This is the get-right game for the Patriots.
Coming in with two straight losses, the Patriots will be looking to gain some confidence for their final two regular season games and playoffs, as they face the 1-12 Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday. Their record is a little deceiving since they have played seven, one-possession games.
Of course, the biggest story entering the game is the Patriots’ videotaping incident last week in Cleveland, which the Bengals are reportedly “livid” about. In a bit of a surprise, no penalty has been issued to the Patriots yet.
In the past, something like this would be used against Patriots opponents and give the team some added fuel. We’ll see how it plays out this week.
Patriots vs. BengalsSunday, Dec. 15, 20191:05, CBSPatriots -10, over/under 41.5
3 keys to the game
Get N’Keal Harry involved
After playing just two snaps against the Chiefs, it seems like the Patriots need to find ways to get the first-round pick the ball. This is something offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged on a conference call this week, and it may be up to the coordinator himself to do that by calling plays like the near touchdown on Sunday against the Chiefs that are designed to go his way. It is clear Harry has a lot of athleticism and the ability to make defenders miss when he has the ball in his hands. Getting him more touches could give him the confidence he needs for the stretch run and playoffs. Also, based on Julian Edelman’s week, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s not a huge part of the gameplan as the team tries to buy him a week to get as healthy as possible for the games that count the most.
Pressure Cincinnati’s offense
It hasn’t been the greatest back-to-back games for the Patriots defense, but facing the Cincinnati offense gives it a chance to get back to the dominance it was showing early in the year. The Bengals have turned the ball over in 10 of 13 games this season, including eight in their last four. The Patriots defense has had issues stopping the run all year, but that shouldn’t be an issue since the Bengals rank 28th in rushing.
Gain confidence running the ball
The Patriots haven’t demonstrated much of a running game this season, but with the Bengals ranking dead last against the run, this has the potential to be the week for players like Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and potentially even Damien Harris to get it going. Michel’s usage will be interesting after he didn’t receive a carry in the second half last week. While it seems unlikely, this could also be a week to get Harris some action and see what the rookie has.
1. The Patriots haven’t lost three straight games since 2002, a year they lost four straight games and finished 9-7.
2. The Patriots have scored a touchdown on just two of their last nine goal-to-go situations.
3. New England is outscoring its opponents 104-30 in the first quarter this season.
4. Tom Brady is 16-0 against teams with losing records, other than Miami, in December games on the road.
5. Since 2001, the Patriots are 96-13 when they don’t turn the ball over and are 94-3 when they have a positive turnover margin.
Patriots 27, Bengals 10
In the past, this would be a game for the Patriots to put up close to 40 points, but they simply don’t have the ability to do that right now on offense. We do expect this to be a “get-right” game for both units in what should be a convincing win. If it doesn’t go this way and the Patriots have to scratch and claw for a win, or even lose, there are legitimate issues in Foxboro with this team.