Sunday, October 5, 2014

Matchup Mashup: Your Patriots-Bengals primer


Week 5: Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-2), 8:30 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Weather: Clear, low 50s at kickoff (accuweather)

The skinny: The Patriots had a downright awful outing last Sunday, a game they're happy to forget as they prepare on a short week to take on the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. While the defense struggled to make tackles, the offense has struggled to make much of anything happen, ranking 30th in the passing game and 23rd on the ground. It won't get any easier this week, as the Bengals defense has kept teams off the scoreboard and come into Sunday well rested after a bye week. Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense certainly haven't been perfect, but they've continued to do what Dalton is known for, at least in the regular season -- win games.

What to watch for (links):
- Can New England's defense get back to basics and revive themselves after an embarrassing loss to the Chiefs?
- Is Tom Brady finally showing signs of fatigue?
- Will the Pats' offensive line be able to make the needed changes to keep Brady upright and the offense churning?
- How can the rehabbing Marvin Jones help Cincy's red-zone struggles?
- What kind of game will Dalton have on the prime-time stage?

Injury report: Rob Gronkowski's status will have Pats fans happy come game time, with the tight end listed as probable. Safety Nate Ebner and tackle Cameron Fleming, however, are officially out. On the Bengals side, 14 players made the list this week, with Lewis officially doubtful.

Other tidbits from the week: Wide receiver Aaron Dobson's mouth may be the reason he hasn't played the past few weeks; rumors have swirled about a rift between Brady and rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo; Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still is ready to hand out thousands of thank-yous after the outpouring of support for his ailing daughter.

Our picks:
Dan: Bengals 31, Patriots 22
Nick: Patriots 30, Bengals 27

Head-to-head recent history: New England has won four of the last five meetings and seven of the last 10 against the Bengals. Cincinnati pulled out a squeaker in their last meeting, however, winning 13-6 at home behind a strong ground effort game that tallied more than 150 yards and a touchdown. The Pats hold a five-game lead in overall wins, with Sunday's game marking the 24th time the two have met.

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