NFL Week 6 Preview: Patriots vs. Bengals
The Bengals are a funny team to me. Every year, people ride the Cincy hype train after they get off to a hot start and talk about how "this is the year" Andy Dalton leads the Bengals to a playoff victory. But it always comes crashing down, usually in the first round of the playoffs. Even though I like Marvin Lewis a lot more than I like Jeff Fisher, they're basically in the same category to me when it comes to coaches. They both have literally taken their respective teams nowhere in the playoffs, but for some reason keep getting resigned to extensions. Lewis has been the Bengals Head Coach since 2003 and holds the record for most postseason losses without a win. No matter how good these guys look during the regular season (they started 8-0 last year), they just can't get it done in primetime.
There is no shortage of talent on their roster either. Andy Dalton is a 2-time Pro Bowl Quarterback, and in this league if you have even a halfway decent QB you have a shot to win it all. They have one of the top 3 or 4 WRs in AJ Green, a consistent workhorse RB in Jeremy Hill, and a shifty 3rd down back in Gio Bernard. Tyler Eifert was a TD machine in 2015, although he's dealt with an injury so far this season, and old friend Brandon LaFell is a capable #2 WR who just won a Super Bowl with us in 2014. Their defensive starters are no slouches either, touting names such as Carlos Dunlap, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, Pacman Jones, and All-Pro DT Geno Atkins. Their problem so far this year has been their offensive line, as Andy Dalton has been sacked basically a billion times. As I know all too well from our 2015 season, there probably isn’t a more important positional group on a football team than the offensive line. It doesn't matter how good of a QB you have if you can't give him time or keep him upright. No O-Line means no running game, which means you're one dimensional and limits your passing game, which then keeps your defense on the field longer. It's an ugly chain of events.
I expect the Patriots to take full advantage of that, especially with a banged up Jeremy Hill. Hill suffered a chest/shoulder injury in their last game, and although he's been practicing all week he won't be 100% come Sunday. Belichick is going to send all of our pass rushers at Dalton, whether it is Nink, Sheard, and Long on the edge, or Hightower and Collins up the middle for A-Gap blitzes. Obviously, Bill's defensive gameplan focuses on taking away what you do best, so the last thing he's going to do is let AJ Green go off on our secondary. He'll be double covered in some combination of Butler and McCourty or Ryan and McCourty, and LaFell will be forced to step up. On offense, look for Josh McDaniels to open the playbook up a little now that Brady has a week under his belt with his new weapons. The Bengals, like the rest of the league, will have a tough time stopping Gronk and Bennett, and I don’t expect any issues from NE with putting points on the board. Patriots win in Brady’s home debut and move to 5-1 on the season.