By Danny Cox
Minnesota knows that they don’t have a lot to play for right now as there are two games remaining and they’d certainly like to finish the year on a positive note. One thing they can do is actually hurt the playoff chances and alter the seeding spots of other teams such as their last two opponents.
Up first will be the Cincinnati Bengals, who are coming off a big loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning three in a row.
The Bengals have been up and down all season as they’ve had some really good win streaks going on at times while they’ve lost other games that they easily should have won. Now, they still lead the AFC North, but the Baltimore Ravens aren’t far behind and neither are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Minnesota can play the role of spoiler, but they’re going to have to do some work.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is having a really good year as he’s on his way to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the weapons he has.
A.J. Green is easily his primary target, and he’s going to play havoc with the Minnesota secondary all day. He’s a tall receiver with good speed and great hands, and he just knows how to go up into the air and bring down the ball no matter where it is thrown.
From there, the Bengals split up their receptions among numerous other players including running back Giovani Bernard coming out of the backfield.
That is a place where the Bengals are rather dangerous. Neither Bernard nor BenJarvus Green-Ellis are having stellar seasons, but combined, they make one formidable and strong back.
Keeping the Bengals in their games this season would be that of their defense.
Cincinnati has the seventh-ranked passing defense in the league and fifth-ranked rushing defense. Not many players are racking up great individual numbers, but they are doing phenomenal as a whole.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict easily leads the team with 151 total tackles, and that is more than double the next closest Bengal. Carlos Dunlap (7.0) and Wallace Gilberry (7.5) lead the team in sacks though, and they are a trio of players that Matt Cassel will have to watch out for up front.
Cincinnati really does have a great team that can go far in the playoffs, but they would benefit from a higher-seeding. Minnesota can play spoiler and mess up the chances of the Bengals winning the AFC North, but they’re going to have to do a lot of work.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.