Week 12: Oakland Raiders At Cincinnati Bengals
- QuarterbackCarson Palmer has been sharp for the Raiders, and he should be primed to play his best game against his former team. The Raiders have developed one of the more explosive passing games in the league and Palmer is completing better than 60 percent of his passes. His strong arm and quick release should cause issues for the Bengals.Andy Dalton is a bright and talented quarterback who started the season hot before going into a slump. He may be out of it now, but Marvin Lewis would like to see some consistency from him. Dalton has size, strength and athleticism and those characteristics allow him to buy time so his solid crew of receivers can get open and make big plays for him.
- OffenseRunning back Darren McFadden is vital to the Raiders, but a high ankle sprain has derailed his season and he may not be able to play in this game. Wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey are solid targets for Palmer and they will attempt to use their speed to get the best of the vulnerable Bengals’ secondary.The Bengals have not blocked well enough up front to give running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis many decent opportunities to establish the ground game. However, A.J. Green may be the best receiver in the league this season. He is a spectacular athlete who can outrun and outleap most defenders. He also has solid hands. Keep your eye on Mohamed Sanu as an emerging threat. Andrew Hawkins can also be a useful target.
- DefenseThe Raiders have not been consistent on the defensive side of the ball and the Bengals should be able to take advantage of their ineffectiveness. The biggest issue for the Raiders is that they don’t get the kind of pass rush that would make up for their ordinary secondary. Outside linebacker Philip Wheeler is a solid tackler who can force fumbles with his hard hitting.The Bengals are ordinary on defense, but Geno Atkins is a stud in the middle of the defensive line. He is a powerful force against the interior run, as is Domata Peko, and he also excels at breaking down the pocket and harassing the quarterback. Inside linebacker Rey Maualuga is a forceful tackler while cornerback Terence Newman is an underrated cover man.
- Special TeamsThe Raiders have a couple of great weapons in placekicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler, but their punt and kickoff return teams have been ineffective. Janikowski is still the best long-distance field goal kicker in the league.Adam Jones can be special as a return man, and he may be able to find plenty of room against the Raiders’ punt coverage team. Brandon Tate is one of the best kick returners in the league. Placekicker Mike Nugent and punter Kevin Huber have both been good but not great.
On the surface, this does not look like marquee NFL game, however the storyline of Palmer returning to Cincinnati and the Bengals trying to save their season gives this game extra meaning. If the Bengals can play for 60 minutes – a rarity this season – they could get themselves a much-needed victory.