As the (10-4) Cincinnati Bengals enter week 16, they find themself in first place in the AFC North Divison and still in the race for the number one seed.
The Bengals have won their last six games, but last week against the Buccaneers could have started out better. Falling behind 17-3 at halftime, the Bengals rallied back in the second half to a 34-23 victory over Tom Brady. Undoubtedly, this Stripes team is one of the best at making second-half adjustments to win games.
The (7-7) New England Patriots are still playing for a playoff spot but, more importantly, playing for pride. Legendary coach Bill Belichick is the best in the business so expect the unexpected with his playcalling. I am sure he is still furious over last week’s loss to the Raiders when the Patriots tried a series of laterals at the end of the game that ended up in the arms of Las Vegas’ Chandler Jones, who returned the ball for a game-winning touchdown. Check out the top football odds.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has faced fantastic competition within the last month, including one of the best quarterbacks to play the game, Tom Brady. Now he faces off with mastermind Belichick of the Patriots. Two things Belichick does well: he takes advantage of weaknesses and takes away your strength. Burrow has the talent and weapons to overcome both.
Last week, Burrow only threw for 200 yards, partially due to taking advantage of short fields from turnovers. However, he did connect with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd for touchdowns. The Patriot’s secondary is banged up, with Jalen Mills ruled out for the game, leaving Jack Jones and Jonathan Jones to play through some bumps and bruises. Look for Burrow to exploit this with some shots down the field.
The Patriots have struggled this year defending tight ends, which is terrible news for them since Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst looks to be back in the lineup. Hurst has over 400 yards receiving for the year with two touchdowns. Playing with a lot of emotion, Hurst fires up the offense while out on the field, picking up the tough yards when called on.
Bengal’s running backs, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, are certainly a dual running threat and one the Patriots will need to focus on, especially if the weather conditions are bad. Mixon and Perine played against the Bucs, but because the defense and special teams gave them excellent field positions, they did not have to play as much, keeping their legs fresh for this game. Hopefully, these two can get off to a good start, opening up more play-action for Burrow and the offense.
With all the faults of this Patriot’s team, their defense line knows how to apply pressure. Defensive tackle Josh Uche has 10.5 sacks, while his partner Matthew Judon has 14.5 sacks. Belichick likes to move them around the line looking for the best matchups. That means the Bengal’s offensive line communication must be at its best.
The glue that keeps this Bengal’s offensive line altogether is team center and captain Ted Karras. If anyone understands how to defeat the Patriots, it is him. Playing the last seven years in the NFL, five of those years with Belichick, he knows a trick or two and what to expect.
Karras talked to the media and had this to say about his former team, “He grew up a Patriot and adhered to many of the Belichickian principles. The No. 1 football thing he learned, he said, ‘is a Bill Belichick adage. You can’t win until you keep from losing. I firmly believe that.’” per Geoff Hobson.
The Patriot’s second-year quarterback Mac Jones has one of the worst seasons of his young NFL career. Some blame the playcalling of Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. Others blamed Jones himself for rush passes and missed opportunities. One of the biggest complaints this season has been the predictability and lack of creativity on offense. It sounds uncharacteristic of a Belichick team, but the perfect time to reek more uncertainly and chaos.
Who better to bring the havoc than Bengal’s defensive end and All-Pro Trey Hendrickson? After missing one game with a broken wrist, Hendrickson got the ok to play with a brace which could not come at a better time after losing Sam Hubbard to a calf injury.
When Hendrickson was asked why he wanted to come back early for this game, he said, “We’ve spent more time together than we have with our families, and we are a family. They would lay it on the line for me, and these guys have their livelihoods at stake. I have to do my one-eleventh for them as they’ve done their one-eleventh for me.”
Joseph Ossai, who filled for Hendrickson last week, made a big play to help lead to an interception and will also be called on to make sure Jones feels pressure all game.
You can rest assured that Belichick plans on using his running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, as many times as he can. Stevenson was listed on the injury report as questionable despite playing through the injury and racking up 172 rushing yards in last week’s loss to the Raiders. That ankle will be tested by one of the best unappreciated defensive fronts in the NFL.
Bengal’s nose tackle was once again overlooked for the Pro-Bowl but proved time and again why he is the best at stopping the run. Reader makes outstanding plays every week but will be a little more motivated to show off his skills to a Christmas Eve audience.
Jones and his offense will face a much stricter secondary than last week against the Raiders. Jones will be without receiver DeVante Parker so he will need to rely more on Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor to move the chains.
Passing the ball will not be easy against the Bengal’s rookie Cam Taylor-Britt and Mike Hilton, who are back from injuries. Both are extremely good tacklers, making it challenging for opposing receivers to catch passes. Thrown-in corner Eli Apple, safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, and a lousy passing game could easily be intercepted to change the game’s momentum.
With temperatures in Gillette Stadium supposed to be in the 25-degree range kicking the ball could be a factor. Bengal’s new punter Drue Chrisman did an amazing job last week with four punts for 180 yards giving the defense a long field to work from all day.
If necessary, kicker Evan McPherson may be counted to come in and hit some critical field goals. As we saw last year, like Burrow, he is calm and does get rattled easily in big moments. Both Bengal kickers have potent legs built for weather just like this. I am glad we have these weapons on our side. Check out the top football betting strategies.
Note: The Patriot’s long snapper Joe Cardona is out, which could have a significant impact on the game, as we saw when the Bengal’s long-time snapper Clark Harris when out in the first game of the season. I am not saying it was the sole reason we lost that game, but it certainly impacted our kicking game that day.
Bengal’s defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will need to stop the Patriot’s running game, forcing Jones to throw more than he would like. If Burrow can get out to a fast start, it would go a long way to keeping the momentum throughout the game. The Bengals staying away from unnecessary turnovers would be the only way I see the Patriots coming out on top. The Bengals secure this win while still working for the top seed.
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