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Bengals Preview, Week Thirteen: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The River City News's Bryan Burke offers this analysis of the Bengals-Buccaneers game coming up later on Sunday.

Game Three of the Gulf Swing

This game is a trap. We've seen it before, even in Tampa Bay. Remember Bruce Gradkowski beating the Bengals in 2006 after a very questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Justin Smith? The loss sent the team into a mid-season tailspin, ruining a promising 3-1 start.

It's a little later in the season this time, but the conditions are similar. The Bengals have regained vital confidence on their three-game Gulf Swing, winning the first two in impressive workmanlike fashion. The ground game, powered by the stout Jeremy Hill, has finally become reliable and with the return of Giovani Bernard, its potential is through the roof. Kick in a healthy and dominating A.J. Green and suddenly an offense that looked like crap three weeks ago feels formidable and difficult to derail.

The defense has also calmed down and is back to being a team that forces punts, thanks largely to Rey Maualuga (of all people) since coming back from injury. Rey has looked spry and intelligent on the field, traits many of us criticized him for lacking in the past.

Even Mike Nugent has forced the bad taste from the fans' mouths after becoming an afterthought again. His long kick before halftime in New Orleans was a large feather in the cap for Nuge.

In fact, there isn't much negativity to talk about in regards to this team, and that is exactly what makes this game trappish.

Tampa Bay has their original starting quarterback in Josh McCown back under center who is much more NFL capable than the young Mike Glennon under center. McCown showed his worth last year when he helped the Bears win games without Jay Cutler. That led to a bigger contract with the Buccaneers, but he has missed the vast majority of the season with injury. He looked good two weeks ago against Washington, but threw two picks last week to the Bears.

His two receivers are nightmare matchups. Both Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans are big, muscly receivers who are both capable of explosive plays at any time. For the most part, the Bengals corners are pretty solid tacklers and that ability becomes magnified against such beefy pass catchers.

All that being said, the Bucs are still a bad team. They can't run the ball very well at all, they give up the fourth most points in the league, and have been flagged for 89 penalties, also fourth in the league. The Bengals should be able to continue to ride the wave of the running game to another relatively easy win, but every time we think that's the case, we are fooled again.

A win wouldn't be much of a statement game. After all, the Bengals are favorites for a reason. All it would do is prevent the football nation from validating their mistrust with this team one week longer. It would obviously would go toward eventually solidifying their postseason place later in the season, but for Sunday, a Bengals victory in Tampa Bay would be buried in the headlines and for most people, be pretty ho hum. They should win their second ho-hum game in a row, they have very little reason not, but I get the feeling they won't. It's a trap!

Buccaneers 23, Bengals 22

Photo via Bengals Facebook