Oakland looks to curtail aerial assault

This week's game will provide a test on both sides. The Cincinnati Bengals boast some of the best wide receivers in the game and the Oakland Raiders have the best pass defense. A matchup made in NFL lore.

The Bengals have moved into wildcard playoff position with four weeks remaining. And while Oakland comes to Cincinnati for a game Sunday afternoon with a 2-10 record, the Raiders defense will test the Bengals offense. The real attraction of the game Sunday is going to be the Bengals' eighth-ranked offense working against the Raiders third-ranked defense. More specifically, the Bengals fourth-ranked offense will face Oakland's top-ranked pass defense.

"The D-line isn't giving them a lot of time to throw, that's pretty much what's been going on," cornerback Fabian Washington said. "We can still improve. We don't do everything great. If we did everything great we'd win more games because they wouldn't be scoring at all.

"They're ranked No. 1 against the pass, which we'll find out," Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "They'd win more games if they weren't having problems on offense."

The Raiders are 2-10 and last in total offense (245 yards a game) and second to last in average scoring (12.2 points a game). They've reached 20 points just twice in 12 games.

Oakland has scored 146 points, but the defense has accounted for four touchdowns and a safety.

"They've scored (touchdowns) on defense much like the group we just played." Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, "(The Raiders are) very similar to Baltimore."

Lewis and several Bengals players on Wednesday pointed to the number of close, low-scoring losses the Raiders have suffered -- three to Cleveland, four to Denver and Kansas City, seven to San Diego and nine Sunday to Houston.

Raiders coach Art Shell started with his secondary Wednesday when asked to describe his defense's strengths.

"Our corners are playing good, our safeties are playing well, and when they can apply pressure to the receivers, it allows the guys up front to put pressure on the quarterback," Shell said.

The Raiders do have 27 sacks defensively, though their offense has allowed 58. End Derrick Burgess has 10. Warren Sapp has seven from his tackle position.

The secondary star is fourth-year cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who has five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He is big for a cornerback, at 6-2, 210. So is the other starting corner, second-year pro Fabian Washington (5-11, 185).

They like to play tight man coverage and will bump and run.

"They've done it all year, done a good job," Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson said of the Raiders' habit of playing tight, physical coverage. "There haven't been any long passes for touchdowns, like we've done here the last few weeks. It won't be easy."

The Bengals' pass offense is hot. They've hit on touchdown passes from 60, 41 and 40 yards in the past month.

In the last four games, Cincinnati has 1,210 pass yards and 10 touchdowns and has allowed just six sacks in 136 dropbacks.

"You can't say enough about Chad and the rest of those guys," Shell said. "Our kids like a challenge, so it will do well for a good football game between our defense and their offense."

Oakland's safeties are converted college linebacker Stuart Schweigert and rookie Michael Huff.

"People aren't throwing the ball over their heads at all; they're not giving up big plays," Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "They're covering guys downfield. Their safeties are coming up and making tackles once they do get completions."


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