Sunday, October 6, 2013

Four Point Stance: Patriots at Bengals


The New England Patriots were just about to get healthier, but they hit another brick wall this week. New England, which faces the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, lost defensive leader Vince Wilfork last week to a season-ending injury, a major blow to a squad that had been carrying much of the slack while the offense has absorbed its own injury setbacks.

The Patriots will also be without running back Stevan Ridley, who was hauling a bigger share of the load with Shane Vereen out, against the Bengals. Still, they have a chance to go 5-0 for the first time since 2007.

Cincinnati sits at 2-2 coming off an uninspiring loss to the Cleveland Browns last week, though it did oust the Green Bay Packers in a Week 3 shootout.


Trench battle. Geno Atkins and the Bengals' defensive front poses a major challenge to an offensive line that has developed good chemistry through the first quarter of the season. Without Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount will shoulder the load in helping neutralize Cincy's defensive rush on early downs so Tom Brady can do his thing through the air.

Other trench battle. New England will take on a much different look on the defensive line without its anchor in the defensive tackle Wilfork. First-year Patriot Tommy Kelly and undrafted rookie Joe Vellano will be leaned on to pick up the slack, and they'll have some opportunities to attack a struggling rushing attack and set up long fields for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Flipping the field. The Patriots are plus-four in turnover differential, while the Bengals are minus-two. An extra possession or two could be the difference, and Dalton has been generous in that category with interceptions and fumbles the past two games.

Talib-Green. Losing Wilfork hurts, but cornerback Aqib Talib's step up in play through the early part of the season has been a major positive for the defense. Talib will go head-to-head with A.J. Green, who Dalton always takes multiple downfield shots at. If Talib can keep from getting burned Sunday, he'll further beef up his case a top cornerback.

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