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Bengals vs. Ravens Preview...

Don't worry, I'm getting to this weekend's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there's a big AFC contest being played tonight in Cincinnati.

Two weeks ago, the Bengals were at 4-5, with their backs against the wall. After losing 26-20 to the Ravens as a result of early miscues, the Bengals then blew a huge lead against the AFC West leading Chargers.

Since then, the Bengals have won two straight, including an impressive 30-0 rout of Cleveland last Sunday, and an 31-16 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the SuperDome.

The Ravens head into tonight's game with positive momentum as well. Baltimore has won 5 straight since losing a thriller to Carolina in Week 6. The Ravens then had their BYE week, fired former offensive coordinator Jim Fossel, and have since then looked nearly unbeatable on both sides of the football.

After last week's pounding, I was forced to admit that the Ravens are legit contenders to make it to the Super Bowl. Steve McNair has been getting most of the credit for the Ravens improved offense this year, but let's not forget about Jamaal Lewis and the running game. After last year's disappointing and injury-riddle campaign, Lewis has been much better in 2006. His backups, Mike Anderson and Musa Smith have also contributed substantially. Far more at least, than say, Verron Haynes and Dookie Davenport.

If the Ravens were somehow able to pull off a big-road victory tonight and bury the Bengals' playoff chances, I'd be even more convinced that this was a team that was focused and hungry enough to challenge the Colts and Patriots in the AFC. See, they're coming off a HUGE victory last week against their rivals, the Steelers. With a short week to prepare for Cincinnati, I believe they may experience an emotional let-down of sorts. They've all but secured a playoff spot, and everybody has been quick to pat them on the back for their play of late. Might they come out a bit complacent tonight?

I can't say for sure, but if I had to bet, I'd say that the Bengals will be the team who come out with a chip on their shoulder tonight. They're the team people are still not sold on. They're the team who's playoff lives are on the line tonight. It also doesn't hurt that they're playing at home.

Tonight's game should be a good one. If you have NFL network, be sure to tune in. If not, it may be worth heading to the local watering hole to check it out.

I don't know who to root for--I hate both teams, but I'll probably tune in to what I expect to be a close, high-scoring affair tonight between two teams playing great football.

Prediction: Bengals 27 Ravens 17