Sunday is here, and we're inching closer to Patriots vs. Bengals. Here's what the "experts" are saying about the big Sunday Night Football matchup.
Peter King of the MMQB pointed out how the battle in the tranches could be decidedly in Cincinnati's favor:
The key Sunday night: score early. If the Patriots get behind and the Bengals can send extra rushers at Brady because he has to throw too much, it’ll be curtains for New England.
According to the NFL video-dissectors at Pro Football Focus, the best and worst at pass-protection will be meeting in Foxboro Sunday night. The numbers:
Team Sacks/Hits/Pressures Average per Game NFL Rank Cincinnati 10 3.3 1 New England 55 13.8 32
The Bengals have played one game fewer, but you get the point. Andy Dalton's been able to make, and eat, a ham sandwich back in the pocket. Tom Brady's under the gun more than he's been in any season of his career.
Jim McBride of the Boston Globe thinks Domata Peko will be a key player in this matchup.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 322-pound nose tackle is a force of nature. A big force. Peko plays as if his hair is on fire (and it kind of looks like it is), sliding down the line, plugging holes, and punishing opponents.
HOW HE BEATS YOU: With quickness and strength. A very emotional player, Peko moves well laterally, shedding blocks quickly and locating the ball. He has nice burst and is a ferocious tackler.
HOW TO SHUT HIM DOWN: By matching his intensity. If you lean on a guy his size consistently, he will eventually wear down. Get physical with him on every play because that’s what he does.
Christopher Price of WEEI in Boston thinks George Iloka vs. Rob Gronkowski will be one of the game's biggest matchups.
Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said this week it’s possible the Bengals could use a combination of Iloka and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on Gronkowski, and while Iloka is also a likely under-the-radar candidate, he’s become one of the more vital parts to the Cincinnati defense.
This isn’t any disrespect to Lamur, who is Cincy’s best cover linebacker, but the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Iloka is a big, rangy defender who is known for his coverage skills — his size and good speed make for an imposing defender, particularly when it comes to manning up against a big tight end like Gronkowski. Iloka leads the Bengals in snaps this season with 227 (per Pro Football Focus), and has a team-high two picks and four passes defensed over the first three games.
The Patriots would dearly love to get Gronkowski cranked up again, but it will be a challenge against a smart and aggressive defensive back like Iloka.
Establishing the run game is The Boston Herald staff's key for a Pats win.
The Patriots dressed three receivers and five running backs against Kansas City last week, and still failed to establish a ground game, running just eight times in the first 27 plays while falling behind 24-0. In their two wins, the Patriots are running 52.7 percent of the time. In two losses, they’re running at a 27.9 percent clip. The pass-heavy concept allowed Miami’s and Kansas City’s linebackers to stay back and guard against quick crossing passes. More carries also help the linemen get into a rhythm.
Now, who are the experts picking to win this game?
ESPN isn't high on the Patriots this week. Adam Schefter is the only expert of the 13 polled to take New England.
Eric Allen: Bengals
Mike Golic: Bengals
Merrill Hoge: Bengals
Ron Jaworski: Bengals
K.C. Joyner: Bengals
Chris Mortensen: Bengals
Mark Schlereth: Bengals
Seth Wickersham: Bengals
Tom Jackson: Bengals
Keyshawn Johnson: Bengals
Mike Ditka: Bengals
Cris Carter: Bengals
Pick 'em: Bengals
Personally, I'm glad someone picked New England. 13 picks for the Bengals would be the ultimate bad luck jynx for Cincinnati, if you buy that sort of thing.
CBS Sports is even more down on New England, going nie for nine in favor of the good guys.
Pete Prisco: Bengals
Jason La Canfora: Bengals
Will Brinson: Bengals
Josh Katzowitz: Bengals
Ryan Wilson: Bengals
John Breech: Bengals
Dave Richard: Bengals
Jamey Eisenberg: Bengals
Prediction Machine: Bengals
Fox Sports is split down the middle with its experts.
Mike Garafolo: Bengals
Alex Marvez: Patriots
Peter Schrager: Bengals
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Bengals
Jimmy Traina: Patriots
FS.com NFL editors: Patriots
NFL.com's experts favored the Patriots, 3-2.
Dan Hanzus: Patriots
Gregg Rosenthal: Patriots
Kevin Patra: Bengals
Marc Sessler: Bengals
Chris Wesselling: Patriots
USA today goes with the Bengals, 4-3.
Jarrett Bell: Patriots
Jim Corbett: Patriots
Nate Davis: Bengals
Lindsay H. Jones: Bengals
Gary Mihoces: Bengals
Tom Pelissero: Patriots
Lorenzo Reyes: Bengals