Redskins vs. Bengals

It's no wonder the Redskins struggled at times in the 1990s. They never got to play the Bengals, a sure slump buster if ever there was one. Actually, they did play Cincinnati once in the 1990s, winning there during the 1991 Super Bowl season.

But that was the last time these teams have played. And the Bengals (3-5) have not played in Washington since 1985. Such a drought won't happen again under the NFL's new schedule format, which guarantees that teams won't go more than four years without playing every team.

Worrisome coach: Marvin Lewis should be more worried about his defense than what's written about him in Washington. But that hasn't been the case this week. Lewis was upset with a Washington Times article that quoted a couple Redskins players saying they knew he'd be gone after one year. The Bengals PR person phoned the writer, then Lewis e-mailed him twice the next day. Bengals fans had better hope he puts that much effort into improving the 28th-ranked defense.

Biggest surprise: The poor play of Cincinnati's run defense. The Bengals rank 32nd against the run.

Worst kept secret: Let's see, given the above stat and the fact that Washington can't throw, but has a good back, what do you think the Redskins will do today? Hmmmm. Run the ball, perhaps? The Bengals have allowed 380 total yards four times this season and three teams have rushed for at least 163 yards (with two for more than 200).

Bag of tricks: What trick play will the Redskins run this week? They've had their receiver throw a pass and then Clinton Portis threw one for a touchdown last week. Don't know what they have planned for Sunday, but certainly there's something.

Cover your ears: If Mark Brunell struggles early. The boo's will be loud and the chants for Patrick Ramsey, or Tim Hasselbeck, will be long. Don't expect Joe Gibbs to listen, however. Word is, Ramsey doesn't look good in practice so he's given Gibbs no reason to switch.

Best matchup: The Redskins corners against Bengal receiver Chad Johnson. He's an explosive player, but he's still finding a rhythm with quarterback Carson Palmer (though Johnson does have 44 catches, 21 in the past three games). If Palmer finds him, Johnson can be dangerous, as he proved against former Redskin Champ Bailey in a win over Denver (seven catches, 149 yards). It's hard to imagine the Bengals winning if Johnson has a quiet game.

Tough runner: Cincy's Rudi Johnson is on pace to rush for nearly 1,400 yards. He's tough to stop on short-yardage situations. Johnson is 5-5 on third and one.

Tidbit: The Bengals are plus-7 in turnover differential, by far their best showing since 1996 when they ended the season plus-19.

Improving: Bengals QB Carson Palmer has played better the past couple weeks and is coming off perhaps his best game. Against Dallas, Palmer completed 21 of 32 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and no intercpetions. More importantly, he wasn't sacked for the first time this season.

Prediction: The Redskins creep one game closer to .500 after an offensive explosion. They win, 20-13. And today the defense will do something it hasn't done all year: score a touchdown. Just a hunch.

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