Bengals - Patriots: What To Watch

What do the Bengals have to do against the Patriots to win on Monday night? A lot more than they have been doing. Game plans, injury impact and player notes for Monday night's game

Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, the team's first of two second-round picks in 2004 and the 49th overall, is gone. The Bengals waived the fourth-year player Wednesday. Ratliff, who found himself in head coach Marvin Lewis' doghouse, played in 51 games with eight starts over three-plus seasons.

Ratliff's roster spot was taken by cornerback Blue Adams, who signed a two-year contract. It's the second week in a row the Bengals have made a roster move on defense that essentially was done to help their ailing special teams coverage units. Adams will assume Ratliff's role as the fourth cornerback on defense but is expected to provide more punch on special teams. Last week, the Bengals waived linebacker Andrew Frazier and signed Dhani Jones.

In training camp, Ratliff said if he was going to be the team's fourth cornerback -- and he was behind Deltha O'Neal, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall -- he would rather be released. Adams had a neck injury in June on-field practices and was severely limited in training camp and the preseason.

Adams opened 2007 with the Bengals, signing as a free agent May 7. He missed the first three preseason games while rehabbing his neck injury and played only in Cincinnati's preseason finale. He was waived by the Bengals on Sept. 2. Adams played for Jacksonville as a rookie in 2003, did not play in 2004, and played for Tampa Bay in 2005-06. He played in every game for Tampa Bay last season and ranked third on the club with 19 special teams tackles.

Ratliff's best season was 2005 when he played in every game with three starts, had 47 total tackles and intercepted three passes.

BENGALS PLAYER NOTES

--RB Kenny Watson, who ran hard for 60 yards and a touchdown at Seattle, should get the start against New England because of starter Rudi Johnson's hamstring injury. Johnson is Out for Monday's game.
--OT Willie Anderson made his 115th consecutive start against Seattle.
--WR Tab Perry (hamstring) is out for the game against New England.
--LB Ahmad Brooks (groin) was inactive at Seattle but will start against New England, coach Marvin Lewis said. He was listed as Doubtful for Monday night's game.
--C Eric Ghiaciuc (thumb) is expected to be available for the New England game. He was inactive at Seattle. Alex Stepanovich has started and played well in two consecutive games. He is listed as probable for Monday night's game
--WR Chad Johnson, with his nine catches last week at Seattle, raised his career total to 491. He ranks second in Bengals history, and is now 40 away from passing all-time leader Carl Pickens (530). Johnson has accumulated catches at a faster pace than any receiver in Bengals history -- 5.16 catches per game for the 95 games of his career. If he were to hold that pace for the rest of this season, he'd pass Pickens in Game 11, on Nov. 25 against Tennessee at Paul Brown Stadium.

BENGALS GAME PLAN:

The Bengals need to play with energy, passion and whatever else they can find. Playing New England could be the worst matchup for the Bengals this season. The Patriots have no weaknesses. The Bengals have many. The Bengals defense has little chance of containing both the Patriots run and pass games. One way or another, New England will get loose offensively. The Bengals will need another six-takeaway game, similar to what they got Sept. 10 in beating the Ravens. The Bengals need takeaways on defense and error-free games from quarterback Carson Palmer and their special teams. This game is as close as a lock to New England winning by two touchdowns as any in recent memory.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

-- Patriots return teams vs. Bengals coverage teams. Especially in the kickoff return game, this matchup could be fatal for the Bengals. New England is first in the NFL in average drive start at the 38.4-yard line. The Bengals are 31st in average drive start allowed, at the 35.5-yard line. The Patriots' Ellis Hobbs has a 36.4-yard kickoff return average, which includes a 108-yard touchdown.

--Patriots pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense: The Patriots' high-flying, re-tooled pass game should be able to pad its gaudy numbers against the Bengals' 27th-ranked pass defense. The Patriots are third in the NFL in passing at 289.3 yards a game. Bengals No. 1 cornerback Deltha O'Neal will have his hands full with Randy Moss, who has five touchdowns and an 18.3-yard average on 22 catches. Tom Brady has 10 touchdown passes. The Bengals have allowed eight touchdown passes. All in three games.

-- Patriots LT Matt Light vs. Bengals DE Justin Smith. Smith is the Bengals' best pass rusher and he'll need to be on top of his game if Cincinnati's defense has any chance of stopping the Patriots. Light has started the season strong but Smith has some of the quick pass-rushing moves that have given him trouble in the past. As long as Brady has time to throw, the Patriots offense will move the ball with ease. Smith's job is to try and prevent that from happening.

-- Patriots RB Laurence Maroney vs. Bengals S Madieu Williams. The last time Williams saw Maroney, the running back's stiff-arm was in his face planting him into the ground. The Bengals need to tackle well in the open field, especially against Maroney. It's obvious that Cincinnati's defensive front can't stop the run by itself, so the safeties will need to help out. On a side note, Williams was drafted by the Bengals with the pick they acquired from the Patriots in the Corey Dillon trade.

BENGALS INJURY IMPACT: Bengals running back Rudi Johnson has played in 64 straight games, not missing a contest since he was out for Games 1-3 of the 2003 season with a quad injury. But Johnson was sidelined in the second half at Seattle last week with a hamstring strain, and his early-week status for the New England game is questionable. Johnson was listed as out against New England on Friday's injury report. Kenny Watson, who ran for 60 yards against the Seahawks, will start in Johnson's place.

Middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks (groin) is expected back for New England after missing the Seattle game.

PATRIOTS INJURY IMPACT: The only real injury the team is dealing with right now is starting guard Stephen Neal's shoulder. Neal has missed the last two games but the Patriots offensive line hasn't missed a beat. Neal has had some shoulder problems in the past and the extent of the injury isn't known yet. Luckily for the Patriots, they're deep at guard with Russ Hochstein and Billy Yates both being viable replacements for Neal. Hopefully Neal will be back with the team soon, but if this turns out to be a long-term injury, the Patriots offensive line will still be in good shape moving forward.

 

PATRIOTS GAME PLAN:

The Bengals are going to move the football against pretty much any defense. They just have too many weapons to completely shut down. The key for the Patriots defense is holding the Bengals to three points when they do move the football. This was a big factor in last year's matchup. Cincinnati dominated the first quarter of play but both drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns. Being down 6-0, it only took the Patriots one drive to claim the lead. It's hard to run the football against the Patriots, so the pressure falls on the secondary. Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel will need to keep the Bengals receivers out of the end zone and force field goals. The Patriots' red-zone defense hasn't played well this year -- giving up five touchdowns on five attempts. If that trend continues this week, it could be a problem against the high-powered Bengals offense.

PATRIOTS PLAYER NOTES

--The Patriots made some moves to their practice squad. The team re-signed cornerback Antwain Spann to the practice squad and released defensive back Gemara Williams. The Patriots also placed tight end Jason Rader on the practice squad reserve injured list.

Spann was originally signed by New England as a free agent on Jan. 19, 2006. Last season, he was signed from the Patriots practice squad to the active roster on three occasions and saw action in eight games. Spann was a solid special teams contributor, recording six special teams tackles on coverage units in 2006. The Patriots released Spann on July 19, 2007 after playing in NFL Europa last summer.

--LB Rosevelt Colvin (ankle) had limited participation in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.
--CB Randall Gay (thigh) had limited participation in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Gay had been starting in place of Asante Samuel, until Samuel started against the Bills.
--Laurence Maroney (groin) had limited participation in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He is listed as questionable for Monday night.
--G Stephen Neal (shoulder) had limited participation in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Neal has missed the past two games with the shoulder injury. He is listed as quaestionable for Monday's game.
--NT Vince Wilfork had limited participation in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Although he's listed as questionable, Wilfork is expect to play on Monday night.

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