Sep 8, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
A closer game than most people expect as the Bengals stout defense of line will present problems. However, the return of wide receiver Danny Amendola, along with Belichick’s refusal to let the opponent’s no. 1 receiver have much impact, should allow the Pats to walk away with the win. Key players to watch Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, last week Tony Gonzalez was unstoppable and the Bengals do a good job of using the two tight ends to create mismatches.
Prediction: New England Patriots 24 – Cincinnati Bengals 21
It seems like the Pats lose two or three guys to injury every week, doesn’t it? By now, everybody knows about the loss of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the remainder of the season, due to a torn Achilles tendon. Also ruled out for this weekend is running back, Stevan Ridley. And of course, there is the lingering question of the week – will either Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola be back for THIS matchup? Yes, it’s frustrating for fans and fantasy owners alike (*ahem*). The good news is that the Pats are 4-0, lead the division by one full game, and will eventually (hopefully sooner than later) get their big guns back on offense. Filling in that gaping hole left behind by Wilfork up front will be a challenge, but you can bet Bill Belichick has a contingency plan in place. For now, look for rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones to step up and contribute alongside Tommy Kelly, who has looked sharp thus far.
The Bengals do have a solid run defense and the unit as a whole gave Aaron Rodgers and the high-octane Green Bay offense all kinds of problems in week three. Furthermore, that same Cincinatti unit has not allowed 300 passing yards in a whopping eighteen straight games. But do you know how many of those games were played across from Tom Brady? Not one. In fact, in that same time span, Brady has thrown for 300+ yards eight times. With perhaps Gronk and Amendola both still sidelined this week, Brady will likely remain somewhat inconsistent, but his young group of receivers is steadily growing more confident with each game. On the defensive side, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Devin McCourty should be able to shut down stud receiver A.J. Green much in the same way they did Julio Jones last week. Without Green as a reliable target, quarterback Andy Dalton will have issues moving the ball downfield, and HOPEFULLY that Pats’ front seven won’t miss a beat without their big anchor in Wilfork.
Brady is one passing touchdown shy of 342, which would tie Fran Tarkenton for fourth all-time in NFL touchdown passes. Look for him to jump ahead of Tarkenton this weekend, and in the process, extend his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 53 games.