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Coming off a tough loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Monday night, the Patriots will host the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday night. Cincinnati is coming off a bye week last week, and currently stand at 3-0, making them one of the last two unbeaten teams left at this point. The Patriots are 2-2 after Monday night’s 41-14 blowout, with many fans declaring the season over and jumping ship. Indeed, while the Patriots looked overmatched during that game, however there is still hope for this team yet. They will have a tough test this week against Cincy’s stout defense and collection of playmakers on offense.
People will remember last year’s loss to Cincinnati as a low scoring game where the Bengal’s defensive line got to Tom Brady more often than not. The Patriots will try to not allow this kind of pressure this year, and the battle between New England’s offensive line and Cincy’s defensive line will be one to watch. On the offensive side of the ball, the offense has a few nightmare match-ups in wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovani Bernard. Green is one of the best young receivers in the game, and will most likely have Darrelle Revis shadowing him the whole game. A second year back, Bernard can hurt you both on the ground and through the air, something the Pats had trouble with last week with Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles.
The Bengals are led by quarterback Andy Dalton, who has done his job, but not been spectacularly. Known more as a game manager, he makes the throws he should, while not taking too many chances and avoiding turning the ball over. Dalton will routinely look to Green as his first option, with Bernard being the safety net coming out of the backfield if everyone is covered. Dynamic tight end Tyler Eifert is out for this game with an elbow injury, so Jermaine Gresham will be the tight end to watch out for in the middle of the field or spread out wide.
This looks to be a defensive battle which favors Cincinnati, despite the game being played in Foxboro. If the Patriots can give Tom Brady enough protection, and the defense takes the ball away, the Patriots have a good chance of taking this game. Look for Rob Gronkowski to be more involved as he is yet another week removed from surgery and continues to get healthier, while Brandon LaFell is also looking to get more catches and earn more trust from Brady. One key to this game is how the Pats run the ball, which could make or break the game for them. Pass protection and run blocking go hand in hand, so this game depends largely on the offensive line of the Patriots. If Stevan Ridley can get going, and the play calls are close to 50% running and 50% passing, stats show that the Patriots have a better chance than when they throw 50 times and run 20 times. My prediction is 24-21 Patriots, with Bill Belichick lighting a fire under this team and propelling them to a victory tonight at Gillette.
Matt McKay ’16 is a Patriots/NFL Beat Writer for The Hub. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.