Raiders vs. Bengals: Biggest Keys to Week 12's Under-the-Radar AFC Clash

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Raiders vs. Bengals: Biggest Keys to Week 12's Under-the-Radar AFC Clash
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Sunday's Week 12 showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals has plenty of appeal despite both teams flying in under the radar. 

There are also some intriguing storylines for fans to follow, including the return of Carson Palmer to Cincinnati, where he began his career with Marvin Lewis and the Bengals. But more important than any of Sunday's storylines, are the keys to this AFC clash.

Here we break down some of the most vital factors in determining who comes out on top this weekend.

Marcel Reece

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Raiders' backup running back Marcel Reece will need to find success early on against Cincinnati's defense in order to ensure Oakland will have some offensive balance on Sunday.

With starting back Darren McFadden ruled out, it will be up to Reece, who's averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season, to lead Oakland's ground attack against the Bengals' 17th-ranked rush defense. Cincinnati is surrendering more than 117 yards on the ground per week, and is certainly vulnerable to the run. Cincinnati has allowed 10 rushing scores in 10 games.

Reece rushed for 103 yards last week against the New Orleans Saints, but failed to find the end zone. He also had another 90 yards receiving.

If Reece can continue to reel off big chunks of yardage this Sunday, then he will make Palmer's life that much easier and in turn the Raiders' offense that much more effective.

Raiders' Secondary

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Oakland's defense must show up on the road on Sunday in order for the Raiders to have any shot at a win. Oakland ranks 24th in the NFL defending the pass this season, and is giving up more than 253 yards per game through the air.

The Raiders have also given up 20 passing touchdowns in 10 games, which doesn't bode well for them considering Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has tossed 20 in 10 games this year.

Only the New Orleans Saints have given up more passing touchdowns in as many games this season. That's an eye-opening statistic and one that Oakland will desperately need to overcome on the road Sunday in order to win.

A.J. Green

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The Bengals' second-year wide receiver has been absolutely remarkable this season, catching 10 touchdowns in 10 games, and one in each of Cincinnati's past nine games.

Only New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has as many receiving scores as Green this year.

With a 6'4" frame, Green is nearly impossible to beat deep down the field and in the air. He can surpass 1,000 yards receiving for the second straight season on Sunday against Oakland.

As already mentioned, the Raiders are extremely susceptible to the pass and will have their work cut out for them in Week 12 trying to slow A.J. Green. If Green can get going at home then Oakland could be in for a long day.

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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