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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer

The Cincinnati Bengals (8-1) were just knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and now get an even tougher test on the road, facing an Arizona Cardinals (7-2) team coming off its biggest win of the season in Seattle. Yes, after last week both teams seem to be in opposite places, but this potential Super Bowl preview will cement one team's status as a favorite.

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The Bengals' offense was stymied last week by the Texans, putting up a mere six points, including none in the second half. Still the Bengals enter this game ranked fifth in the league in scoring offense and first in scoring defense. Did the Texans expose the "blueprint" for beating Cincinnati? Or was it just one of those off games that regularly occur in the NFL? Clearly the Bengals are still a very good team, but they'll need to bounce back and put forth their best effort to win in Arizona.

The Cardinals meanwhile didn't play their best game of the season against their divisional rival Seahawks, but they did recover from back-to-back Seahawk touchdowns in the fourth quarter to retake the lead and seal the win with two clutch touchdowns of their own. After losing two of their first three games to open October, the Cardinals have now won three in a row. A win over the Bengals on national TV might just cement the Cardinals' place atop the NFC as Super Bowl favorites.

Cincinnati at Arizona

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Cardinals -4

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Three Things to Watch

1. Bengals offense bounce-back?

The Bengals had just 256 yards of offense against the Texans, easily a season low, and things don't get any easier with a tough Cardinal defense playing at home. Patrick Peterson on A.J. Green is the marquee matchup to watch, as Green was held to just five catches for 67 yards last week. But the bigger question mark is Tyler Eifert, whose three catches for 26 yards really embodied why the Bengals struggled. Eifert was off his game against the Texans and the effect was clear. They'll need to get Green and Eifert going early to get their offense back on track.

2. Cardinals best offense in the NFL?

The Cardinals have only been held under 400 yards of offense twice this season. Larry Fitzgerald (65 catches, 836 yards, seven touchdowns) and Chris Johnson (166 carries, 734 yards, three touchdowns) have been rejuvenated and Carson Palmer is just 10 touchdown passes away from breaking his career high of 32, which was set in 2005. But as the season wears on, can these veteran players maintain this level of play? Or will they start to break down? The Bengal defense, which should be hungry and looking to bounce back, should give the Cardinals a great test.

3. Bright lights for Bengals

This will be the third game in a row the Bengals will be on national television. Their first was an easy beatdown of the Browns, the second they sputtered at home against the Texans, and now they must go on the road to face one of the best teams in the NFL. The football world has been waiting for a signature win from Andy Dalton and this Bengals team, and this could be it. 

Final Analysis

These are two of the best teams in the NFL right now and this is the time of year when the real contenders start to play their best football. Both teams sputtered at times last week, but only the Cardinals were able to overcome their mistakes to pull out the win. A loss like the one the Bengals had at the hands of the Texans can often derail teams, so they have a lot to prove against the Cardinals. The problem is that the Cardinals have only one two-point loss at home this year and have arguably the best offense in the NFL. The Bengals' holes will continue to be exposed, but they'll put up a good fight.

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Prediction: Cardinals 31, Bengals 24

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.