NFL Week 16: 5 Reasons the Cincinnati Bengals Will Beat the Arizona Cardinals

Tom BrewerCorrespondent IIDecember 22, 2011

NFL Week 16: 5 Reasons the Cincinnati Bengals Will Beat the Arizona Cardinals

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    At the beginning of the NFL season, no one would have predicted that the Arizona Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals would be playing a game with playoff implications in Week 16. But with each team needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, Saturday’s game between these two unlikely postseason contenders is certain to provide some Christmas Eve fireworks.

    The Bengals will close the coffin on the Cardinals playoff run in a tight game.

    Let’s look at five reasons why.

5. The Arizona Cardinals Are Turnover-Happy

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    The holidays are a time for giving, and Arizona is certainly doing their part.

    The Cardinals rank 29th in the league with a turnover ratio at -11. The Bengals rank in the middle of the pack in NFL, with an even turnover ratio. This is a major advantage for Cincinnati, who will take advantage of Arizona’s miscues.

    The Bengals have been an opportunistic defensive team all season, and Week 16 will be no exception. Expect the Bengals to come up with a timely pick or momentum-changing forced fumble. The Bengals will score off of these turnovers and put pressure the Cardinals’ offensive unit.

4. Beanie Wells Is Not an Edge Rusher

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    Beanie Wells has enjoyed a reemergence in recent weeks, reminding football fans of his glory days with the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, Wells is the exact kind of runner Cincinnati’s ninth-ranked rushing defense loves to play.

    The Bengals are much better at stopping power running backs that prefer to play between the tackles like Beanie Wells. They struggle when they have to move laterally against edge rushers.

    Cincinnati gave up 85 rushing yards to Maurice Jones-Drew, 104 rushing yards to Ray Rice and 71 rushing yards to Steven Jackson, all players who rack up yards outside of the tackles.

    Mike Zimmer’s D will play to their strength on Saturday; they will play downhill and stop a running back that will try to power through them up the gut, just as they have done all season.

3. John Skelton Struggles in Road Games

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    Arizona quarterback John Skelton had been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2011 season, but most of his success comes inside of University of Phoenix Stadium. On the road, his performance drops dramatically.

    At home, Skelton’s quarterback rating is 88.4; on the road, just 45.2.

    At home, the second-year quarterback has thrown five touchdowns against three interceptions. Outside of Arizona, he has three touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    Skelton has completed over 61 percent of passes at home, and 47.6 percent of his passes on the road.

    Facing the Bengals’ 11th-ranked pass defense on the road will prove to be too much for Skelton to handle, and he will fail to find his receivers for the big plays he has made in recent weeks.

2. The Bengals Pass Rush Will Dominate the Cardinals Offensive Line

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    In this matchup of even teams, the one area where the Bengals have an enormous advantage is along the defensive line. The Bengals defensive line ranks fourth in the NFL with 39 sacks, while Arizona’s offensive line is second to last in sacks allowed, having given up 47.

    Cincinnati’s rotation on the defensive front has been shortened slightly because Pat Sims is injured. However, Carlos Dunlap’s return to the lineup will bolster the team’s pass rush and give John Skelton fits all day. This will disrupt his timing with his receivers to help neutralize the impact of Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet.  

1. Cedric Benson and Jermaine Gresham Step Up in Home Games

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    A.J Green is Cincinnati’s most consistent big-play threat, but Jermaine Gresham and Cedric Benson are the players who will keep the Bengals offense on the field by converting third downs.

    I don’t know what Paul Brown Stadium does for Cedric Benson, but he is a more explosive runner in front of the home crowd. At home, he averages 4.4 yards per carry versus 3.6 on the road. That is nearly a yard more each time he touches the ball.

    Benson has played one fewer home game than road game, but his numbers are nearly identical. On the road, he has four touchdowns, at home he has two. Ced has picked up 25 first downs outside of Cincinnati, and 22 on his home field.

    Jermaine Gresham is also a different player in front his home fans. Gresham averages a solid 8.5 yards per reception on the road, but an astounding 11.5 yards per catch at home.  In two fewer home games, Gresham has two more catches than on the road and nearly 100 more yards inside of Paul Brown Stadium than outside of it.

    Gresham and Benson will be energized by the possibility of playing their way into the playoffs and will play at a higher level in front of Who Dey Nation on Saturday. It is their play that will lock up a Bengals win.