By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots will try to recover from an embarrassing performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4 when they face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. It will be New England’s second prime time game in a row as part of a stretch in which it will play at night three times in four weeks.
The Bengals enter Week 4 in first place in the AFC North with a 3-0 record, making them one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the NFL (the Arizona Cardinals are also 3-0). Cincinnati is coming off a bye week after defeating the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans in the first three weeks of the season. New England is only 2-2, but is still tied for first place in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
Cincinnati’s all-time record against New England is 9-14. The series dates back to 1968, when the Bengals entered the American Football League as an expansion franchise. The teams have never met in the playoffs. The Bengals won the most-recent meeting 13-6 on October 6, 2013 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Bengals on Offense
Cincinnati’s offense hasn’t been particularly explosive this season, but they are efficient enough to get the job done. In just three games, running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill have combined for five rushing touchdowns and quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown just one interception against two touchdown passes. Wide receiver A.J. Green is the deep threat that the Patriots wish they had — he’s averaging 19.4 yards per catch on 12 receptions. Speedy second-year receiver Marvin Jones is close to returning from a foot injury, so if he plays against the Patriots, it could be a long night for the New England defensive secondary. The Bengals have not given up a single sack this season, and they haven’t lost any fumbles.
Bengals on Defense
If New England is going to establish its running game, it will need to deal with Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The two-time Pro Bowl player is recovering from an ACL tear he suffered last October, but he’s been getting stronger every week this season. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap already has three sacks this season, so he’s making a good case to get named to the first Pro Bowl of his career. As a team, the Bengals are averaging two interceptions per game. The unit is ranked only 14th in the league in total defense, but it leads the NFL in scoring defense by giving up only 11 points per game.
Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards recently named the Bengals the best team in the NFL, so the Patriots have their work cut out for them. By playing at home, the Patriots won’t need to deal with crowd noise like they did in Kansas City, but they only scored 16 points at Gillette Stadium in Week 3 against a very bad Oakland Raiders team, so the New England offense will need to play its best in order to score against an elite defense like Cincinnati’s.
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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 aExaminer.com.