As far as the offensive side of the ball goes I have the Pats winning 3 of the 5 (QB, WR and TE) the Bengals winning 1 (RB) and I have the offensive lines as a tie.
DL – The Bengals have one of the best D-lines in the league. Geno Atkins is one of the best DT’s in the league. Domata Peko is a very good run stuffing DT. The Bengals really need 3rd year DE Carlos Dunlap to stay healthy as he is their best pass rusher. Michael Johnson has been improving and should have a good year. They also have rookies DT’s Devon Still and Brandon Thompson. Still should be able to get good pressure on the QB up the middle. The Pats defense wasn’t very good last year. They drafted Chandler Jones to help with that. Vince Wilfork will be a beast up the middle. They signed Jonathan Fanene from the Bengals who gives them good versatility.
LB – The Bengals have a solid group of LB. Thomas Howards was always around the ball last year and Manny Lawson was very good in run and pass coverage. They hope to get him rushing the QB more this year. They need improvement from the man in the middle Rey Maualuga however. The Pats have pro bowler Jerod Mayo on the outside along with rookie Donta’ Hightower and Brandon Spikes in the middle.
Front 7 Overall – The Bengals win this one. Their D-line is dominant and they have a good solid LB group. The Pats D just isn’t on par with their offense yet.
DB – The Bengals have to hope that Leon Hall recovers 100% and can be that #1 CB he was last year. The Bengals have a lot of depth at CB as they have 5 former 1st round picks at that position. Nate Clements looks to be the started on the other side though they also have Terence Newman who played for Zimmer in Dallas. They are hoping Dre Kirkpatrick can come back from his injury and still make an impact as the season goes on. Reggie Nelson is an above average safety but the SS position is a trouble position. Taylor Mays is penciled to start but he hasn’t shown much. For the Pats, their secondary is a work in progress. Devin McCourty is their #1 CB and 2nd year man Ras-I Dowling is set to start opposite him. Patrick Chung is a good starting safety but FS Steve Gregory leaves something to be desired.
On defense I have the Bengals winning all 3 positions. The LB was close but I gave the nod to the Bengals because they don’t have a rookie starting. The Bengals D-line is easily better and I think the Bengals depth and #1 CB is a little better than the Pats in the secondary.
K – Both kickers are very good. I’d feel good with either on my team, so I will call a draw here.
P – Both punters are pretty good. I give a slight edge to Zoltan Mesko because he has a bigger leg, but not a very big edge.
Now as for the actual game. I went back and forth on this one many times. It is strength against strength. New England has an outstanding and dominant offense while Cincinnati has a great defense, especially that defensive line. However I think that New England will pull this game out. If for no other reason than Brady has been here before. I think this will be a close game and I think the Bengals are a team on the rise. They made the playoffs last year, this year they win a game. This is the natural progression of a team. I think in a close one, the Patriots beat the Bengals 27-24.