Good morning and Merry Christmas Eve. The Patriots return home for the next two weeks to take on Cincinnati today and the Dolphins next week. Our normal Sunday column is a day early this week since tomorrow morning is Christmas Day.
The Bengals are peaking at the exact right time, winners of six in a row, and still have a shot at the AFC’s #1 seed, so they are coming into Foxboro motivated to keep their winning streak going.
After the game debacle in Las Vegas, with the Patriots allowing two touchdowns in the last minute, the team had to have been mentally crushed on the plane ride home. And it is questionable whether they can recover from that in less than a week.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Injury Front: The Patriots will be down at least three starters today as Joe Cardona has been ruled out for the season with a torn tendon in his ankle, and DeVante Parker (concussion), and Jalen Mills (groin) are also out.
Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Jack Jones, Jonathan Jones, Jakobi Meyers, and Tyquan Thornton are questionable.
Julian Edelman: The former Patriot wide receiver was upset after being in attendance at the game in Vegas. He was filmed throwing his hat after the final play. But he vented on Mac Jones.
“You know what, he also doesn’t practice the antics after plays, waving off coaches, and all these little pissy faces and stuff. Like he doesn’t practice that, and he does it,” Edelman said.
Bill O’Brien: With his two-year contract with Alabama at an end after the Sugar Bowl, O’Brien is emerging as a favorite to return to New England as the Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
While O’Brien was on the coaching staff, the Patriots’ offense led the league with 30.7 points per game and averaged 393.1 total yards per game. But if they bring back O’Brien, they would have to know that he still has aims to be a head coach in the league again. And one of the first things he’d have to do (after fixing this atrocious offense) is to groom a potential replacement.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I looked at the Raiders’ game and looked ahead to the Bengals.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Quick Matchup Notes against the Bengals:
The Patriots and Bengals will be in a cold Foxboro stadium today. Temps will be frigid, with 10-20mph winds expected. The cold and wind could affect the passing and kicking games today.
The Bengals have won six in a row, and the Patriots have dropped three of their last four. With a win, Cincinnati will punch their ticket to the postseason, with a shot to win the #1 seed in the AFC. Despite the horrible showing in Vegas, the Patriots are still mathematically alive for the playoffs. Although that scenario now seems as remote as the moon.
But stranger things have happened. So for the Patriots to pull off the big upset, here are our key matchups for this afternoon:
Get The Running Going: With Rhamondre Stevenson having a stellar season, the team needs to rely on him and Damien Harris (if available) to get the sticks moving, eating up the clock, shorten the game, and keep Joe Burrow and the Cincy offense on the sideline.
That doesn’t mean that Stevenson gets 70 percent of his yards after contact. The offensive line has to win the battle of the trenches. And it isn’t going to be easy. Cincinnati has a top-10 run defense, and they’ve made it clear that their #1 priority is to stop the New England running game.
The Bengals don’t fear the Patriots’ passing game, and they’ll be moving their LBs closer to the line in the box. Therefore…
Put Jones Under Center and Use Play-Action: I know, I’ve been saying this all season; perhaps someone smarter (like a rocket scientist) will see this and try to make them pay for dismissing the passing game. The definitive word is T-R-Y.
They haven’t done nearly enough of that this year and I’ve yet to hear a good reason why. However, (comma) this key would entail actually throwing the ball past the line of scrimmage and not 10-12 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Use the tight ends (another familiar refrain) and the RBs out in the pattern, not within 2 yards of the LOS. The OL will have to protect Jones to give him time to throw.
Get the Pass Rushers Going: Matthew Judon, Josh Uche outside, Deatrich Wise, and Christian Barmore inside are all very good pass rushers. In order to slow down that potent Bengals passing game, they’ll have to exert maximum effort to pressure Joe Burrow and disrupt his timing.
Last week the defense used Judon as more of a decoy, dropping him into coverage quite a bit. This week they can’t afford to do that. The banged-up secondary needs some help, and he’ll have to be on top of his game.
Prediction: Bengals 31-13.
Week 16 Game Predictions:
The slate of games for Week 16 and my predictions are straight up for this week. There are no more bye weeks in the season.
Thursday Night Football
Jaguars over NY Jets 1-0
Cincinnati over New England
Buffalo over Chicago
Cleveland over New Orleans
Tennessee over Houston
Kansas City over Seattle
Minnesota over NY Giants
Detroit over Carolina
Baltimore over Atlanta
San Francisco over Washington
Dallas over Philadelphia
Las Vegas over Pittsburgh
Miami over Green Bay
Denver over LA Rams
Sunday Night Football:
Tampa Bay over Arizona
Monday Night Football:
LA Chargers over Indianapolis
Last Week: 11—5
This Season: 142—79—2
Last Season: 182—88—1
2020 Season: 169—86—1
2019 Season: 162—93—1
“Yeah sad, I mean there’s a legend. Great college player, maybe a little overshadowed by Lydell [Mitchell], but that’s a pretty good backfield. I was at Baltimore with Lydell. George Welsh was their position coach at Penn State, so talked about those guys quite a bit. Mitchell got a lot of the stats and publicity and all that at Penn State, but George always raved about Franco. He didn’t carry the ball as much and his hands, which one play kind of says it all on that one. So, he wasn’t fun to play against. I can tell you that. I was at Baltimore when we played him in the playoffs there in my first year. Yeah, this guy was a great player, a great person. It’s a big loss. Thank you.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asked the passing of Steelers legend Franco Harris.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Christian Barmore Cincinnati Bengals Damien Harris Deatrich Wise Jakobi Meyers Joe Burrow Josh Uche Julian Edelman Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots edge rushers