Vikings-Bengals Preview

Still in control of their playoff fate, the Cincinnati Bengals

are focused on what lies ahead and not behind.

Looking to bounce back from their first loss in a month and

remain undefeated at home, the Bengals can possibly secure a

playoff berth and the AFC North title Sunday while trying to make

sure the Minnesota Vikings go winless on the road for the third

time in franchise history.

Riding a three-game winning streak in which it topped 40 points

twice, Cincinnati (9-5) took a step back with last Sunday’s 30-20

loss at Pittsburgh. The defeat was magnified a night later when

Baltimore edged Detroit to move one game behind the first-place

Bengals in the North.

Cincinnati, which lost to the Ravens last month, hosts them next

week but can take some drama away by clinching the division with a

win against the Vikings (4-9-1) and a Baltimore loss or tie against

New England.

A Cincinnati victory plus a loss or tie by Miami in Buffalo on

Sunday would secure a third straight playoff berth for the

Bengals.

“We’ve got to go play and win football games,” coach Marvin

Lewis said. “We didn’t win one. So we’ve got to win the next two.

If we take care of that and take care of ourselves, that’s all we

have to worry about.”

The Bengals were held to 279 total yards at Pittsburgh, falling

to 2-2 this season when recording fewer than 300. Andy Dalton threw

for 230 yards with two touchdowns and A.J. Green caught nine passes

for 93, but Cincinnati’s longest gain of the night covered 19

yards.

Cincinnati averaged 141.6 rushing yards in the previous five

games but equaled a season low with 57 last weekend.

The Bengals also matched their season high for points allowed

while yielding a touchdown reception and a 67-yard punt return

score in the first quarter to Antonio Brown as the Steelers opened

a 21-0 lead.

“There’s no panic,” Dalton said. “There’s no worry about

anything. We’re not frantic. We still have two games at home and

have everything to accomplish, so we’ve got to take care of our

business.”

Cincinnati has certainly taken care of matters at home, where

it’s 6-0, averages 33.2 points and has scored at least 41 in three

consecutive games. The Bengals averaged 19.4 points on the road,

where they finished with a losing record for the first time in

three seasons.

Dalton has completed 63.0 percent of his passes and thrown only

five of his 16 interceptions this season at Paul Brown Stadium. Of

the 14 TDs he’s thrown there, 11 have come over the last three

contests.

While Cincinnati is trying to go undefeated at home for the

first time since 1988, Minnesota hasn’t gone winless on the road

since 2001. The Vikings, who went 0-7 away from home during their

inaugural season in 1961, are 0-6-1 on the road and did beat

Pittsburgh in London while considered the home team.

Indianapolis was the last team to go without a road victory

during its 2-14 season in 2011.

Though Minnesota hasn’t played in Cincinnati since 2005, it’s

dropped two straight and five of six all-time there.

“We are going to emphasize (getting a road win),” said Vikings

coach Leslie Frazier, who was Lewis’ defensive coordinator in

Cincinnati in 2003-04. “We want to win this final road game. It’s

important. It’s our next game on our schedule and we are going to

emphasize it for sure.”

After missing last Sunday’s 48-30 upset of Philadelphia, injured

running backs Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring)

are expected to be available for a Vikings team that’s dropped

three road games by four or fewer points.

Matt Cassel threw for 382 yards with two touchdowns and an

interception. Greg Jennings set season highs with 11 catches and

163 yards plus a TD and third-stringer Matt Asiata rushed for three

TDs during Minnesota’s highest-scoring game of the season.

Though the Vikings won’t be making a second straight playoff

appearance, the focus remains on themselves and not the fate of

their opponent.

“We don’t use that word spoiler in our conversation,” Frazier

said. “We’re trying our very best to work as hard as we can to get

a win for our team and it’s nothing to do with the impact it would

have on any other team.”

Set to make his third straight start, Cassel has thrown for 890

yards with five TDs and two INTs in the last three games.

Second in the NFL with 1,221 rushing yards, Peterson ran for 97

and two TDs on 26 carries during Minnesota’s 30-10 home win over

the Bengals in 2009.