NFL Week 11 Preview & Odds: Bengals at Saints

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Jimmy_Graham.JPGCincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints (-7, 49 o/u)

Last weekend, the 5-3-1 Cincinnati Bengals suffered a bad loss to division rival Cleveland, a game which the Browns dominated from start to finish.  The loss was the first at home for Cincinnati in 14 games.  The Bengals will try to bounce back this Sunday as they travel to New Orleans for a matchup against the 4-5 Saints (1:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS).

The Saints had their own 11-game home winning streak snapped last weekend by the 49ers, but that loss came in heartbreaking fashion as quarterback Drew Brees fumbled on the opening possession of overtime giving the Niners a chip-shot field goal for the win.  Although the Saints still lead the NFC South, they’ll need to stack up some wins in order to maintain it.

“I thought we had kind of gotten over the hump but we’re right back here, so we’re going to have to do whatever it takes to win these close ones,” said All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.  “That’s the difference between us being a great team, and us just being a mediocre team.”

In order to get back on track, New Orleans needs to limit its turnovers, which have plagued the team all season.  In addition to the OT fumble, Brees also threw two costly interceptions against the 49ers.

“Something’s got to get fixed,” Brees said.  “I’m not happy about it. I can’t turn the ball over at the rate I’m turning it over and I can’t turn it over in the situations that I’m turning it over.  I’m aware of that.”

On the other side, Andy Dalton is struggling from a similar problem. Against the Browns, the Cincinnati quarterback was 10-33 for just 86 yards and a ghastly three interceptions in the worst performance of his career.

“We’ve got to find a way to be consistent,” Dalton said.  “We haven’t been in the losses.  I think that’s what it comes down to.  Every week we have to come to play.  We have to find a way to do that.”

Unfortunately for Dalton, it does not appear that starting running back Giovani Bernard will be back for Sunday’s game.  The speedy back has missed the last two games with a hip/clavicle injury and did not practice on Friday.  On defense, last year’s leading tackler, LB Vontaze Burfict, has also been ruled out (knee).

For the Saints, a trio of running backs have been ruled out (Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, and Edwin Baker). Luckily for Sean Payton and company, Mark Ingram is expected to go.  The fourth-year back out of Alabama will be looking for a third straight 100 yard game against a Bengals defense that ranks in the bottom five against the run.  However, Ingram is also battling an injury (shoulder), and the Saints signed veteran running back Brian Leonard during the week to share the load.

The Saints are currently a seven-point favorite for Sunday’s game.  The over/under is at 49.

(Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)