Week Six Preview: Patriots vs. Bengals

For this week, we will preview the New England Patriots as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in week six.

This weekend, the Patriots (4-1) host the Bengals (2-3) at Gillette Stadium. In what has always been an entertaining match-up to watch, this has the makings of being another competitive game. Coming into this game, the Patriots are coming off an impressive 33-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. For the Bengals. they are coming into this game following a 28-14 loss against the Dallas Cowboys. Cincinnati is surprisingly below .500 so far but have lost to solid teams (Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers) who all either have either one or two losses this season. The Patriots were able to rebound in Week Five against Cleveland after being shut out in Buffalo at home in week four. Week Five's game against Cleveland also marked the return of quarterback Tom Brady, who missed the first four games of the season due to suspension. 

For the Patriots on offense, they currently rank 17th in the NFL in points per game (22.8) but that number may be skewed a bit considering they were using their 2nd or 3rd string quarterback for four out of those five games. They do however, rank 7th in the NFL in total yardage per game so far (377.8). At just under 250 passing yards per game (249.2), the Patriots rank 14th in the NFL but rank 4th in the NFL in average rushing yards per game (128.0). That is in large part due to LeGarrette Blount, who currently ranks 7th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (77.8) and 8th in total rushing yards (389). In Brady's first game back, he threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns without an interception or fumble. The team as a whole managed for over 500 yards (501) against the Browns and put on an offensive clinic.

With Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and James White all at Brady's disposal for Sunday, it would not be surprising to see the Patriots offense have another big game even against a tough Bengals defense. Cincinnati ranks 11th in the NFL in total yardage per game (338.6) and 16th in points per game given up (22.0). The Bengals as a whole have given up 1,123 yards passing (225 per game) with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Cincinnati has given up the 6th most passing touchdowns thus far while collecting the 13th most (tied with five other teams, including the Patriots) interceptions. They have collected 10 sacks so far through five games, good for two per game on average and tied for the 17th most in the NFL thus far.

For their run defense, Cincinnati ranks 20th in the NFL with 114 yards on average given up. They also rank tied for 23rd in yards per rushing attempt (4.4, with three other teams). While they have only given up three rushing touchdowns in five games, that ranks as tied for 10th most (tied with six other teams). So while the Bengals on paper seem to have solid defensive personnel, they have had their issues against both the pass and run. The Patriots will likely try to take advantage of the Bengals back seven with their multitude of weapons in the passing game while also attack their front seven, who has struggled against the run so far this season. If the Patriots can succeed in limiting Cincinnati's offense, New England could run up the score on this surprisingly below-average Bengals defense on Sunday.

For the Bengals offense, they have averaged 366.4 yards per game of offense, good for 9th in the NFL. Their passing offense ranks 4th in the NFL with 282.6 yards per game on average, which can be contributed in large part due to the duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, who ranks 2nd in the NFL (by only one yard to Marvin Jones) with 518 receiving yards. Despite that, the Bengals only have five passing touchdowns in five games for their efforts, a rather low number for a top five team in yardage statistically. For their run offense, Cincinnati has struggled this season with only 83.8 rushing yards per game on average, which ranks 26th in the NFL and has only three touchdowns to show for. The young duo of Geo Bernard and Jeremy Hill have struggled so far in the running department this season, something that the Bengals are not used to.

Cincinnati goes up against a Patriots defense that has only allowed 86.8 rushing yards per game, good for 9th in the NFL. They also have only allowed for two rushing touchdowns so far, while forcing five fumbles thus far in the run game alone (tied for 2nd in the NFL only behind the Buffalo Bills). The Patriots are tied for 8th in the NFL with a 3.7 yards per carry average allowed so far as well. It is likely we will see the Bengals struggle against the Patriots run defense as New England held the league-leading Cleveland Browns (averaging just under 150 yards per game entering week five) to only 27 yards in week five. The Bengals will likely have to rely on their passing game to help them score most of their points.

New England has given up 259 yards passing on average so far this season, good for 15th most in the NFL. Despite that, they have only given up seven passing touchdowns in five games, which is tied for the 14th fewest in the NFL. The Patriots have gathered four interceptions and nine sacks so far in five games this season, so they aren't necessarily garnering a lot of turnovers. With that being said, the Patriots have struggled massively in the red-zone, allowing for 80% of opponents red-zone visits to end in a touchdown, which is tied with Atlanta for the 2nd worst defensive red-zone percentage in the NFL. They have given up eight red-zone touchdowns on 10 trips, which is alarming considering the team gave up only a touchdown 56.25% of the time they were in the red-zone. If there is one weakness to this Patriots defense, it is their red-zone defense.

While the Bengals do have Green as their primary weapon along with former Patriot Brandon LaFell and Bernard as well, the Bengals have sorely missed Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert. He hasn't played all season due to an ankle and now back injury as well. His red-zone presence (13 touchdowns scored in 13 games in 2015) is something the Bengals surely wish they could have. They have only scored five passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns in five games this season, which means their offense on average is producing under two touchdowns per game. If the Bengals can find a way into the Patriots red-zone, they have a good chance to come away with some points if not all seven on a touchdown. 

Overall, this game will likely be won on whose offense does better at scoring points rather than their defenses not allowing points. Even though the Bengals are 2-3 and the Patriots are 4-1, don't expect this game to necessarily be a one-sided affair as it has the makings of hard-fought game between both teams.

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