Bengals at Cardinals: Five things to watch

Posted at 1:16 AM, Nov 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-22 01:16:58-05

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Cincinnati quarterbacks past and present will square off Sunday night, but Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton aren't the only story line in a matchup of the first-place Cardinals (7-2) and Bengals (8-1).

Here are five things to watch:

A MIRROR IMAGE: The Cardinals have repeatedly mentioned how much they see themselves in the Bengals.

"Very similar," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. 'They're very long and fast. They have a solid secondary. Andy is playing really, really well. They've got a huge and great wide receiver, good stable of backs. They're a quality, quality group. Marvin is a heck of a coach. They've got a great staff."

THE DEFENSE: The Cardinals will throw an array of confusing sets and schemes at Dalton, often leaving their talented secondary to defend receivers one-on-one.

Arizona ranks third in the NFL in yards allowed (316.1 per game).

"They're versatile," Dalton said. "They've got good players all over the field. They're really good up front. The back end plays well and covers guys tight, so it's going to be a good test."

Cincinnati is no slouch defensively, either. The Bengals have allowed 10 points in each of their last three games.

"We work so hard every day at trying to be the best defense out there," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. "I'm not going to let that go unnoticed. That's a great accomplishment and it motivates us to keep going."

RUN THE BALL: As is often the case, the team that runs the ball probably will have the best chance at a victory.

Arizona rushed for 117 yards at Seattle, but 48 of them came on   Andre Ellington's game-clinching touchdown.  Chris Johnson rushed for just 58 yards in 28 carries.

Cincinnati's running game has been erratic all season and reached a new in Monday night's 10-6 home loss to the Houston Texans.

Dalton was the Bengals' leading rusher at halftime with 30 yards. Cincinnati has been limited to 78 yards or less in two of the last three games.

NO LOSING STREAK: Last season, the Bengals won their first three games, then went through a three-game stretch that included two losses and a tie. Even with the loss on Monday night, they're still in control of the AFC North and in position for a first-round playoff bye, as long as they don't fall into a prolonged losing streak.

Arizona will be looking for its third straight victory. With a win, the Bengals would be 9-1 for the first time in franchise history.

CENTURY MARK: Arizona will be playing its 100th game at University of Phoenix Stadium, and every one of them has been a sellout.

And the place is loud. Arizona leads the NFL in inducing false start penalties since the stadium was built in 2006.  

"'I know there's going to be great energy in that building," Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald said. "We're looking forward to feeding off of that energy against a team that's going to come in there hungry for a win."