Tom Brady and the Patriots look to quiet the critics Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)
The New England Patriots return home to host the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots and Bengals will meet for a second straight season. Last year, Cincinnati defeated New England 13-6 in week five at Paul Brown Stadium.
Since 2003, the Patriots have a 22-1 record at home during the month of October. They also look to extend their 32-game winning streak against AFC opponents at home during the regular season. Here are a few thoughts on the upcoming game. —
First Impressions:¬†The Bengals are off to a hot start, winning their first three games of the year and coming off a week four bye. Cincinnati has one of the most complete teams in the NFL, balanced and aggressive on both sides of the football.
At first glance, this will be a particularly difficult match-up for New England in the trenches. The Bengals have a solid offensive line that has not allowed a sack so far this season. Defensively their front seven is big and physical, which could pose some problems for a struggling Patriots offensive line.
Brady, Offense has to get in Rhythm Early:¬†The Patriots offensive struggles are known and have been discussed at nauseam over the past few weeks. With all of the criticism, fair or not, New England has started slow every game this season. In fact, the team has started with four-straight three-and-outs. What a shot to the team’s confidence? The first possession of each game and it lasts three plays.
This week, the Pats must get in gear right away, putting a drive together to not only build their own confidence, but also put pressure on the Bengals. The last two weeks, New England opened up the game with three passes. Getting Stevan Ridley some touches on the ground early would allow the offensive lineman to impose their will, slow down the Bengals pass rush and get some rhythm on offense, which they desperately need.
AJ Green vs Darrelle Revis:¬†This will be the best one-on-one match-up to watch throughout the game. Bengals wide receiver Aj Green is one of the league’s best and will be a tough cover for Patriots cornerback, Darrelle Revis.
While Green has had some injury trouble this year, he has gone over the 100-yard receiving mark in each of the two games he’s played. In the Bengals last game against the Tennessee Titans, Green caught six passes for 102 yards. He’s a downfield threat with tremendous leaping ability.
Revis should be assigned to cover Green on every snap. Allowing Revis to play physical, man-coverage would be New England’s best game plan. Obviously the team must be cautious of deep passes, but this match-up is exactly why they paid Revis $12 million in the offseason.
Expect the Bengals to Blitz:¬†Cincinnati is an aggressive team on both sides of the ball. On defense they like to do a number of things, but primarily play a 4-3 base. Defensive coordinator,¬†Paul Guenther, usually has his secondary play zone, occasionally sending a defensive back to pressure opposing QBs on the edge.¬†
The Bengals also like to use their linebackers to rush the passer. Whether it’s Rey Maualuga or Vontaze Burfict, both have shot through the middle of the offensive line in their first three games this season. With the Patriots struggling to protect Tom Brady, expect Cincinnati to bring some pressure early and often.
The Patriots have a lot to Prove:¬†After a 29-point loss and 2-2 start on the season, New England is under a lot of pressure going into this contest. While the Bengals are undefeated and coming off a week of rest, the Patriots look to regroup after their devastating loss on a national stage.
New England has shown over the past decade they respond well after falling to an opponent in the previous week, but will the Bengals be too much to handle? Cincinnati is not a great match-up for a team looking to rebound and gain confidence moving forward. When the Patriots have faced opponents with stout offensive and defensive lines, they have had issues. How the Patriots fight and compete Sunday will tell us a lot about what to expect the rest of the year.
Prediction:¬†Bengals 24, Patriots 20
Do¬†you have a Twitter account?¬†Be sure to follow me:¬†@PatriotsHaven!