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Two top playoff contenders return to primetime

Who will deliver epic performances in this week's matchups?

Air & Ground matchup of Week 11

Cincinnati Bengals at Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) -- Two teams well ahead in their respective division races and vying for top playoff seeds square off Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

While the Bengals are coming off their first loss of the season against the Houston Texans, the Cardinals are coming off an emotionally charged and inspiring victory over the division-rival Seattle Seahawks. The two teams seem -- at the moment -- to be heading in opposite directions, momentum-wise.

This is the third consecutive week that the Bengals will be playing in primetime. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is having a career season -- he's on pace to set Bengals single-season records in passing yards and passer rating -- but has been so-so in those games. After a 234-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 31-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football, Dalton had a 197-yard, no-touchdown, one-interception performance in a 10-6 loss on Monday Night Football.

The Cardinals' trio of veteran offensive playmakers -- quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald -- is on pace to do something no teammates have ever done in the history of the league. At their current paces, they would be the first QB-RB-WR triumvirate all over 30 years old to reach 4,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Johnson is currently second in the NFL in rushing yards (734), behind league leader Adrian Peterson. Palmer has had six games with 300 or more passing yards, the most such games in a single season in his 12-year NFL career. He trails the New England Patriots' Tom Brady by only one touchdown pass (24 to 23) for the league lead.

One head-to-head meeting

Patrick Peterson -- one of the NFL's premier shutdown cornerbacks -- has faced A.J. Green -- one of the league's top wide receivers -- just once, and it happened in a 23-16Bengals win during Week 16 of the 2011 season. With Peterson in coverage, Green was targeted three times, but the Cardinals cornerback did not surrender a catch. Green finished the game with a very pedestrian stat line: 2 catches for 25 yards.


Great Moments in Air & Ground History

Bengals 24, Cardinals 13 (Week 14, 2000 season) -- In a relatively meaningless late-season game between two teams that would combine for seven wins in the 2000 season, running back Corey Dillon had his second 200-yard rushing game of the season. Dillon rushed for 216 yards and a touchdown in the win at Paul Brown Stadium. Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to receiver David Boston. Earlier in the season, Dillon rushed for 278 yards in a 31-21 win over the playoff-bound Denver Broncos. That was an NFL single-game record that stood for three years until the Baltimore Ravens' Jamal Lewis rushed for 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Adrian Peterson bested that mark by one yard in 2007, going for 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers. Dillon's 278 total is now the fourth-best in league history.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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