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New Orleans Saints Versus the Cincinnati Bengals: Game Preview

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New Orleans Saints Versus the Cincinnati Bengals: Game Preview
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints, winners against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, will travel to Cincinnati to take the lowly Bengals who are coming off of a loss last Thanksgiving night to the Jets.  The Saints are attempting to keep pace with the Falcons for the lead in the NFC South, while the Bengals are out of playoff contention and are looking towards the 2011 season. 

The Bengals are a team that has played much better than their record indicates and have an offense that has two of the top pass catchers in the NFL, in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.  Quarterback Carson Palmer has been inconsistent and has made some mistakes at critical times this season.

The Saints defense has been pretty good at taking advantage of mistakes by opposing teams and, if given some chances by the Bengals, you can bet that New Orleans will be able to control this game and win.

The following is a look at the Saints versus the Bengals in this extended game preview.

When the Saints have the Ball

New Orleans has been doing a lot of their damage through the air, but in their game against the Cowboys last week, they managed to do pretty well on the ground.  The running game has undergone a bit of a resurgence thanks to the emergence of Chris Ivory, who rushed for two touchdowns in the Saints win against the Cowboys.  With Ivory and their star Reggie Bush back in the lineup, the Saints should have a much more improved rushing attack.

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The Bengals are allowing teams to gain 123 yards per game on the ground, which should play nicely into the Saints hands.  New Orleans has been averaging 94 yards a game, so with the kind of rushing defense the Bengals have, the Saints should find some success running the football.

When you think of the Saints, you think of quarterback Drew Brees and their passing game and the Saints passing game has been doing very well during the second half of this season.  New Orleans is averaging 291 yards per game thought the air while the Bengals are allowing 216 yards per game passing.  

The Bengals do have an adequate passing defense, but they can be passed upon.  They also like to give up big passing plays and the Saints love to go deep, so look for them to go down the field early and often to help move the ball down the field, score and win the game.

When it comes to keeping Brees clean and upright, the Saints offensive line has done a pretty decent job.  So far, they have allowed a total of 20 sacks this year (averaging around one per game) while the Bengals are getting to quarterbacks an average of one time per game (they have 12 so far this year). It looks like the Saints may be able to pass comfortably against the Bengals.

When the Bengals have the Ball

Last year, the Bengals were much more of a running team, but this year they have changed things up and now they pass the ball more.  Why wouldn’t they with two solid receivers like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in the lineup?  You would think that the Bengals would have a ton of success passing the ball.

Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Cincinnati, that hasn’t happened the way that they would like it to.  Through 11 games, the Bengals have averaged 237 yards per game through the air, but a lot of those yards have come as a result of their being behind in games and being forced to catch up.  

The Saints are allowing teams to gain 197 yards per game through the air on average and this is a credit to a defense that has had problems in the secondary all season.  A good pass rush has really helped the Saints defense out and New Orleans will attempt to get a good one going against the Bengals offense, which has allowed 22 sacks so far this season.

The Bengals still run the ball well at times, but being they fall behind so much, they have been forced to set the running game aside and pass the ball much more.  Through 11 games this season, the Bengals are averaging 92 yards per game on the ground.  The Saints are allowing teams to rush for an average of 108 yards per game on the ground, so if the Bengals should be able to run the ball.

Analysis

The Saints are one of a few teams in the NFL that are on a “hot streak” right now.  They have won four games in a row and are starting to look a lot like they did last season.  They have quite a bit of motivation, including catching up to the Falcons who are currently in the lead in the division, but, most importantly, they want to defend their title and get back to the Super Bowl.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Saints have been using both the running and the passing game to their benefit recently and should stick with that formula in order to win.  Controlling the ball and the clock is a big part of being successful in any offense and the Saints are finally starting to do both things well.

The Bengals are a team that, despite their record, cannot be taken lightly.  They have put up a good fight in several games this season and could upset anyone.  The Saints have to avoid the upset and come out on top in this game.

Cincinnati will pass the ball a lot in this game in order to try to get the lead and force the Saints offense to play catch up.  The Saint’s defense, in particular their secondary, will have to try to shut down the Bengals primary pass receivers, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.  They will definitely have their work cut out for them.

New Orleans has been allowing teams to gain good yardage on the ground and with a running back like Cedric Benson the Bengals can do a lot of damage.  The Saints need to stop the Bengals from controlling the ball on the ground and force them to pass where they are much more apt to make mistakes.

The Saints need to build a nice lead and keep the ball away from the Bengals in order to win.  If they can do that, then they will win this game.

Injury Impact

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Both teams list the following players on their end of the week injury report:

New Orleans Saints

RB-Pierre Thomas-Ankle-Questionable; RB-Ladell Betts-Neck-Doubtful; LB-Anthony Waters-Ankle-Questionable.

Cincinnati Bengals

WR-Terrell Owens-Illness-Probable; S-Roy Williams-Head-Probable; DE-Antwan Odom-Wrist-Questionable; OT-Andrew Whitworth-Knee-Probable; CB-Brandon Gee-Groin-Doubtful; CB-Jonathan Joseph-Ankle-Questionable; DT-Pat Sims-Knee-Probable; CB-Rico Murray-Ankle-Questionable.

The possibility that running back Pierre Thomas may be back either in this game or the next has to excite the Saints.  While they are starting to get some production out of Ivory, they have to like having Thomas back in the lineup.  If he can play, the Saints rushing attack will be much better as will their offense.

Prediction

This game is so important for the Saints because they need to win to keep pace with the Falcons for the lead in the division.  They also need to keep winning in order to get a playoff spot because there are a lot of teams that could finish with the same or better record than the Saints and the tiebreakers may not end up going their way.

The Bengals haven’t been playing their best football lately, but they will be up for this game and will be ready (they are even saying some things in the media to help add some fuel to the fire).  New Orleans will want this game more and should win this game.

New Orleans 28 Cincinnati 14

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