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Capital Games

The last time the Redskins came to Cincinnati for real, the first George Bush was president, the only Joe Gibbs was in his first term as coach, Barack Obama was at Harvard, and Jim Zorn was at Boise State.

Now 17 years later the Bengals and Redskins are reelin' in the years and stowing away the time in last place in their division as the Bengals face a defense ranked in this week's top 10 for the ninth time in 14 games.

But with the 7-6 'Skins sliding and the 1-11-1 Bengals flailing, the roundtable rates this one a tight matchup as Washington's struggling offense grapples with Portisgate on the road against a Cincinnati offense mired in a historic morass.

"The Redskins have been beat up on offense. They just haven't scored any points the last month," says The Guru, a former top football executive in the NFL. "Cincinnati has a shot at home."

The Redskins have scored just 53 points in their last five games in losing four of them. But the Bengals have offered just a stunning 29 in their four games since a 21-19 win over Jacksonville. The difference is supposed to be the Washington defense that is ranked fifth in the NFL.

"The Redskins do everything they can to stop the run and they play it real simple. They've only got about two defenses. It's one-on-one football and they play it really well and aggressively," says the Eye, an NFL scout familiar with personnel in both conferences. "The Bengals will have a chance to make some plays because of the one-on-one nature, but they can't make any mistakes against them."

C Eric Ghiaciuc vs. Redskins MLB London Fletcher
! Ghiaciuc

When is defensive coordinator Greg Blache going to get a shot at a head coaching job? Whether it's in Chicago or Washington, his people just strangle the run, allowing a mere 95 yards per game this year with a stingy eight-man front.

"London Fletcher is the perfect guy for it," The Guru says. "He's their best guy on defense. He's tough, he's physical, he plays hard, gets those guys lined up and organized," says The Guru.

Not exactly a matchup that is right up the Bengals' alley. They manage just 78 yards rushing and in the last four games their running backs have averaged 2.3 yards on 76 carries.

The difference between this defense and the run the Bengals have played against this season is that the 'Skins don't have the one dominant defender, like Pittsburgh has in James Harrison and Troy Polamalu or Indy has in Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney, or Philadelphia with Trent Cole, or Tennessee with Albert Haynesworth.

But Washington has 11 solid guys that play hard and it starts with Fletcher. Ghiaciuc has been criticized for not being strong enough against the 3-4 nose men, but this is a 4-3 that has a similar alignment to what the Colts ran last week against the Bengals.

"This should be a game where Ghiaciuc can show what he does well," The Eye says. "He's going against an undersized guy (the 5-10, 245-pound Fletcher) and he can work into the second level."

Still, 17 of the Bengals' 82 rushing yards last week came from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

RB Cedric Benson vs. Redskins SS Mike Green
! Benson

In a battle of former Bears, Green comes off the bench to play for the injured Chris Horton.

Since Benson went for 4.3 yards per rush against Jacksonville for his 104 yards, he's chopped out 151 yards on 2.3 per carry. Benson doesn't make a lot of people miss, but he's also not getting much help. The inconsistency against the Colts was striking. Seven times Benson ran for five yards or more and four times his next carry was for two yards or less.

LT Anthony Collins vs. LE Andre Carter
! Collins

Talk about a mirror matchup. The 'Skins are 29th in the league in generating pressure per pass (the Bengals are 31st) and their marquee rusher, Jason Taylor, has just one sack.

"Having surgery on his calf at his age (34) is just real tough on the leg," The Eye says, and The Guru observes, "Carter is their best guy getting to the passer."

The 'Skins rotate Carter (three sacks), Taylor and Demetric Evans (a linebackerish type with a team-high 3.5 sacks), and they don't blitz much.

"Hardly at all. They did much more last year," The Eye says. "If they do come, it's an extra man with five and it shouldn't put that much stress on pass protection. It's man-on-man. You know where these guys are going to be, but they play well together."

Collins, the rookie fourth-rounder, had an up and down day against Dwight Freeney last week, but he gets another chance against a seasoned rusher. The Bengals continue to be encouraged by Collins's athleticism.

"Three games is far too early to make any judgment on a guy either way," says The Guru.

"They certainly haven't played as a unit nearly as well as people thought they were going to do when the season began," The Guru says.

WR Chad Ocho Cinco vs. Redskins CB Carlos Rogers
! Ocho Cinco

The Ocho spoke hopefully earlier in the week about the man-to-man coverage the 'Skins play "60, 70 percent of the time." The problem is, The Ocho, says it is the best secondary the Bengals have faced since the Giants in the third game.

"They go four-deep with their corners. It's the best corps in the league," The Eye says. "They just line up and run with you. And they can run."

With free safety LaRon Landry basically running sideline-to-sideline looking to pick off balls, Washington gives up very few big plays despite their man stuff. They've allowed only seven plays of 40 yards or more and that's not good news for an Ocho that is looking for his first 40-yard catch of the season.

The 'Skins pretty much rotate the four corners and with Shawn Springs hurting, Ocho Cinco should get paired up at times with his tag-team-trash-talk-partners Fred Smoot and DeAngelo Hall. Smoot is also going to find himself lined up at times in the slot with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Washington corners must be pretty good because with no pass rush the 'Skins have allowed a quarterback rating of only 74.5 in giving up about one touchdown pass per game and they have foes converting only 37 percent on third down.

"This is a good matchup for Chad and Chris Henry," The Eye says. "Their strength is running past man coverage and not trying to find the seams in zones. Teams take their shots downfield. You have to because you can't run it."

MLB Dhani Jones vs. Redskins RB Clinton Portis
! Jones

All hell broke out in another D.C. bailout this week when Portis bailed on Zorn in calling him a "a genius" in regard to the playcalling that has been a tad light lately on Portis' number. He has carried just 22 times for 54 yards in the two games since he ripped Seattle for five yards a pop for 143.

He's been a bit nicked up, but the Bengals know what the deal is.

"They'll feed it to him all day," said Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko. "Whatever we do, we have to stop the run. Stop him and make (quarterback) Jason Campbell have to make some throws."

The Bengals have been more than competent against the run since the Steelers' Mewelde Moore went off for 120 yards back on Oct. 19. Since then, Houston's Steve Slaton went for 3.5 a pop, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew for 3.3, Moore for 3.7, Baltimore's Le' Ron McClain for 3.4, and Indy's Joseph Addai for 2.6.

But Portis is the cream of the crop as the NFL's third-leading rusher with 1,260 yards on 4.7 yards per carry and seven touchdowns.

"The Bengals have to play defense like Washington does," The Eye says. "He's very good at making people miss. You have to get to the ball. You have to surround him with a lot of guys. You've got to gang tackle."

SAM Backer Rashad Jeanty vs. Redskins FB Mike Sellers
! Jeanty

The Redskins don't use a lot of double tight end formations, so they like to pound Portis behind the 6-3, 280-pound Sellers. Jeanty is giving up 35 pounds and he's hobbled by a painful foot injury, but this is his kind of matchup. A downhill deal where he takes advantage of his physicality in the box.

RE Antwan Odom vs. Redskins LT Stephon Heyer
! Odom

Odom (shoulder) returns for sure on passing downs this week in a game where both Washington tackles are out. Left tackles Chris Samuels is on IR and right tackle Jon Jansen isn't expected to go with an MCL sprain in his knee. That means Jansen probably gets replaced by University of Cincinnati product Jason Fabini, who has played in just four games and been inactive in the last five.

Heyer, a second-year player, is a natural left tackle but he's only made one start there this year and that was six weeks ago. The Bengals, with just four sacks in the last four games and eight in the last seven, have to get something going.

CB David Jones vs. Redskins WR Santana Moss
! Jones

Jones (knee) has been out the last two weeks and if he's playing, he has to get on his horse because Moss and Antwaan Randle El may be short, but they can still burn. The 5-10 Moss has all three of the tandem's 40-yard-plus catches, but this is the same Randle El we saw in Pittsburgh. He's good for one reverse pass a game and he's already seen the tape from two weeks ago of Bengals cornerback Leon Hall biting on the Ravens fake for a TD pass.

"The Redskins live off play-action to Portis and throwing deep," The Guru says. "Campbell has a very good arm. He can throw it, and they will go deep. I think their lack of receivers after the first two hurts them."

S Kyries Hebert vs. Redskins PR Antwaan Randle El
! Hebert

Randle El is a little long in the tooth (he's got just a 6.3-yard average), but he's flayed the Bengals plenty of times in the past on kicks and like special teams coach Darrin Simmons says, "A guy like that never stops being dangerous."

Hebert may be again seeing some serious double duty as the Bengals' leading special-teams tackler and the gunner on the punt cover team. He could be looking at his second straight start at safety as well.

Simmons, by the way, was unimpressed by Hebert's 60-yard hustle play that prevented the Colts' Marvin Harrison from breaking a 71-yard TD.

"I see him do it every week on special teams," Simmons says. "He makes most of his plays on want-to and desire."

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