Injuries keep hitting the New England Patriots, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down as they’re off to a perfect 4-0 start, coming next to a team that expected to be a bit better than they’ve been so far, the slightly disappointing Cincinnati Bengals.
Not everyone is saying it out loud, but there’s a lot of blame to be put on Andy Dalton for the situation the Bengals are in. The running game is doing OK now that Giovani Bernard adds something to the one-dimensional BenJarvus Green-Ellis, squaring off against his former team, but Dalton has thrown four interceptions through the first four games of the season, including a very bad performance in the 6-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns – 23 of 42 for 206 yards and an interception. Dalton’s problems have something to do with A.J. Green being covered too well, averaging only 46 yards over the last three weeks.
The Patriots seem to be piling up problems, mostly having to do with injuries. The next one? Vince Wilfork is out for the season, meaning that the main reason their run defense has been so successful in recent years (allowing 105 yards per game this season) is now out. The Partiots have done quite well with Aqib Talib raising the secondary’s level of play to acceptable, but this is another major blow in a long list of injuries that hasn’t stopped the Patriots from coming up with ways to win, even when Tom Brady isn’t having the best of time out there.
Brady has been without his favorite endzone target, Rob Gronkwoski, still not back from his arm and back injuries. He has completed only 5 of 17 attempts into the end zone this season, including 2-of-12 to rookies. Rob Gronkowski caught 72.2% of his end zone targets since entering the NFL in 2010. The Patriots are scoring 22.3 points per game, but that’s not the pace this offense is looking to go in.
The Bengals have been explosive at home, averaging 27 points at Paul Brown stadium. However, unless they start working on shorter passes and using Bernard earlier in games to open up things downfield for A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals will continue their streak of failing against he Patriots, not getting a win in this series since 2001.
Prediction – The Patriots, at some point, won’t be able to make their jigsaw puzzle work with pieces keep going missing. The Bengals have problems, but also plenty of talent, that should come out in another home game to once more go above .500.