Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 1:00pm EST
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Written by Nick Raffoul
The New England Patriots will travel to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon for their Week 15 contest against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals.
With the Bills right on their heels, the Patriots find themselves in a precarious position heading into the final three weeks of the regular season. At 10-3, New England is virtually a lock to make the playoffs but they took a step back in the race for the No. 2-seed in the AFC last week. Thanks to their loss to the Chiefs, Kansas City now owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England. If the two teams end the season with the season record, the Patriots will be forced to play in the AFC Wild Card game. Meanwhile, the Bengals have a firm grip on the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft with a 1-12 record through the first 14 weeks. Can the Bengals do the impossible and pull off an upset over a Patriots team that has underwhelmed in recent weeks?
It’s been a weird week for the Patriots, who were caught videotaping the Bengals sideline last week. It’s interesting to wonder why the 10-3 Patriots would need an edge to win against a 1-12 football team. While Belicheck ultimately denied involvement in last week’s scandal, he has left a trail of suspicion hanging over arguably the NFL’s greatest dynasty. According to Pro Football Talk, the video focused on the Bengals sideline for eight minutes. Paul Dehner J.r of The Athletic reported that the video gives “a direct view of the sideline as players run on and off the field and coaches make signals for plays.” It’s just another distraction for the Patriots, who are set up for a bit of a trap game this week in Cincinnati. New England needs to win out to clinch the No. 2 seed with the only real obstacle coming next week in a divisional battle against the Buffalo Bills, who took the Patriots to the brink in a 16-10 Week 4 loss.
It feels like the Bengals have been tanking since the opening week and that’s good news considering the incoming quarterback class. Andy Dalton recently led the Bengals to their first win of the season but his time has passed in Cincinnati. With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Cincinnati will get its shot at a franchise quarterback or a generational edge rusher (Chase Young). LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the midst of a record-setting season and is shaping up to be the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in the draft. Burrow is projected to be the top pick but keep an eye on Young, whose stock has been steadily rising over the past year. It wouldn’t be the first time that a team opted for a defensive player over a dynamic offensive talent (Mario Williams, Reggie Bush in 2006) with the first overall pick.
Full analysis and predictions coming on Thursday.
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