Not only are the Bengals 7-0 at home this season, but they actually have something to play for in this game. After their game against the Ravens is complete, the Patriots will be taking on the Bills (who spoiled the Dolphins' fun last week). If the Bills and Bengals win, Marvin Lewis' team earns a bye through the first round of the 2013 NFL Playoffs. Therefore, Lewis will be playing his starters and aiming for victory.
In addition to that, Joe Flacco will be wearing a brace on his knee for the second game in a row since injuring it against the Detroit Lions. The first game didn't go so well, with Flacco getting benched in the midst of a 41-7 loss to New England. One of Flacco's best qualities is his mobility, and having it hampered by the knee brace could hurt him again against the Bengals.
I wish there was as much good news about this game as there is about the Ravens game.
The bad news for San Diego is that Tannehill hasn't missed any practice time and appears fine to take on the Jets on Sunday. In addition, veteran OT Bryant McKinnie thinks he knows what caused all the issues last week and has taken steps to fix it. Let's hope he's wrong.
To put it bluntly, this is going to be a matchup of the inconsistent Geno Smith against the very consistent Ryan Tannehill. Which is a little scary.
So, why am I hopeful about this game? Rex Ryan.
Apparently, with a 6-8 record, Ryan told his team that the "word on the street" is that he'd be fired at the end of the season. He asked them to play for him, to fight for his job, these last two weeks. He wants to prove that the team is heading in the right direction, and is better than their record states. Obviously, if he can make the GM and Owner believe that the team can be a playoff contender next season, he stands a better chance of keeping his job.
After using that speech the first time, the Jets played arguably their most complete game of the season and beat the Cleveland Browns 24-13. Geno Smith scored 3 touchdowns and racked up 262 yards while the Jets offense kept from turning the ball over at all. If Ryan can get them to play like that again, the Jets are likely to win and he's likely to keep his job.
This one is the easiest one of the bunch. Andy Reid's goal for this game isn't to win, it's to keep his guys healthy for the following game.
It looks as if Reid will play his starters for a series or two before going with backups for the rest of the game. Expect the Chargers to win big, as the Chiefs backups are nowhere near as good as the San Diego starters. Let's just hope that the win means something more than a 9-7 record to finish the regular season.