The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that—at the beginning of the season—looked to have postseason implications. Now 10 weeks into the 2012 campaign, neither team’s prospects are very promising.
Though the Bengals would be sitting at 5-5 with a victory Sunday, this team’s inconsistency does not lend itself to the type of run it would need to reach the playoffs.
Closing the season with a road game against the San Diego Chargers, a home contest with the Dallas Cowboys, two road matchups against the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers and then finishing at home against the Baltimore Ravens would also seem to be a hindrance.
However, the quarterback-wide receiver tandem of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will only get better with time. If the front office can surround these two with the proper complements within the offense, the days of middle-of-the-pack football in Cincinnati could be numbered.
The Chiefs (1-8), on the other hand, are in complete disarray. The fanbase is starting to slip, as evidenced by a local group’s efforts in encouraging a massive overhaul of the team’s management.
For a season that started out with so much promise—following a seemingly successful offseason by general manager Scott Pioli in adding depth and starters at key positions—it is hard to imagine things could be any worse for a once-proud franchise.
Though this game has very little implication on each team’s season going forward, it is a sneaky candidate for being one of the more interesting matchups on the NFL’s Week 11 slate.
Here is one bold prediction for each team, along with fantasy football "beast or bust" candidates in Thursday’s matchup:
A.J. Green’s Touchdown Streak comes to an End
The Bengals’ top target, A.J. Green—who leads the league with nine touchdown receptions—enters this matchup having snagged a pass in the end zone in eight-straight games. With the Chiefs having allowed 18 touchdowns passes on the year, it would be safe to assume No. 18 extends the streak to nine come Sunday.
However, Kansas City should stop at nothing to prevent Green from taking the game over like he is all-too-capable of doing. With Cincinnati having little other offensive weapons, it might be easier than you think.
Though Dalton and Green will certainly hook up a lot, Chiefs’ cornerback Brandon Flowers will have plenty of help in making sure that it doesn’t happen in the painted part of the field.
Jamaal Charles Rushes for 150 Yards and 2 Touchdowns (Fantasy Beast)
Plain and simple: Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles is due for a big game.
After tallying only 83 yards on 29 carries in his previous three games, the explosive back was finally used properly in last week’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers—rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
In the four games when Charles has been given 12 carries or less, he has totaled 35 rushes for 86 yards and zero touchdowns. In the five contests he has been Ygiven more than 12 carries, he has tallied 120 rushes for 648 yards and three scores.
The Bengals defense is less-than-average against the run, allowing 118.3 yards per game on 4.4 yards per carry. Their 10 rushing touchdowns allowed are also tied for fourth-worst in the entire NFL.
What does all this mean?
If Kansas City can maintain a lead at home or keep the score within striking distance, look for Charles to be a huge part of their offense.
Who wins this game on Sunday?
Jermaine Gresham: Fantasy Beast
The Chiefs should focus most of their attention on Sunday toward Green—and rightfully so. However, their success in stopping big, physical tight ends this season has not gone well.
Jermaine Gresham is second on the Bengals in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. If Green is expending too much time trying to get open, Dalton will have no choice but to find his tight end if Cincinnati is to have any offensive success—especially near the red zone.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Fantasy Bust
The Bengals brought BenJarvus Green-Ellis over from the New England Patriots this past offseason to be their featured back. So far, that plan is not going so well.
Green-Ellis has only tallied 537 yards and three touchdowns on 3.4 yards per carry this season. And his three fumbles (two of them lost) thus far certainly weren’t expected after spending four seasons in New England with zero.
The Chiefs defense ranks 23rd in the league against the run, allowing 122.6 yards per game. However, this unit seems to tighten up when it counts, only yielding five rushing touchdowns through nine games.
The Law Firm isn’t fast enough to break the big runs he will need in order to rack up serious yardage, and Dalton has other options when the Bengals are in the red zone. So look for Green-Ellis to have another subpar fantasy output on Sunday.