Drew Brees and the Saints roll into Cincinnati this week on a 7-game winning streak and enjoying their newfound status as the top-ranked team in most NFL power rankings.
That’s what knocking off the last undefeated team will do for a club. Especially when you pull away at the last minute and start showing some strength in your weaknesses.
New Orleans boasts what might be the best trio of skill players in history with Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas setting records left and right.
But it is an improving defense that will keep them on top of the NFL as Kansas City and the Rams struggle to hold off opposing offenses.
Defense is also why the Saints must remain wary of the Patriots, Chargers, and Panthers as they head into the playoffs.
Cincinnati comes off a bye week trying to find their mojo after a few struggling weeks threatened to derail their bid to knock the Steelers off the top of their division.
They will need a win to keep pace with the 5-2-1 team from Pittsburgh. They have to do it without a vital part of their offense, too. AJ Green is likely to miss a game or two with an injured toe.
Injuries and notes:
AJ Green has been ruled out, along with TE Tyler Kroft (foot). John Ross, who would be the WR-1 in Green’s absence, practiced Monday but is still listed as questionable after injuring his groin.
If Ross is out or even slowed by his injury, Marshon Lattimore could slide over to cover Tyler Boyd, further hampering the Bengals’ attack.
Giovani Bernard returned to practice this week, which would help pace Joe Mixon a bit.
Defensive end Carl Lawson was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Vontaze Burfict was held out of practice Monday but should be available for this game.
New Orleans ruled out defensive end Marcus Davenport and lists nobody else on their Tuesday injury report.
Sean Payton is the toast of New Orleans after knocking off the previously unbeaten Rams and putting the Saints into the conversation about Super Bowl favorites. Payton has enjoyed the full support of Saints ownership in some tough times. He is living large right now. Maybe he should ask for an extension before something happens.
Marvin Lewis looked like he might justify ownership’s decision to retain him after several subpar seasons. But it will be a tall order to overcome the Bengals injuries and move forward in the playoffs. The goal is well within reach, but Lewis has some careful navigating to do if they are going to stay close.
How to watch the Bengals-Saints game
Fox Sports will broadcast this game in various markets around the country. Fans might enjoy this contest on their favorite cable or satellite provider, or they might be among the many savvy NFL fans saving hundreds of dollars on their entertainment bills by watching the game on DirecTV Now.
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Who will win the Bengals-Saints game?
Cincinnati has a tall task in front of them as the top-ranked Saints are on fire. Andy Dalton will need to have the game of his life just to keep things close.
New Orleans is set up for a trap, but with the firepower Drew Brees has around him, it is only a matter of time before something kicks back into gear.
Final score: Saints 33, Bengals 19