Cincinnati Bengals (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 6
Date/Time: Sunday October 16th at 1:00PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN+8 / NE -8
The New England Patriots host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday for an early afternoon faceoff in Foxboro. The last time the two teams played was back in 2014 a week after the Patriots infamous 41-14 blowout loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Monday Night Football that had many writing off the Patriots dynasty as dead. Instead the following week they beat up the Bengals 43-17, which started a seven game winning streak that eventually saw them go 15-2 in their last seventeen games and close out the season with their fourth Super Bowl title.
While the Bengals themselves have had similar strong success in the regular season, they have been the exact opposite in the playoffs, as evident by their current 25 year postseason victory drought, the longest of any team in the NFL. Two that have shared much of the blame for their recent end of season downfalls are quarterback Andy Dalton and head coach Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati has gone 0-7 in playoff games under Lewis, including five straight from 2011-2015, four of which had Dalton under center. The Red Rifle/Ginger Gunslinger has struggled mightily in the playoffs, throwing just one touchdown compared to six interceptions in his four postseason games. With Andy Dalton entrenched as their starter for the foreseeable future, Bengals fans will continue to hope that their quarterback can somehow start channeling some of the toughness of his namesake, legendary bouncer James Dalton from the movie Road House, once the playoffs begin.
The postseason seems far from a guarantee for Cincinnati this season, having started the year with a disappointing record of 2-3 and to make things look even worse, their wins have come against teams with a combined record of 2-10 and losses a record of 12-3. Their backfield of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard has struggled, with neither running back averaging more than 3.8 yards per carry, which is easy to see why the team currently ranks 26th in the NFL in rushing yards. The aforementioned non Double Deuce Dalton ranks second in passing yards with 1503, but ranks just 22nd in touchdown passes with five, as his favorite redzone target from a year ago, Tyler Eifert, still hasnt played a down this season due to a back injury after having led the team in touchdowns a season again with fifteen.
The focal point of the Bengals offense continues to be wide receiver A.J. Green, who is currently second in the league in both receiving yards (518) and receptions (36), and is just one off the lead in both categories. The biggest issue Cincinnati faces going into Sunday though is Greens health, as he injured his calf in last weeks loss to Dallas and is currently listed as questionable on the injury report after not having practiced on Wednesday. The Patriots would likely have focused much of their energy on stopping Green, especially with Eifert again not expected to return, but if the star wide receiver is unable to play it could prove to be a long day for Andy Dalton and his Bengal teammates.
New England has had great success against Cincinnati in recent years, having won five of the six meetings, all of which were played with Belichick and Lewis as the head coaches. Tom Brady has been apart of all of those games as well, throwing for 12 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions against the Bengals while also finding hitting similar feats against the AFC North as a whole, posting his best TD-INT ratio versus any division in football of 51-11 and an overall record of 21-5.
Bradys return made a monumental difference for the New England offense, which responded from their 16-0 shutout loss to the Bills a week earlier with a 33-13 cakewalk victory against the hapless Browns. Brady completed 70% of his passes on his way to throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns on the day, and while Rob Gronkowski was finally able to get involved in the offense with five catches for 109 yards, his fellow tight end Martellus Bennett stole the show. Bennett caught all three of Bradys touchdown passes and ended up with six receptions for 63 yards for the game, and now leads all tight ends in the league in touchdowns with four of the season so far.
While the Patriots offense continues to flourish, one creeping area of concern is Stephen Gostowski. The 11th year kicker has been one of the NFLs best for years, leading the league in scoring the past four seasons, becoming the first player since the AFL/NFL merger to do so for more than two consecutive seasons. He also has the NFL record for consecutive extra points made with 523, which now appears to be an unbreakable accomplishment with the recent PAT rule change and the rash of misses throughout the league since its inception. Gostowski has struggled of late though, starting with his monumental missed extra point in last seasons AFC Championship game against Denver that forced the Patriots to have to go for a two-point conversion late in the game. This year he ranks 28th in the league in field goal percentage and has missed kicks in three of the five games so far. Considering his bounty of success throughout his career it is likely just a phase that he will kick himself out of, but New England fans are definitely starting to lose the near lock like confidence they used to have when Gostowski walks out onto the field.
Considering their consistent history of inferiority against top not teams, particularly the Patriots, all combined with a less than 100% A.J Green, its tough to go with the Bengals on Sunday. The last four times they have lost to New England it has been by an average of 26 points per game, and while the Patriots may not be able to keep pace with their recent blowout victory amounts against the Bengals, you can expect them to at least beat the eight point spread, especially with the game being played in Foxboro. The Patriots have gone 22-3 in their last 25 games at home, and an impressive 20-8-2 against the spread in their last 30, and will add another notch in their Gillette dominance with a win and cover against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -8