By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are back in action on Sunday to face the Bengals on the road. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can the Patriots offensive line protect Tom Brady in this game? The front seven for the Bengals can really get after the quarterback, and this will be a huge test for the offensive line. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the Bengals with three sacks, but he is not the only threat, as Geno Atkins has 2.5 sacks of his own from the interior.
The Patriots offensive line did an excellent job against the Falcons, as they did not give up one sack in the last game. However, overall this unit has been up and down this season, and they will need to be on the upswing this week against the Bengals defense.
2. Can the Patriots offense establish a strong screen game against the Bengals? When you are playing against an aggressive defense, one of the best ways to counter it is the screen game.
I think it is important to get the running backs involved in the screen game, and if they get an opening, they might be able to run for awhile. However, I wouldn’t be shocked to also see the bubble screens to the wide receivers. I think this is a part of the offense that could be very helpful on Sunday.
3. Can the Patriots offense establish the running game as well? The Bengals are 11th in the NFL in rushing yards as they are only giving up 99 yards per game.
However, I think establishing the run is very important as we saw the affect it had on the passing game against the Falcons. If the offense can get the run going, watch out for the play-action passing game, because it could explode once again in this game. This could be another game when the run sets up the pass.
4. Can the Patriots stop the run on defense? Right now the Bengals have struggled running the ball as they are only averaging 83.8 yards per game, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry. However, they do have an up coming back in Giovani Bernard, who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and could be a threat in this game.
The Bengals are probably going to try to establish the run, and try to take advantage of a Patriots run defense without Vince Wilfork. This will be a true test for the defense to see if they can stop the run, because I expect the Bengals to attack the Patriots by running the ball.
5. Can cornerback Aqib Talib contain wide receiver A.J. Green? Talib was tremendous against Julio Jones in the last game, and will probably be asked to step up once again to face one of the best wide receivers in the game. Green already has 26 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
If Talib can lock down on Green, that will seriously hurt quarterback Andy Dalton, who seems to depend on getting the ball to Green. The Bengals have two very good tight ends, but if you are going to take away one player it has to be Green, and I think Talib is the man for the job.
This is another test for the Patriots, but I don’t rate the Bengals as high as the Falcons. I actually see the Patriots winning comfortable, and pulling away in the second half.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.