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Monday Stripes: On Bengals' special teams

Good Wednesday morning, folks. Kind of hard to believe that seven days from now, the Cincinnati Bengals will be making their final preparations for their second game within a week's time. They are, after all, facing the Miami Dolphins four days after going against the New York Jets later this weekend. That will be one short turnaround.

It'll be a short turnaround that we'll discuss a little more next week, when the Bengals have to go through it.

For now, we're trying to be like the players, keeping on task, keeping our focus on the game ahead.

If this past weekend was any indication -- or the past two in the case of the Bengals -- you should expect Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium to either go to overtime, or come down to the final seconds. Then, when it does, brace yourselves for a possible game-winning field goal attempt, and watch it sail on through.

Which team's kicker will be the one to deliver the big blow, though?

Both of them have recent success doing that. Just this past weekend, the Jets' Nick Folk and the Bengals' Mike Nugent nailed game-winning field goals. Folk's kick came in overtime and Nugent's came as time expired against the Lions, although he had his own overtime winner the week before at Buffalo.

In this edition of the Bengals' Morning Stripes, we take a quick look at their special teams, paying particular attention to this game-winning field goal phenomenon that is sweeping the league:

  • While those of you who follow this space regularly know all about Nugent's late-game success, you might not be aware just how prevalent the game-winning field goal has been in the NFL this season. Well, that's why the Associated Press' Barry Wilner is here to tell you. In addition to Folk and Nugent, Buffalo's Dan Carpenter and Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham also had game-winners this past weekend. Those kicks are part of a broader trend, Wilner's story says. It seems kickers are better now than they have been in recent seasons; both overall and in the clutch. Only one field goal attempt for a lead that has been taken in the final two minutes of a game this season has been missed. Even after that miss, the Texans still ended up winning the game in overtime. Forget all the other players. The battle of the kickers could be the most important one Sunday.

  • Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen writes about how important the Bengals' special teams have been this season, but particularly in the past two weeks, and particularly at the end of ballgames. Timely punt returns, well-placed punts, a blocked field goal and Nugent's game-winners have all contributed to some measure of Cincinnati's success the past two games. It's a sign that the team's overall special-teams play has come along quite well.

  • While Nugent's field goal likely is the one part of last Sunday's game that most Bengals fans will remember the most, there are others to consider, writes the Dayton Daily News' Tom Archdeacon. Here are the columnist's five snapshot moments from the game. One of them is pretty cool. It revolves around a photo that's making the rounds of receivers A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson.

  • Lastly, take a look over at ESPN's NFL Nation Jets blog to take a look at Rich Cimini's version of the Morning Stripes. In Wednesday's Green Day, he writes briefly on current Bengals practice squad quarterback Greg McElroy and the supposed advantage he'll bring Cincinnati after having spent so much time with the Jets. The former University of Alabama standout started a game last season for the Jets and was on their roster during the preseason.