What looked like another game for the Cincinnati Bengals (8-1) and the Arizona Cardinals (7-2) has taken on monumental proportions. Both teams started the season undefeated and looked invincible. Since then, both have felt the stings of losses. The Bengals are still angry. Sunday Night Football will be a potential Super Bowl match up that will prove something for both teams. Cincinnati will need to channel that anger against Palmer and Arizona.
The Cardinals are coming off a shocking win against the Seahawks. They dismantled the Hawks and did things that backed up their position as contenders in the NFC West. The Cardinals rolled up over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing on the vaunted Seahawks defense. They are the only team to defeat Seattle at Century Link Field multiple times, with Russell Wilson at quarterback.
The only thing Carson Palmer is concerned about is the Bengals. Palmer has some bad feelings towards the Bengals organization. When asked if Sunday's game was just another on the schedule, he wasn't shy with his answer via ESPN.
"It's not," Palmer said. "Any time you play a team where you spent some time, and especially for as much time as I spent there, it's not just another game. I'm solely focused on this and we're solely focused on this.
"There's obviously a little bit extra on it, but it's a big game for us, it's a big game for them, and I'm very focused on my job."
Palmer is right in the thick of the MVP conversation. Talks about Mike Brown and the trade are the furthest from his thoughts. But with the Bengals in town for a huge game, it can't be avoided. It's the proverbial elephant in a tutu.
Palmer isn't the only one with a chip on his shoulder. Andy Dalton isn't pleased with his performance against the Texans and is looking to redeem himself in prime time. After being shut out by Houston, Dalton needs to get on track with the offense again.
The Bengals should be extremely happy about another aspect of Dalton's maturation. After the Bengals loss to the Texans, the post-game interview wasn't the normal fodder. Dalton was ticked. He was visibly upset with his play and that of his teammates. Yet he took the brunt of the blame and wore it like a soldier. Usually, Dalton is the quiet and retrospective Bengals player. Monday, he looked ready to suit up and get back on the field.
The Bengals' emerging star, Tyler Eifert, was equally as upset with himself. If he catches the three balls he dropped, the Bengals are looking at a win and still undefeated. The Texans were playing Quarters and tons of Cloud to cover A.J. Green. That leaves Eifert open for a big game. But the big tight end didn't have his focus. The Bengals should have had a big game from him.
"It should have been but I had three drops,' said a dejected Eifert, via the Bengals website. "We couldn't get that rhythm flowing. Drops, penalties, dumb mistakes. We need to play better."
The Bengals have a short week to prepare for the Cardinals. Their memories need to be short in order to forget the drops and stagnant offense.
That anger will definitely be needed against Arizona's No. 3 defense.
[Feature Photo by Christian Peterson / Getty Images]