Will Sunday Be Geno Atkins’ Stage?

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This happened about a year ago (October 6, 2013) from this Sunday. The Bengals will need more of this from Geno Atkins if they are to steal a victory from the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

When the Bengals hit the field this week, they’ll do so in the vaunted Gillette Stadium. And don’t fool yourselves Bengals fans, the Patriots may have gotten knocked around so far, but this isn’t a game to take lightly. As a matter of fact, it’s a game where the Bengals have an opportunity to cede power from one of the AFC’s perennial best. In order to seize power from “kings,” it takes an extraordinary effort. When that “king” is backed into a corner, it takes even more. This is where a star must emerge. And in this case, Geno Atkins will re-emerge.

Thus far, 2014 has been a quiet affair for Atkins. It’s unsurprising when you consider that he’s still getting his “legs back under him” following ACL surgery this past year. Atkins missed the entirety of the preseason because of it, yet returned for the start of the regular season. Recoveries don’t follow a mathematical constant, but it stands to reason that Atkins should be in shape having been through four weeks of the regular season, which equates to the length of the preseason; albeit only three games, but how many starters play the fourth preseason game anyway?  He’s slowly improved across each game and plays likes these (in each game) show he may be standing at the foot of this “stage.”

Atkins will play an especially important role if the Bengals are to conquer the Patriots at home. In the past, it has been Atkins who’s drawn all the attention allowing his fellow linemen 1:1 matchups. With the Patriots having to deal with the edge presence of Carlos Dunlap, who has three sacks in three games, I suspect roles may be reversed this year. This should allow Atkins the opportunity to take advantage of the Patriots’ porous interior line.

The Patriots offensive line has struggled this year. While left tackle Nate Solder has looked exploitable, the Patriots have also struggled to find consistency in the middle. They have been mixing and matching the interior through four games in an attempt to find an effective combination; they must be missing Logan Mankins right now. Against the Chiefs, they started two rookies at right guard (Cameron Fleming) and center (Bryan Stork) while left guard was manned by Marcus Cannon who’s been a tackle historically. With so much inexperience in the middle, Geno Atkins could be looking at a rare opportunity; a vulnerable line that may not be focused on him.

Prior to his knee injury, Atkins was playing at a historical level. One that even Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick recognized when comparing him to John Randle while saying this last year.

"“He can ruin a game by himself.”"

High praise from a defensive mind like Belichick.

Carlos Dunlap’s impact combined with the Patriots’ questionable blocking creates a serendipitous occasion for Atkins. His stage is set. Will Atkins leap into the spotlight once more on Sunday?