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THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS

Bengals Are in Position to Spoil It for Colts

November 18, 2005|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

For the Cincinnati Bengals, it's deja vu all over again.

The Bengals, for the second time in three seasons, are positioned in mid-November to spoil an opponent's dreams of an unbeaten season.

Two years ago, it was the Kansas City Chiefs who were 9-0 and lording it over the AFC before the Bengals surprised them, 24-19. This time, it is the Indianapolis Colts, unbeaten -- and mostly unchallenged -- through nine games and favored by six points over the Bengals in Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

But the Bengals of two years ago didn't have a lot going for them. These Bengals, led by quarterback Carson Palmer, have high hopes of their own as they try to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC North. Each team is 7-2.

"We're playing for ourselves," linebacker Brian Simmons said this week. "We don't have to play the spoiler."

The Colts, led by Peyton Manning, rank second in the NFL in total offense, the Bengals fifth. The Colts, trying to become only the 16th team in NFL history to reach 10-0, rank fifth in total defense, but the Bengals lead the league in interceptions with 20, total take-aways with 29 and turnover margin at plus-20.

"Talk to us about 16-0 when we get to 15-0," Colt defensive tackle Corey Simon said. "The talent in this league won't allow us to look any farther ahead."

Elsewhere:

Detroit (4-5), plus 8, at Dallas (6-3), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Cowboys look for their fourth consecutive home victory against a team that has lost 32 of its 36 road games.

Carolina (7-2), minus 3, at Chicago (6-3), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Mirror, mirror: The Panthers have won six in succession, the Bears five. Both are strong defensively. Each leads its division. The Bears are 4-1 at home, the Panthers 3-1 on the road.

Oakland (3-6), plus 6, at Washington (5-4), Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2 -- Same old story: The Raiders have committed only 10 turnovers, third-fewest in the league, but have been called for an NFL-high 90 penalties.

Arizona (2-7), plus 9 1/2 , at St. Louis (4-5), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Kurt Warner, 0-5 as a Cardinal starter, makes a not-so-triumphant return to St. Louis.

Tampa Bay (6-3), plus 6, at Atlanta (6-3), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Tied with the Panthers atop the AFC South before Sunday's loss to Green Bay, the defending division champion Falcons are in danger of falling into third place.

Miami (3-6), plus 2 1/2 , at Cleveland (3-6), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- What time is it? "It's time for me to make plays," said rookie Braylon Edwards, calling on the struggling Browns to get him the ball.

Jacksonville (6-3), minus 4, at Tennessee (2-7), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Jaguars have won four of five after Sunday's 30-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, the first time in 59 games that they scored more than 29 points.

Philadelphia (4-5), plus 7, at N.Y. Giants (6-3), Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11 -- The Eagles have won four straight over the Giants, but this time they'll be without Donovan McNabb, whose groin injury might keep him sidelined until 2006.

Pittsburgh (7-2), no line, at Baltimore (2-7), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Ben Roethlisberger won't start for the Steelers, who have won 12 consecutive road games, matching the second-longest streak in NFL history, since losing at Baltimore on Sept. 19, 2004.

New Orleans (2-7), plus 9 1/2 , at New England (5-4), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Tom Brady has engineered 21 game-winning, fourth-quarter drives, most recently Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, but so far this season has not been able to lead the Patriots to consecutive victories.

Seattle (7-2), minus 12 1/2 , at San Francisco (2-7), Sunday, 1 p.m. -- Shaun Alexander of the Seahawks, who leads the NFL with 1,114 yards rushing, is only the second player in NFL history to have scored 17 touchdowns in his team's first nine games, matching a record set by Jim Brown in 1958.

Buffalo (4-5), plus 11, at San Diego (5-4), Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Channel 2 -- Traffic alert: Former Venice High quarterback J.P. Losman estimated that 450 friends and relatives would make the drive to watch him lead the Bills against the Chargers.

N.Y. Jets (2-7), plus 13, at Denver (7-2), Sunday, 1:15 p.m. -- The Broncos have won seven of eight and none of Jake Plummer's passes have been intercepted since Sept. 18, a club-record string of 193 passes.

Kansas City (5-4), minus 7, at Houston (1-8), Sunday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN -- With standout linemen Willie Roaf and Will Shields in decline, the Chief offense has failed to live up to expectations, but will it matter against the Texans?

Minnesota (4-5), plus 4 1/2 , at Green Bay (2-7), Monday, 6 p.m., Channel 7 -- A victory by the Vikings would be their fourth in five games and keep them in contention in the NFC North, a surprising development considering their 1-4 start, Daunte Culpepper's season-ending knee injury and their off-field issues.

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