The Bengals On The Prowl
The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2013 season with high expectations and hopes of making a deep run in the playoffs. Entering week five, the Bengals (2-2) still have a very real chance of making the post season but they must play with more consistency.
Cincinnati started the season with a tough loss to Chicago but turned things around with impressive wins over Pittsburgh and Green Bay before losing to Cleveland. Injuries have undoubtedly played a role, especially in the their most recent loss. The Bengals top three defensive backs were banged up as are defensive end Michael Johnson and safety Reggie Nelson.
The crippled secondary comes at an especially bad time for the Bengals who face future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady in week 5. Things on the offensive side of the ball haven’t gone much better this season but not because of injuries. After showing improvement in his first two seasons, many predicted Andy Dalton was set to have a breakout year. Instead Dalton already has thrown four interceptions and his numbers have gotten worse and worse as the season has progressed. To be fair, Dalton’s best weapon, A.J. Green has also looked less than stellar lately. After being a fantasy owner’s dream in week one, Green has caught just one touchdown and totaled less than 140 yards in his last three games.
One bright spot for the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense has been rookie running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard already has two rushing TDs and is averaging over 4 yards per carry on a team ranked 22nd in the league in rushing. So far the only thing Bernard has struggled with is a lack of touches. If Cincinnati can find a way to get him the ball more, it should open up the passing game and give Dalton and Green opportunities to put points on the board. On paper, the Bengals certainly have the talent to hand New England their first loss of the season. In order to do so, Dalton will have to do a better job of getting rid of the ball quicker and avoid turning the ball over. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals’ pass rush will be key. Brady has never lost to the Bengals but if the defense can find a way to disrupt his rhythm, Cincinnati has an excellent shot of ending that streak.
The Patriots Are Marching
The New England Patriots are one of the 5 remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, which is a surprise to many people considering the offseason they had. Their Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski had offseason surgery on his forearm (which he broke last season) and his back (for the removal of a cyst). He hasn’t played a game this season, but is expected back soon.
Their other Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez was released in the offseason the same day he was charged with murder. Quarterback Tom Brady took a pay cut to help the team re-sign their free-agents, especially his favorite target Wes Welker who had caught over 100 passes in five of the last six seasons.
The team was unable to re-sign him due to some dispute during contract negotiations, he decided to sign with the Denver Broncos, and is currently leading the league in touchdown catches with 6. The Patriots replaced Welker with free-agent receiver Danny Amendola; the former St. Louis Ram is a good player that has had some injury problems in the past. Sure enough Amendola was injured in the first game of the season, but he gutted out the game catching 10 passed for a 104 yards. They lost defensive captain Vince Wilfork for the season during their game against the Atlanta Falcons, adding another big name to their growing injury list.
With all the offseason drama and injuries that have plagued the team, people were expecting the Patriots to struggle early in the season, especially Tom Brady who is throwing to a bunch of young, no name receivers and tight ends. Head Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady aren’t having any of that kind of talk; they are proving once again why they are considered one of the greatest coach-quarterback tandems since Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.
Without any big name talent, Tom Brady is still playing at an MVP level, showing why he is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are expected to rejoin the team very soon, and they just signed former Indianapolis Colts receiver Austin Collie, giving Brady better weapons on offense.
None of the teams the Patriots have faced currently have a winning record, but that is about to change because over the next 8 weeks, they will be facing the New Orleans Saints, division rivals Miami Dolphins who are also off to a good start, and Brady’s old nemesis Peyton Manning who is on a record breaking tear this season with the Denver Broncos.
The New England Patriots are expected to make the playoffs, like they have in recent years including two trips to the Super Bowl in 5 years. The question on the mind of their fans is will they be able to overcome the injuries that have plagued them this year to make a deep playoff run.
The Patriots will manage to win this game, but will have a tough time of it. Without Vince Wilfork, the running game of the Bengals will help get the ball moving and keep Brady off the field. But once Brady does start putting up points, the Bengals are going to have to abandon the run.