Cincinnati Bengals Vs New England Patriots: Previewing The Bengals In Week One
Week one will test the meddle of a team that is itching to prove itself in the Cincinnati Bengals. While historical records mean nothing other than what occurred in a prior lifetime, the Bengals will have to face the formidable confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Since 1968, the Bengals have walked away from the Patriots' home with only two wins and seven losses. Overall, these two teams have met 21 times since '68, bringing the Bengals an 8 win, 13 loss record.
However, if the Bengals are wishing to make their mark on the NFL and bring attention to the new and improved team, no opening week victory would be more telling than a victory over the Patriots.
It is an exciting opening weekend with TO and Ocho officially making their regular season debut. Carson Palmer will put in his first four quarter game and try to dispel the rumors of his time having passed. Several exciting rookies—in Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins—will see their first real NFL game and in the most inhospitable confines of the place the Patriots call home.
(Photograph courtesy of NFL.com; The Associated Press; Getty Images; The Cincinnati Enquirer; Patriots.com; Bengals.com)
Lewis Belichick 2010
Two of the top five tenured coaches in the NFL face off. One is quite accomplished with three Super Bowl Championships and four AFC Championships. The other is a two time playoff appearing coach who has yet to record a playoff victory but turned around one of the most languishing franchises of all-time.
As you may have guessed, the first is Bill Belichick and the second is Marvin Lewis. Belichick is entering his 11th season as the Patriots coach and 16th as an NFL coach (remember when he was the Browns' head coach back in the early nineties?). Lewis is entering his 8th season as a head coach, all of which has been with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The underlying tone of this game will come down to the coaching staff, be it specifically the coordinators or rather how the head coaches direct both the players and coordinators. Look for a chess match between these two gurus.
Battle of The Elite: Brady Vs. Palmer
Palmer Brady 2010
For every coach there is a key player and for Bill Belichick, that player has been Tom Brady. For each and every championship, Brady has been behind the helm.
Palmer has been fighting adversity since his 2006 ACL MCL tear in a wild-card loss to the Steelers. Carson has battled adversity, being injured in 2008 as well, then suffering through an anemic passing game in 2009. 2010 is Palmer's chance to turn the critics away after a poor showing in a playoff loss to the Jets in 2009. With the upgrades to all aspects of the passing game, with the addition of TO, Gresham, and Shipley, the Bengals number one passer is expected to return to form with a balanced attack to compliment him.
The contender meets the accomplished quarterback in a duel to the finish.
Battle to The End: Rookie Tight End Stars
Gronkowski Gresham 2010
In looking for a tight end, the Bengals drafted Jermaine Gresham 21st overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was exactly 21 picks later by Ron Gronkowski to the New England Patriots. Patriots fans clearly feel that they got the better end of the deal with Gronkowski's four touchdowns during the preseason. Gresham is known for speed and agility (a young Antonio Gates type) who the Bengals believe is the wave of the future for the revamped passing game.
With Gresham starting and Gronkowski coming off of the bench as the second string, expect to get a glimpse of the future AFC short games for both teams.
Old Slot, New Slot: Wes Welker and Jordan Shipley
Welker Shipley 2010
Jordan Shipley is considered the future slot receiver for the Bengals and Wes Welker is the incredible, durable athlete, coming back in record time from the injury similar to Carson's.
The comparison of these two stars combine stats (separated by six years) and attributes tells the tail of what both defenses will be challenged with:
Height: Shipley: 5'11.5"; Welker: 5'8.75" (Shipley wins as a bigger target)
Weight: Shipley: 193; Welker: 195 (Welker possibly better conditioned?)
40 Yard Dash: Shipley: 4.54; Welker: 4.65 (Shipley is faster)
20 Yard Shuttle: Shipley: 4.22 seconds; Welker: 4.01 seconds (Welker is more agile)
Vertical Jump: Shipley: 36.5"; Welker: 30" (Shipley has a huge advantage here as he also has 2.25" in height on Welker.)
Broad Jump: Shipley: 10'; Welker: 9'5" (Shipley again shows greater leg strength—especially off of the line.)
One thing that is noticeably different is Welker's agility. Nobody turns on a dime like Welker, though that was pre-injury. Now, expect Shipley to gain in agility with a more modern conditioning regime to move well beyond Welker's stature.
Welker has made it clear that he is not back to 100% and this will work in the Bengals favor. Wes' absence from last year's playoffs did in the Patriots and his presence and performance is likely to be the barometer of what occurs on Sunday.
High Maintenance Wide Receivers
TO Ocho and Moss 2010
What will they do and what if one of them scores? The first celebration starts here.
Chad Ocho Cinco, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss. Enough personality here to cause a small catastrophe (thank god they are not on the field at the same time!).
Exploiting Patriots secondary will be TO's (Batman) and Ocho's (Robins) goal while the Bengals defense will need to contain Moss and Welker.
Most fans will have a large side-interest in the stunts expected from Batman and Robin while the eccentric Moss may or may not do something odd or something similar.
As long as Palmer (Albert), is the coordinator and keeper of the manor, don't expect the Bengals to have much clean up to do.
Bengals D 2010
In 2009, Bengals' opposing quarterbacks were able to find far too much time at exactly the wrong times for the Bengals. The Bengals are looking to change this both on the inside and outside with the return of Antwan Odom (though not without issues, see next slide) and the moving of Michael Johnson to outside linebacker. Robert Geathers returns from injury to shore up the left side with Tank Johnson and Domata Peko filling out the tackles. The linebacking core will feature Maualuga, Rivers, and Dhani Jones.
Largerly uninterrupted and clearly better prepared this season, the Bengals should be extremely formidable and deep on the defensive side. This first test of a team that knows how to protect their quarterback will surely show the progress.
Bengals Patriots Running Backs 2010
Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney take on Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. Two very deep backfields collide with both experience and youth.
Both the Bengals and Patriots have been known in the past for balanced-offenses (when everything is clicking). Expect the two teams to mix up the run and throw to spread the opponents defenses.
Antwan Odom has made significant strides coming back from a very serious, undisclosed virus which caused him to lose significant body mass. Since that time, Odom has made significant strides in finding his game and likely (though this is purely conjecture) the medication needed to combat the virus is to blame. Assuming that Antwan is able to make his case based upon what has occurred (as he is eligible to play while appealing the test), we should see only a player himself under pressure but not with a terrible affect on a team that knows how to deal with adversity.
Secondary As Good As The Hype
Bengals Secondary 2010
The secondary is complete with the return of Roy Williams from a broken arm (along with a new protective brace to minimize re-occurence), the addition of Adam Jones, and the emergence of one of the best starting cornerback tandems in the NFL in Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.
The most ideal part of the defense is the minimal interruption to the roster as a majority of the team returns from last years fourth place defense to continue the campaign.
Older and wiser, the Bengals defense—especially the secondary—should reek havoc on the opponents.
Special Teams: Field Position on Returns
Bengals Punt and Kick Returns 2010
Between the kick and punt return games, the Bengals are well endowed for setting up shorter fields for the starting offense.
Plenty deep on both ends, the return game features Bernard Scott for kicks and Adam Jones (Jones is second for kicks) for punts. Should they need other options, Quan Cosby (Kicks and Punts), Andre Caldwell, and Jordan Shipley are more than ready to keep this part of the game fresh when it is needed late in the game.
The Patriots will need to find a place in the special teams game to stop a tidal wave that will come crashing into them each time they kick the ball away.
Predictions: A Nation Divided
e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
The experts/pundits are all wound up as they try to predict the final score for this game and the victor.
CBSSports.com's Expert's Picks are 3 to 2 in favor of the Patriots.
Pat Kirwan of NFL Networks (who has the Bengals winning the Super Bowl) is picking the Bengals.
The Expert Panel at ESPN.com is split down the middle with 4 going for the Bengals and 4 for the Pats (the computer simulations are both in favor of the Patriots). While the Sunday Countdown at ESPN.com has a large leaning towards the Patriots, going 4 for 4 in favor of the Pats. The Madden simulation at the same station was less forgiving, giving the Pats a 41 to 28 brutalizing of the Bengals.
Across the country, the results are similarly inconsistent which means that we are in store for a good game to say the least.