Note from the Author: While the statistical research was done in the same fashion, competing priorities makes the in-depth analysis (that no one reads anyway) a little challenging at this time of the year. Please forgive the short commentary you bunch of Jerks.
“We’re on to Cincinnati” ……A rough couple of weeks might be smoothed over as the New England Patriots head west to take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. These two teams have met just 25 times since 1968 with the Patriots holding the series lead 16-9. The most recent of these matchups occurred in 2016 when New England handed Cincinnati a thumping to the tune of 35-17. In that game, the Bengals trailed the Patriots 10-7 at half time only to be outscored 25-10 in the second half.
The Bengals (1-12) enter this game nearing the end of another miserable season with their lone win coming in Week 13 against the forever hapless New York Jets. While not much has gone right for Cincinnati this year, they are clearly in the driver’s seat to secure the number one pick in the April 2020 Draft.
For New England (10-3), they enter this game after losing in back to back weeks. Last week’s lost to Kansas City continued to highlight the offensive woes the Patriots continue this season as the offense mustered only 278 yards.
Playoff Seeding (for the Patriots anyway) is still at stake so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: While age and possible injury have, perhaps, slowed down Tom Brady, he is still head and shoulders above whomever the Bengals decide to throw out on the field on Sunday.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: The combination of backs that New England possesses has been more productive in yards from scrimmage that their more physically gifted Cincinnati counterparts up to this point in the season.
Wide Receivers – PUSH: The loss of Cincinnati’s Auden Tate to injured reserve certainly evens out the wide receiver groups from a production stand point anyway.
Tight Ends – BENGALS: The production the Bengals’ Tight Ends have provided has been minimal, but they are out producing the meat-sacks the Patriots are trotting out on the field.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: New England’s offensive line has been downright awful…. Shockingly though, they have allowed almost 50% less sacks than the Bengals’ group and have run blocked significantly better.
Defensive Front Seven – PATRIOTS: Cincinnati is ranked 31st in sacks (only better that the woefully pathetic Dolphins) and 19th against the run. The Patriots are significantly better in both areas but, as always, need to prove it on Sunday.
Secondary – PATRIOTS: Even with back to back losses, the Patriots either are leading the lead (or in 2nd place) in every major pass defense category including lowest completion percentage, fewest yards, most interceptions, and opposing quarterback rating.
Special Teams – PATRIOTS: Both units are very similar in their return games and punting…. Both are equally disappointing in their place-kicking game…. However, the Patriots Special Teams unit continues to make key plays, including a ridiculous amount of punt blocks, that significantly impact field position.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: Bill Belichick has 302 career wins (including playoffs) …. Zac Taylor has one win which was against the Jets.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -10
Keys to a Patriots Victory:
1) That James White Guy: With the overall lack of playmakers available, James White should never leave the field. Even if Sony Michel comes in the game, James White should be lined up as a Wide Receiver because he will draw defensive attention and hopefully let someone else get open.
2) Speed Up the Offense: While it’s true there are a lot of new faces on the Patriots offense, the thing that surprisingly has been successful has been when New England goes into a no huddle offense. While this certainly has its drawbacks from a time of possession standpoint, the Offense needs a spark.
3) Release the Boogeymen: The Bengals have a bad offensive line and not very good quarterback options…. If that doesn’t scream “Blitz Early and Often”, then what does?
While this game is a mismatch on paper, anything can happen on gameday and the Patriots have put themselves in a position where each game has become a must win with little margin for error.
Look for another stressful game that is way closer than it should be.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 17 – Bengals 9