Already facing a 2-3 hole through five weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals face the red-hot New England Patriots (4-1) on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The Bengals are looking to bounce back from some poor offensive performances.
Marvin Lewis' squad has dropped three of their last four games, and are coming off a 28-14 road defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. In the first three quarters, the Bengals offense had failed to score and trailed the Cowboys, 28-0.
Cincinnati has had success moving the ball, but have struggled to do so in important situations. The Bengals rank ninth in the NFL in total offense but are 30th in third-down conversions (30.3 percent).
Whatever the issue might be, the dynamic aerial attack duo of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green isn’t to blame. Dalton’s 67.4 completion percentage is on pace for a new career-high, and he’s tossed five touchdowns to only two interceptions, a continuance of his more careful decision-making in the pocket last year.
Green was held to only four catches for 50 yards off eight targets against Dallas, and Cincinnati may need their best offensive weapon to be at his best against a top defense like New England. In the Bengals two victories this season, Green’s made 22 receptions for 353 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bengals defense also may have their work cut out for them, particularly with quarterback Tom Brady back from suspension. The 11-time Pro Bowler picked apart the Cleveland Browns for 406 passing yards, the eighth time in his career he’s exceeded 400 yards, and three touchdowns in New England’s 33-13 road win.
The Patriots embraced their two tight-end set against Cleveland, with Brady finding Martellus Bennett for three touchdowns while Rob Gronkowski had his first 100-yard game of the season. Gronkowski has been limited by a hamstring injury this season, but the 27-year-old said he's back to his old self.
The matchup marks the first time Cincinnati will face New England since its devastating 43-17 loss on "Sunday Night Football" in 2014, which saw New England finish with 505 total yards and return a Bengals fumble for a nine-yard touchdown return.
But while the Patriots offense performed well in Brady's absence this season, there have been some questions on a normally steady defense. The secondary has allowed seven passing touchdowns and opposing quarterbacks have completed 64.5 percent of their pass attempts.
The Patriots defense has performed poorly on third down, allowing opposing offenses to convert 44.6 percent of their chances.
Game Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
Betting Odds: New England -9.5
Over/Under: 47 points
Prediction: New England over Cincinnati, 31-24