Bengals versus Patriots: Five Bengals to Watch

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With a chance to shed some doubters, Andy Dalton has to round out the Bengals versus Patriots Watch List. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton

Prime time games are made for leaders and this is Andy Dalton’s big moment.

After all the struggles and all the criticism, Dalton has come out looking good this year.  He’s dealt well with pressure (as seen in the video from earlier) and has won the divisional road game in Baltimore.  He’s made the big throws–like the one to win the game in Baltimore–and has found success in the Hue Jackson system.  Now is the time for Dalton to shine.  He doesn’t have to produce gaudy numbers nor does he need to showcase his talent.  All he needs to do is be himself and play within the offense.  If Dalton can complement an effective running game by making timely and intelligent throws, this team will be in great position to come away with a victory.

The Patriots will be “chomping at the bit” not only to turn their season around, and not only to quiet the doubters, but to also get revenge for last year’s tough loss.  Expect the Patriots to play aggressively on defense–they rank fourth in the league in takeaways with eight (the leader has nine)–by sending pass rushers at Dalton so their secondary can jump routes.  The Patriots know their offense isn’t their strong suit, so creating good field position and getting the offense extra possessions via turnovers should be a focus going forward.

The Bengals need to know this.  More importantly, Dalton needs to know this.  And if he needs to say “uncle,” then he should do so.  In the past, Dalton was encouraged by Jay Gruden to try and create plays when situations went awry.  That isn’t the case with Hue Jackson and it can’t be the case Sunday night.

Bill Belichick and Co. won’t be fooled by trickery nor gimmicks the way other team have been; they’re too smart and talented.  In lieu of those plays, Dalton needs to lead this team in a “grind it out kind of game.”  And if he can do so, he will begin to shed those doubts and criticisms instead replacing them with his latest badge of honor: Prime Time Player.