The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 15 as they prepare to take on the New England Patriots. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are five things to watch for in week 15.
1. Can the Bengals Keep it Close?
Over the last several weeks, the Bengals have played close games. Out of their last four games, they have won one and lost the other three by single digits. That’s not too bad for a team that has just the one win on the season. That streak of close games and wins will be tougher to keep up against the Patriots.
The good news for the Bengals starts with the fact that they are at home. New England has also had some struggles recently, losing three of their last five games. In the last four weeks, the offense has looked pretty bad and the most points they have scored in a game over that stretch is 22. Now, it is a little unreasonable to think the Bengals can beat the Patriots, but they may be able to keep it close.
2. Will Andy Dalton Protect the Ball?
In the one game that the Bengals won this year, Andy Dalton protected the football. He is best as a game manager, but when he turns the ball over things get ugly. For someone who is auditioning either to keep his job or to get a new one this offseason, Dalton needs to take what the defense gives him.
That is easier said than done against the Patriots, who have a very good defense. Their defense has struggled recently as well, but in the last four games, the most points they allowed were 28 against the Texans. They also have a league-leading 21 interceptions on the season. Dalton’s ability to protect the football is what could keep the game close.
3. Can the Running Game Be Good Again?
The running game has had a lot of bad games, but some good ones recently. Two weeks ago, it wasn’t the best game, but last week was a great performance by Joe Mixon. They don’t have a great offensive line, so any good game on the ground is impressive.
New England has one of the best rush defenses in the NFL. They rank fourth in rushing yards allowed per game. The Bengals may not be able to win this game, but establishing the run is always a good practice and should want to try to improve things for next year.
4. Will the Defense Keep it up?
Cincinnati’s defense started the year off really cold, but has since heated up. Over their last four games, the Bengals have allowed 16.5 points per game. They have kept the Bengals in game and helped them win their only game this season. The defense needs to keep on developing for the rest of the season.
The Patriots have just the three losses, but they can’t seem to score points as of late. Their struggles were noted earlier, but Tom Brady also had his arm wrapped after the loss in his press conference. They can be slowed down, which means it could be a one to two-possession game. The spread on this game is currently favoring the Patriots by just 10 points.
5. Defensive Line’s Play
Last week against the Browns, the Bengals did not create a lot of pressure. Carl Lawson had the team’s only sack. Carlos Dunlap hit Baker Mayfield, but there wasn’t a lot of action in the pocket besides that. The Bengals are too talented on the defensive line to let that continue.
The Patriots have one of the best offensive lines most years. They are coached well and Brady gets the ball out of his hand quickly. The defensive line could change the game if they can constantly get pressure. New England won’t make it easy, but the Bengals have the players to make things happen.