By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 30, 2007

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Remember, these guys gave up 51 to Cleveland.

Carson Palmer, who looked a bit off kilter in last Sunday's loss at Seattle, had better be on his game Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Chad Johnson might get his "ocho cinco" shtick upstaged by Randy Moss. You can bet that Bill Belichick can pronounce "Houshmandzadeh" better than that guy in that fantasy league draft.

The way things have gone for each team, Palmer will need to engage the Patriots in a scoring duel if they are to hand the Patriots their first loss of the season. Palmer hung 45 on Cleveland the day they gave up 51, and Belichick is a bit concerned over a defense which has allowed the opposition a touchdown every time they have entered the red zone. If anyone can engage the Patriots in a shootout and does not answer to the name Peyton, Palmer is more than capable.

The Patriots, who came here last year and slaughtered the Bengals, 38-13 (hey, there's that magic number 38 again), know they can win here and will not be lacking in any confidence whatsoever. The Bengals will be hampered with the absence of top running back Rudi Johnson, so the Patriots will be able to overplay the pass a little bit in this the final game of Rodney Harrison's suspension for testing positive for HGH.

The Patriots are currently first in the league in both offense and defense. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 29th overall defensively, 19th against the pass and 27th against the run. Laurence Maroney had his career best game here last year, rushing for 125 yards on 15 carries (8.3 average) and two touchdowns. If Maroney has anything close to this kind of game this year, Tom Brady might find easier pickings in the Bengal secondary than he has with each of the previous three opponents. Going further, with Sammy Morris now in the fold and Maroney not really needing to put up large numbers, it makes the Patriot offense even more formidable.

The Bengals would be wise to more or less take the Patriot offense putting up lots of yards and points as a given, barring injury or a complete lack of effort. That said, if Palmer can consistently move his offense and take advantage of the Patriots' lack of red zone stoppage, the Bengals could very well hang around and make the game competitive.

But this is not exactly a given. Despite the red area problems, the Patriots are still second against the pass and fifth against the run. Randall Gay, Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel have done well at the cornerback position, and Eugene Wilson has not yet been exposed as needing Harrison back there helping with assignments. The front seven for the Patriots has made this much better, even without Richard Seymour.

The Cincinnati offensive line looks to be pretty much intact, with Stacy Andrews, Willie Anderson and Eric Ghiaciuc showing up on the injury report but only either questionable or probable. This unit must do their jobs and block well if the Bengals are to have any chance to keep this one close. Palmer must have time to throw, especially if reserve running back Kenny Watson cannot pick up the slack from Johnson being out.

What the game will showcase is perhaps the most glittering wide receiver duel in the NFL thus far this year, at least up until the Patriots play at Dallas in a few weeks. Moss and Johnson will be primed to light things up and show up the other one. Moss has been a model citizen thus far this year, behaving himself perfectly thus far, while Johnson has been Johnson. "Ocho Cinco" has not yet laid down any challenge on Gay or Hobbs, he has pretty much kept quiet this week. But make no mistake, Johnson will be bent on trying to outplay Moss and establish himself as the premier wideout in the league.

There are many folks out there who think that Johnson doesn't need to outplay Moss in order to keep his lofty perch atop the wide receiver power rankings. Johnson draws a lot of attention to himself with his gold teeth and hair, his outrageous predictions and playful tauntings, and his obvious talent. Moss, on the other hand, has drawn attention to himself with mostly being a problem child. Not so this year, as Moss has done everything the Patriots have asked of him, and people are now talking about Brady having a Dan Marino-esque year.

Going into this weekend, Johnson leads the league in receiving yards, Moss is second. The two of them are miles ahead of number three, Detroit's Roy Williams. If Johnson is able to break free and run wild through the Patriot secondary, his motivation to outplay Moss would be most helpful to the Bengal cause.

With Rudi Johnson out, though, the Patriots would be able to perhaps bring in nickel packages to deal with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. They aren't likely to need more than seven in the box to stop Watson; putting in six would perhaps more than suffice. The Patriots might not want to open in nickel packages, but instead wait a few series or so to see exactly how Palmer and the Bengal offense wants to approach Monday night's game.

At least the Patriots know they can stop the Bengals in their crib. Last year, Palmer was held to 20 of 35 passing for 245 yards and a 78.9 rating. He was sacked four times for 37 yards lost, something that cannot happen if the Bengals are to have any chance on Monday. The Johnsons didn't really do much damage, as Rudi rushed for 65 yards and Chad had one fewer yard in pass receiving (Houshmandzadeh had 95 yards receiving).

If the Patriots come out and play a solid game, make no mistakes and don't let the Bengals think they have a chance in this one, the Patriots should win their fourth straight game. The Patriots are superior on paper, and have plenty of experience and confidence to draw on. The way Brady has had his way with the first three opponents, the Bengals won't be much of a puzzle unless the Patriots play like they did in the first quarter last week against Buffalo.

Ocho Cinco? The Patriots hope that Ocho Uno becomes the new nombre primo after Monday night's game.


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