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Bengals Versus Patriots: Five Keys To A Victory On Sunday Night

We break down the five most important factors for the Cincinnati Bengals to achieve a victory against the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In what could very well be a preview of a 2014 playoff matchup, the Cincinnati Bengals head to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. Sure, Tom Brady's crew is reeling from a couple of bad wins in this young season, but they are 2-2, reside in a very winnable division and, well, they are the Patriots.

The two teams' on-field performances this year have been diametric opposites. Cincinnati has been throttling teams so far, scoring 53 more points than their opposition in only three games played. The kings of the AFC over the past decade and a half in the Northeast have looked flustered and show signs of an aging roster with questions abounding on overall talent. In short, the Bengals are playing confident, team-oriented football, while the Patriots are trying to figure out how to solve a lot of issues.

This won't be an easy game, by any stretch of the imagination, as seen from this tweet by Lance McCalister of 700 WLW in Cincinnati:

There are some things that the Bengals can do to ensure they walk out of New England with a win. We look at five of the big items on their to-do list.

Frustrate Tom Brady:

Pressure him, hit him, sack him. Heck, get physical with his receivers and knock them off of the line of scrimmage. When he's on, which has been the vast majority of his career, Brady is pinpoint accurate and capable of making almost any throw. However, Brady's offensive line has been a shambles this year and his receivers' talent level is under scrutiny--so much so that Bill Belichick only activated three true wideouts on Monday Night against the Chiefs.

Aside from poor weather, the key to the Bengals beating the Patriots last year was continued pressure on Brady. If the Bengals get to Brady early, his shaky play from the first quarter of the season could continue. A sub-point to this key to victory will hopefully be a coming out party from defensive tackle Geno Atkins. While definitely admirable that Atkins was able to suit up for Week One after a torn knee ligament halfway through the season in 2013, the All-Pro defensive tackle has had a limited impact this season in the run or pass game, registering only three total tackles and zero sacks.

Given the inconsistent rush from Cincinnati's line without the blitz, getting a big game from Atkins would keep the Bengals in the game, at a minimum. Additionally, if Vontaze Burfict is healthy enough to play after a couple of concussions, his active play at and behind the line of scrimmage could cause confusion for New England's offense.

Someone Escapes Revis Island:

To say that Darrelle Revis doesn't look like the same player from his All-World performances with the New York Jets back in 2008-2011 would be kind. The Patriots paid him a huge sum on a one-year deal and while he has been decent in their first four games, "Revis Island" looks pretty barren. Still, this is a guy who made the Pro Bowl with the Buccaneers just last season.

Revis has gone up against some of the best wide receivers in the league and shut them down in the past. He'll likely be going up against A.J. Green and maybe even Marvin Jones, should he end up being available. Though Jamaal Charles did the majority of the damage against them in the passing game on Monday Night, some of CIncinnati's wideouts will need to get open and make plays to make Andy Dalton comfortable when releasing the ball in the pocket.

Mohamed Sanu will be the wild card here. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson may opt to use him as the Swiss Army Knife of a player he's been through the first three games, or he might step into the background for Jones to make a big play. Coverage will be bracketed to Green, so he will have to fight through it, or rely on his buddies to make plays.

Russell Bodine Versus Vince Wilfork:

Though the Patriots' defense is currently ranked fourth in the NFL (No.1 against the pass, No.10 against the run), they have had their moments of vulnerability. Those moments also seemed to have come at the most inopportune of times for New England too, making the limited amount of mistakes accentuated. If there is one person to keep an eye on, it's Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Bengals rookie center Russell Bodine will have his work cut out for him this week. After poor performances in the preseason and a shaky first week, Bodine has been steadily improving, and he was the highest-rated offensive lineman on the team against the Titans in Week Three, per Pro Football Focus. He will need to help anchor a line that has kept Dalton clean for three straight games and show that Combine strength in the running game.

Score Early, Coupled With Strong Communication:

There is a high probability that Foxboro will be loud early and often on Sunday Night. Bostonians can be a surly sort, and with their team getting dragged through the mud this week, that chip that always resides on their shoulders will be even bigger than usual. The Bengals' offensive unit will need to be crisp and in-sync to avoid mistakes in situations that could become deafening.

A great way to avoid this issue is to take notes from their opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Though they had trouble punching it into the end zone, the Bengals scored early on offense, frustrated the quarterback on defense and subsequently caused a chorus of boos. If the Bengals can employ the same formula, it would take any semblance of confidence-building momentum away from the Patriots. Scoring early will begin with the correct communication of the offensive line and the quarterback.

Take "Gronk" Out Of The Equation:

Traditionally, the Bengals have had issues covering tight ends over the years. In recent history, they have cleaned this up quite a bit, mostly thanks to quality play from safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka, along with cornerback Leon Hall, who jumps in the slot often. Still, Gronkowski is a different animal.

Last year, when the Bengals beat the Patriots at home, "Gronk" wasn't available at Brady's disposal. He is still getting his legs under him after suffering a nasty injury last year, but has three touchdown receptions in four games thus far. Though Julian Edelman is a nice toy for Brady, Gronkowski remains the biggest offensive threat. He, like the rest of the Patriots are angry and will be looking to dole out some punishment.

The Bengals' secondary will need to show some of the enforcement we saw on Brennen Warner's recent defensive highlight video and make sure that Gronk knows who's boss. If No.87 gets going, that will undoubtedly fuel Brady's confidence level. The Bengals can't let that happen.

BONUS: Ignore The Lights And Play With Confidence:

Since this week's game is a biggie, we decided to give one more key than we usually do. Cue the dead horse beating: Marvin Lewis' teams are 6-17 in games that provide the landscape of the biggest possible national audience. Some argue that that statistic is on the players, but Lewis has had many different versions of rosters and the outcomes in this type of venue haven't really changed in twelve seasons.

Still, this team feels different. They are quietly confident and have been mowing over opponents with relative ease. They need to play the same high-level, nearly mistake-free football on the biggest stage they have seen in some time. Cincinnati will need to tune out the noise of their almost-unanimous No.1 title in power rankings and know that they are facing a motivated Patriots team.

The last time that the Bengals started 4-0 was in that special season of 2005. They have a chance to continue writing another special story for 2014 on Sunday Night.