By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots go on the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon.
The Patriots are coming off a big win against the Atlanta Falcons, starting the year with a 4-0 record. New England now has to overcome the loss of Vince Wilfork, who tore his right achilles tendon last week. Despite an undefeated record, the injury woes are very concerning.
On the flip side, the Bengals are now 2-2, coming off a tough 17-6 loss against the division rival Cleveland Browns last Sunday. Interestingly enough, Cincinnati has scored an average of 20.3 points per game and given up an average of 20.3 points per game. They have won both games at home (2-0) and lost both games on the road this season (2-0).
Here’s a look at how both teams can come away with a victory Sunday. —
How the Bengals win:
Push The Pocket: The Bengals have one of the league’s best interior pass-rushers in Geno Atkins. On top of Atkins, defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are two strong pass rushers coming off the edge. While Pats offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have been incredible this season, the middle of New England’s offensive line is vulnerable. Look for Cincinnati to try and push the pocket, pressuring Brady up the middle, to disrupt the Patriots passing attack.
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib has another tough task this week, facing Bengals receiver A.J. Green.
(USA TODAY Images)
Eliminate Turnovers: The Bengals have turned the ball over two more times than they have forced turnovers this season, not a great recipe for success in the NFL. Quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown four interceptions and lost three fumbles this season alone. New England has an opportunistic defense, which is just waiting for the Bengals to make a mistake. If Cincinnati eliminates their turnovers, they will have a great chance of winning Sunday.
Get Green Involved: Wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the most talented pass catchers in the league today. So far this season, Green as 26 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-4, 207 pound receiver will be another tough matchup for Pats cornerback Aqib Talib. Dalton has been somewhat reliant on Green throughout his career — hard to blame him — but when the two players can’t connect, the offense seems to have a lot of problems. Cincinnati needs to get Green involved in the offense and take some shots downfield when the time is right.
How The Patriots Win:
Protect Brady: Coming into the game, it’s hard not to be concerned about the Patriots offensive line against a very good Bengals front seven. New England’s offensive line is solid, but they are vulnerable in the middle. As previously mentioned defensive tackle Geno Atkins is an absolute beast and Cincinnati will be trying to push the pocket, with two solid edge rushers coming around. Giving Brady time to operate will be critical this week.
Be Patient: It’s easy to have the mindset, especially playing a mediocre quarterback, to be aggressive. That being said, I fully expect Andy Dalton to make mistakes; it’s not a matter of if, but when. If Dalton plays a clean game and doesn’t turn the ball over, I don’t see the Pats coming out with a victory. The Pats defense has been solid this season, however, they need to play smart and capitalize on the Bengals mistakes. They cannot let up big plays, especially to A.J. Green over the top.
Stay Balanced: Last week we saw New England’s offense be as balanced a unit as they have been in quite some time. The past two weeks the Patriots have had contributions from multiple guys and have been very productive on the ground the past two weeks, averaging 144 yards per game. New England used the play-action passing game to perfection against Atlanta, expect the same this Sunday if they can establish the run. A tough task versus the eleventh rush defense in the NFL.
Prediction: Patriots 23, Bengals 20
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