincinnati backfield.
The Bengals will be tasked with slowing down an offense that averages 397 yards per game and features the dance-happy Victor Cruz, who already has seven touchdowns in 2012.
Expect the Giants to outclass Cincinnati in this one.
Matchup to Watch: Victor Cruz vs. Leon Hall
Prediction: Giants 34, Bengals 13
After two straight losses to top tier NFL teams, the Bengals get a breather. The Chiefs are bad. Really bad.
The Chiefs should be 1-8 at this point, coming off a loss to the Steelers. Despite the talents of Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs have been massively ineffective on offense. At this point they don't know what to do at the quarterback position. They started with Matt Cassel, turned to Brady Quinn, and now are back on Cassel. Does it really matter who is behind center for the hapless Chiefs.
The Chiefs can't pass the football and their defense is like swiss cheese against the run. The only way the Chiefs have a chance is if Charles breaks the NFL single-game rushing record.
Look for Cincinnati to run all over the Chiefs and for A.J. Green to tear up a secondary that lost Brandon Carr to the Cowboys over the offseason.
The Bengals will rebound from a five-game losing streak, bringing their record to 4-6.
Matchup to Watch: Andy Dalton vs. Eric Berry
Prediction: Bengals 24, Chiefs 6
Get ready for the boo birds to come out as Carson Palmer makes his first return trip to the Queen City. Palmer, a former No. 1 overall pick of the Bengals, notably threatened retirement if Mike Brown would not trade him. Brown acquiesced, the Bengals drafted A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, and this brings us to the current state of both franchises.
Palmer has failed to live up to expectation in Oakland, although he has been a significant upgrade over the myriad of quarterbacks the Silver and Black have run through since Rich Gannon. I predict the Raiders will be 3-5 entering this game, with back-to-back losses to the Bucs and Ravens.
The Bengals will probably have trouble running against the Raiders' 10th ranked rush defense, so Dalton will have to make plays. The Raiders don't have any corners that can match up to A.J. Green, which should give Dalton confidence to sling it.
If Cincinnati can stop Darren McFadden and force Palmer into a couple of mistakes, this grudge match against Palmer should tip in the Bengals' favor.
Matchup to Watch: Rey Maualuga vs. Darren McFadden
Prediction: Bengals 31, Raiders 21
The Bengals get a break from the bitter Cincinnati winter with their Week 13 trip to San Diego. The Chargers, as they are every year, are an enigma. Some weeks they look good, some they look downright terrible. This team is not as good as its current 4-4 record would suggest, as two of the Chargers four wins are against the Chiefs
Make no mistake, there isn't the same talent on this Chargers teams as in one's of past years. Playmakers like Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson are gone, with mainstays Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates struggling this year.
Norv Turner is likely out of the job at the end of the year and I don't expect the players to be playing too hard for him at this point in the season. Rivers doesn't appear to be in a good place with his confidence and overall mental state. Rivers has seemed confused, flustered, and frustrated all year long.
The Bengals should win a sloppy one over the Bolts.
Matchup to Watch: Andy Dalton vs. Eric Weddle
Prediction: Bengals 17, Chargers 13
Things have gotten to a breaking point in Dallas. Tony Romo has been booed left and right, Dez Bryant is out of control, and Jason Garrett's seat gets hotter each week. After staging a valiant comeback attempt against the Giants, the Cowboys fell short as usual.
The loss against the Giants was visibly deflating for Dallas and could serve to affect the rest of its season.
Tony Romo, despite his turnovers and inconsistent play, pulls out a couple big games every year. He has such dangerous weapons with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin that should cause issues for the Bengals coverage.
Brandon Carr should be on A.J. Green like glue, especially with the impending rush of DeMarcus Ware. This will force other Cincinnati players to step up and beat the Cowboys. They won't. I have the Cowboys dropping the Bengals back to below .500 at 6-7.
Matchup to Watch: Andrew Whitworth vs. DeMarcus Ware
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Bengals 23
It's hard to predict where the Eagles will be at this point in the season. Will Michael Vick still be the starting quarterback? Will Andy Reid be on his way out? And who will be coaching this defense? The Eagles may have the most on-paper talent in the NFL, but it has yet to come together for Philly.
The Eagles are 3-4, but let's take a look at who they have lost to. The Cardinals, Steelers, Lions, and Falcons. Despite the Lions' struggles this season, all are good teams. Add the fact that they've beaten Baltimore and the Giants, and the Eagles suddenly don't seem as bad.
Philly isn't the great team it was expected to be, but they aren't a terrible team either. If Michael Vick can keep from turning the ball over, and Andy Reid can get LeSean McCoy involved, the Eagles may have a second half resurgence similar to their four-game winning streak they ended with in 2011.
Matchup to Watch: A.J. Green vs. Nnamdi Asomugha
Prediction: Eagles 19, Cincinnati 17
This game will likely have major playoff implications for the Steelers so Heinz Field should be full of Terrible Towels. Ben Roethlisberger is starting to get comfortable in Todd Haley's power running offense, but the Steelers can't seem to keep a running back healthy.
This is one of those tough December divisional games where things can go either way.
At this point in the season Big Ben will probably be walking wounded, limiting his effectiveness. The cold weather will slow down Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
The Bengals will learn from the first game, in which they allowed Jonathan Dwyer to rush for 122 yards and shut down the rushing game. Cincinnati lead 14-3 in that game, however turnovers proved to be its downfall in a 24-17 loss.
A.J. Green will avenge himself against Ike Taylor, who limited him to one catch in their Week 7 contest.
Matchup to Watch: Geno Atkins vs. Maurkice Pouncey
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 23
The season finale will be interesting. It remains to be seen if the Ravens will have solid footing on a playoff seed, thereby resting their starters, or will be playing for a bye week.
Let's assume the Ravens come out with motive to play tough football. These aren't the Ravens you grew up on. They don't have a dominant defense. Ray Lewis isn't out on the field. They employ a vertical passing attack, led by strong-armed Joe Flacco. The Ravens have plenty of speed on offense with Ray Rice and Torrey Smith.
The Ravens' offense is built around featured back Ray Rice. He is one of the most productive players in the league, accounting for around 30 percent of his team's offense.
While the Ravens are missing key pieces like Lewis and Lardarius Webb, Terrell Suggs will definitely be back at this point and should be ready to "ball so hard."
Matchup to Watch: Andy Dalton vs. Ed Reed
Prediction: Ravens 31, Bengals 27
The Bengals continue their streak without back-to-back playoff appearances, posting a disappointing 7-9 record in 2012.