By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots will play the second of consecutive road games when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday, October 6 for Week Five of the 2013 NFL season. The Bengals have experienced an up-and-down year so far, while the Patriots have been steadily improving from week to week.
The Bengals enter Week Five with a 2-2 record, which puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The Browns defeated Cincinnati 17-6 in Week Four.
Cincinnati is 8-14 all-time against New England. The Bengals have lost their last four games against the Patriots, including a 38-24 loss at Gillette Stadium when the teams last met in 2010. Cincinnati’s last victory over New England was a 23-17 win at Paul Brown Stadium in 2001, the season the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI. The teams have never met in the postseason.
Bengals on Offense
The Bengals have struggled significantly on offense in 2013. Only once, in a surprising 34-30 comeback win over the Green Bay Packers, has the offense scored more than 21 points in a game. Cincinnati is ranked 22nd in the NFL in total offense (327.5 YPG), 16th in passing (243.8) and 23rd in rushing (83.8).
Quarterback Andy Dalton, in his third year as starting QB, has already committed six turnovers this season – four interceptions and two fumbles. His number one receiving threat is A.J. Green, who has caught 26 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets most of the carries for Cincinnati, but he’s averaging only 2.7 yards per carry this season.
With Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork likely out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, stopping Cincinnati’s run game will be New England’s biggest challenge; but the Bengals don’t have particularly dangerous weapons in this regard, and free-agent rookie Joe Vellano did an admirable job filling in for Wilfork against the Atlanta Falcons in Week Four. Expect Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib to cover Green.
Bengals on Defense
Cincinnati has an above-average defense which has allowed the team to be competitive in every game in spite of the offensive struggles. The unit is ranked 13th in the league in total defense (334 YPG), 13th against the pass (235) and 10th against the run (99).
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the team in sacks with three while linebacker Vontaze Burfict lead the team in tackles with 42, 26 of them solo. Burfict also has one interception, which ties him with three defensive backs for the team lead.
New England’s biggest responsibility on offense will be to account for Burfict, who is known for his physical play. Burfict was fined $31,000 for two unnecessary roughness penalties he committed in Cincinnati’s victory over Green Bay.
As long as the Cincinnati running game is kept in check, it’s unlikely that Dalton will make many big plays against the New England secondary. It remains to be seen if New England will activate wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski for this game, but as long as the Patriots young receiving core continues to develop, the Patriots should come out of this game with a 5-0 record.
For more Patriots news and updates, visit Patriots Central.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.