Cincinnati Bengals-Atlanta Falcons: Teams Look To Rebound in Week 7

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Cincinnati Bengals-Atlanta Falcons: Teams Look To Rebound in Week 7
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The Cincinnati Bengals were 10-6 a year ago, winning the AFC North while going unbeaten in six division games—no easy task in one of the NFL's toughest divisions.

Because of that, it would have been hard to imagine them sitting at 2-3 in Week 7 of the 2010 season and in serious danger of falling out of the playoff race rather early.

The Bengals made a splash in the offseason when they signed receiver Terrell Owens at the suggestions of fellow receiver Chad Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer.

They already had a solid running game and a very good defense, it was thought, so this move would give them an elite offense, in turn making them an elite team.

But, as Chris Berman would say, "That's why they play the games."

Things haven't gone according to plan for Cincinnati.  A defense that was one of the best in 2009 has become average this year, ranking 13th in yards allowed per game and 16th in points allowed per game.

The D has been especially susceptible to the run to the tune of 111 rushing yards allowed a game, making it 18th in the league.

The running game is, of course, Atlanta's biggest strength.

The offense, which was supposed to be incredibly explosive with the addition of Owens, has faltered as well, scoring just 20 points a game, tied with Oakland (Oakland!) for 17th overall.

Of particular concern is the play of Palmer, who, not too long ago, was considered an elite quarterback, or at least a guy who was well on his way to becoming one.

He has already thrown six interceptions—after he threw 13 in all of 2009—is completing just 59.3 percent of his passes and his quarterback rating of 78.3 is well below is career average of 87.3.

Ochocinco, normally one of the top receivers in the league, hasn't really had good a game since the first week of the season, when he caught 12 balls for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Since then he hasn't had more than four catches, hasn't cracked 60 yards receiving and hasn't even scored a touchdown.

The only guys who have lived up to their billing on offense are running back Cedric Benson and the aforementioned Owens, who is on his way to another big season.

Cincy lost its last game, against Tampa Bay, in heartbreaking fashion on a last-second field goal and has had two weeks to think about as they were on a bye in Week 6.

Atlanta is coming off a bad loss to Philadelphia in which they struggled on offense and had a bad day on defense, giving up a number of big plays.

The Falcons haven't been great against the pass by any means this year, but they were generally able to keep teams out of the end zone before last week.

For them to be successful against the Bengals, they will need to figure something out in terms of their pass coverage, despite being without their top corner, Dunta Robinson, who will be out after suffering a concussion against the Eagles.

Even though Cincinnati's offense has, for the most part, struggled to score points, they still are near the top in passing yards with 248 yards a game, good for seventh in the league.

In Atlanta's favor, the Falcons defense still leads the league in interceptions with 11, and will hope they can force some more mistakes from Palmer.

While Cincinnati is much more desperate for a win that Atlanta, in reality both teams need to win this game.

The Bengals can't fall any further behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh in their division, and the Falcons need to keep pace with New Orleans and Tampa who both have favorable home matchups this week.

This should be a hotly contested game.  If it's close late, the advantage will go to the Falcons, who have been great in that situation so far this year while the Bengals have struggled under those circumstances.

If Atlanta can find a way to win this game, they'll have a week to savor it before preparing for a crucial divisional game against the Buccaneers in Week 9 and will be firmly in control of their destiny.

If Cincinnati loses, things could begin to unravel quickly, as has been the case when Owens' teams have had difficulties in the past, and coach Marvin Lewis' job could be on the line.

It should be an interesting Sunday.

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