The New England Patriots (7-7) host the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) on Saturday afternoon. The Patriots hope to stabilize after a soul-crushing loss in Las Vegas knocked them out of the playoff picture.
The Patriots do control their own destiny. If they win out, they will be in the Super Wild Card Weekend action. It starts with a Bengals team that has won six straight and looks like a team seeking revenge after their 2021 season ended in a Super Bowl loss. Check out the top football betting strategies.
It is undoubtedly an arduous task, but the Patriots have their backs against the wall, and it is time to see whether this team can rally after a tough loss and pull off the upset. Here are the keys to winning for the Patriots.
Obviously, this would be an ideal scenario for every game. If you can get home with four pass rushers, it often equals a solid performance by the defense. However, it is crucial in this game that the Patriots do not blitz and bank on their edge rusher duo of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche to get to the quarterback.
The Cincinnati offensive line is improved from last year’s unit, but their tackle play leaves much to be desired. According to PFF, the starting left tackle Jonah Williams ranks 105th in pass protection out of 149 offensive linemen that have played at least 500 snaps. Starting right tackle, La’el Collins ranks 142nd in pass protection, according to PFF.
Out of 32 quarterbacks with at least 70 dropback attempts against the blitz, Burrow ranks 31st in percentage of blitzes faced. There is a simple reason for that: Burrow is lethal against the blitz. He ranks fourth in passer rating against the blitz among those qualified quarterbacks, boasting an incredible 114.5 passer rating when five or more defenders come his way.
Even under pressure, Burrow is absolute nails. His 89.7 passer rating, while under pressure, is second among all starting quarterbacks. Burrow’s toughness is through the roof, but if the Patriots can get to the quarterback with their front four, it will make life much easier for the Patriots secondary.
It will be worth monitoring whether Patriots wideout Devante Parker can suit up this weekend, because the Patriots will need all the help they can get at wide receiver. The Bengals have two of the best coverage linebackers in the league, and it would be wise for the Patriots to look at matchups elsewhere.
Out of 52 linebackers that have played at least 250 coverage snaps, Bengals linebackers Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson are first and 21st, respectively, according to PFF. I expect them to key in on Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson and tight end Hunter Henry. Check out the top football betting sites for betting on the Patriots/Bengals.
The Bengals secondary has been up and down, and I expect plenty of 11 personnel from the Patriots on Saturday. The Bengals top three cornerbacks all rank in the bottom half of cornerbacks in passer rating allowed. Starting cornerbacks Cam Taylor-Britt and Eli Apple have allowed passer ratings of 113.1 and 103.4. Those rank 79th and 68th out of 94 cornerbacks that have played at least 250 coverage snaps.
The Patriots have faced two straight below-average secondaries and have not fared well. They are at home this time around, so perhaps the communication can improve, and the offense can be a little more comfortable and produce better results through the air.
The quarterback position in the NFL is a CEO position. Take a look at the signal-caller the Patriots will face on Saturday. Burrow is as calm, relaxed and collected as a quarterback can be in the NFL. The Bengals offense follows suit and rarely shows any signs of frustration or panic. The same can not be said about Mac Jones and his demeanor over the last three games. The situation has been understandably frustrating, but the on-field antics have to stop because they cost the Patriots points. The goal-line debacle that occurred in the second quarter of the Raiders game resulted from that.
The Bengals do not blitz much, and that is because they do not have to bring additional defenders to bring pressure.
Edge rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard are two of the most underrated pass rushers in the league. Hendrickson is T-11th for total pressure (sacks, QB hits and hurries) out of 119 defensive linemen with at least 250 pass rush snaps. Hubbard ranks 16th in total pressure. I have not even mentioned defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who missed five games earlier this season. He is traditionally a run-stuffing tackle but has shown his improved pass-rushing prowess this season.
Long story short, Mac is going to get hit in this game. He will get hit quite a lot, but he needs to take a page or two out of Burrow’s playbook this game. Stay calm, stay cool and keep on keeping on because, as the CEO of the offense, Mac needs to do a better job of keeping his frustration under wraps.
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