It’s not often that the New England Patriots are expected to lose a game. In the past 10 years, the team has finished each season with double-digit victories. Sunday, though, marks the second straight week that defending AFC East champs are not favored.
In Week Five, the Patriots travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals. The point spread has them as one-point underdogs, despite coming in undefeated and playing a club that just lost to the Cleveland Browns.
Last Sunday, the Bengals played their worst game of the 2013 NFL season. Andy Dalton threw for 206 yards and no touchdowns, while running backs Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for just 50 yards on the ground. The result was six points and no scores on the day.
The loss isn’t exactly reflective of the Cincinnati offense. The week prior, they put up 34 points on the Green Bay Packers. A.J. Green only caught seven of the 15 balls targeted to him against Cleveland for 51 yards. However, he’s an elite receiver, finishing 2012 in the top 10 in receptions receiving yards, and touchdowns.
"I feel like we're going up against a real explosive team this week," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "They're a good football team that can really score from any place on the field with any of their units. I think those are the kind of things that we really have to do a good job on -- taking care of the ball, being able to handle their explosive players and explosive plays and staying out of long-yardage and bad situations offensively."
New England will have a tougher time slowing down the Bengals without their top defensive lineman. Vince Wilfork was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn Achilles against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night.
Other than the injury, things have been looking up for the Patriots of late. After struggling to eke out victories in the first two weeks, New England has looked like the team that’s won the division in nine of the past 10 years. They blew out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and handled the Falcons with relative ease.
Tom Brady finally seems to have developed some chemistry with his new top receivers. Last week, both Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman finished the game with over 100 yards. Rob Gronkowski isn't likely to return on Sunday, but Thompkins and Edelman could be rejoined by Danny Amendola, who’s been suffering from a groin injury. He’s been limited in practice, but confident about his progress.
"So far, so good this week. I feel good," Amendola said on Wednesday. "I felt good today. I’ll know more tomorrow and we’ll go from there. ... Every day is getting better. [I'm] working hard and just trying to get back out there as quickly as possible.”
With the Patriots getting healthy and clicking on offense, it might not be wise to bet against them. The Patriots have been terrific when they are on the road and getting three points or less. They’ve covered the betting line in seven of the last eight such situations. Brady has also never lost to Cincinnati.
Start Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: Cincinnati -1, 45
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Prediction: New England 34, Cincinnati 24