The New England Patriots travel to Paul Brown Stadium today to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Patriots enter the game with a mark of four wins and no loses. Cincinnati comes in and an even two wins and two defeats. The Patriots are in the middle of a tough three game stretch that had them travel to to Atlanta last week and finish up with the Saints at home next week. A victory today will make a statement of where the Patriots stand in the NFL. Some key things to look at. Injuries. We all know about Gronk,Vereen and Wilfork. They are out. Half back Stevan Ridley is out as well. This bears watching. I have liked what we have seen out of Lagarette Blount and he could be used big time today in what appears to be wet conditions. How will the run defense look without Big Vince. The Falcons didn't test it last week instead they passed. A horrible coaching move by Mike Smith in Atlanta. With Green-Ellis and rookie Bennard for the Bengals expect a healthy dose of the run. Formations. When rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld was released earlier this week, many thought Gronk was playing. With him out again, the three wide receiver set will continue to be utilized. Amendola is indeed playing today, where will he fit with Edelman and Thompkins? Another wrinkle that could be interesting is Boldin in the bak field with Leon Washington. In the split back shotgun 20 formation either back could take a draw or screen pass. As well both could provide added protection for Brady The game plan. With the injuries what with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia do? The front seven in Cincinnati in full of good young players. On offense the Pats need to continue their ball control ways and count on play action passing. Blount and second year pro Brandon Bolden will be counted on to provide a running threat. With Michael Johnson and Leon Hall out for the Bengals the Patriots might have more time to throw. Defensively the Cleveland Browns were able to hold the Bengals in check. It will be on Aqib Talib to continue his early season dominance against A.J.Green. With Vince Wilfork now on the shelf for the season the question is how do the coaches adapt without him? The team needs to do things schematically. By putting players in position to succeed, the Bill Belichick led Patriots have always been able to lesson the blow of injuries.
The Bengals two tight end set. The Patriots brought the two tight end set into vougue a few seasons ago when they brought Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernadez into the fold. Three years after selecting Jermaine Gresham in the first round, the Bengals spent the same draft capitol to select Tyler Eifert. The early season success is evident. They have combined for 30 receptions for 340 yards. Last week we started to see Jamie Collins cover Falcons tight end Tony Gonzales. It will be interesting to see how the team does things this week. While having Brandon Spikes in to lesson the pounding running style of BJGE, it lessens the ability to cover the tightends. I would expect the Patriots as they always do to take away what teams do well. While AJ Green might look on the surface to be the player to stop, I am looking at shutting down the tight ends with extra attention being shown to them. I see Collins, Mayo and Hightower being key to this.
The Vince Effect. When Vince Wilfork went down last week, many including myself figured the Falcons would try to run. They didn't and continued to pass. One of the reasons the pass rush has been so effective this year is the constant double team a player like Wilfork atttracts. Can Chandler Jones keep things up? Or is he the guy who gets doubled? Joey Vellano is more astute to pass rushing than run stopping so we may see, Vellano and fellow rookie Michael Buchannen getting more reps in passing situations.
Weather effect. Its raining today in Ohio, and flash flood warnings have been issued. Old football wisdom is to run the ball in bad weather. However this could be a game that Brady could throw on his back. With the young wide recievers finally starting to look NFL caliber, if its slippery they know where they are going and the defense does not.
Prediction. The Patriots will improve their record to five wins against zero defeats. I think the defense has more than what the Bengals can stand. If Amendola is 80 percent of what he was in Buffalo week one, the offense will continue to improve. Final Patriots 27 Bengals 17.
Remember to tune into the CLNS Radio Patriots Post Game Show after todays game. Hosts Jeff Kane and Patrick Shankhour will break down the game. Call in number is 347-215-7771