Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football

NFL Preview - New England (3-0) at Cincinnati (1-2)

(Sports Network) - Offensive fireworks should be featured prominently in the script for Monday night's game, which has the Cincinnati Bengals entertaining the unbeaten New England Patriots at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals are not off to a strong start, having followed up an opening-night win over the Ravens with back-to-back losses to the Browns (51-45) and Seahawks (24-21).

Cincinnati has proven its ability to move the football, with quarterback Carson Palmer and wideouts Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh all on a record-setting offensive pace.

But the bigger story for the Bengals has been the deficiency of the team's defense, which has surrendered eight touchdown passes over the past two weeks to saddle Marvin Lewis' club with losses.

A fact which should have this week's opponent, the high-flying Patriots, positively salivating.

New England has looked unstoppable offensively in the first three weeks, with the duo of quarterback Tom Brady and wideout Randy Moss sparking blowout wins over the Jets (38-14), Chargers (38-14), and Bills (38-7).

Brady enters Week 4 with an NFL-leading 10 touchdown passes, and has thrown three or more TDs in three consecutive games for the first time in his illustrious career.

Moss, meanwhile, has gone over 100 receiving yards in each of his first three games of 2007, becoming the first player in NFL annals to achieve that feat in his initial trio of appearances for a new team.

SERIES HISTORY

New England holds a 12-8 lead in the all-time series with Cincinnati, including a 38-13 dismantling of the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 4 of last season. Cincinnati is 0-2 against New England since scoring its last victory in the series, a 23-17 win at home in 2001.

New England head coach Bill Belichick is 11-3 in his career against the Bengals, including 3-1 while with the Patriots. Cincinnati's Lewis is 0-2 against both Belichick and the Patriots as a head coach.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

New England enters Week 4 ranked No. 1 in NFL total offense (441 yards per game), and has a league-high 15 touchdowns scored already in 2007. Brady (887 passing yards, 10 TD, 1 INT) is a very early front-runner for NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, as he leads the league in passer rating (141.8), touchdown passes, and completion percentage (79.5) through three weeks. The perennial Pro Bowl quarterback's favorite target has been the indefensible Moss (22 receptions, 5 TD), though Brady has spread the football often to other targets such as tight end Ben Watson (9 receptions, 3 TD) and wideout Wes Welker (20 receptions, 1 TD). Watson has scored a touchdown in each of the team's first three games thus far, while Welker comes off a week in which he paced the Pats with six catches in a win over Buffalo. Perhaps overlooked amid the passing barrage has been the play of the running game, with Laurence Maroney (252 rushing yards) and Sammy Morris (151 rushing yards, 2 TD) both doing their share of damage thus far. Maroney carried 19 times for 103 yards against the Bills.

If Cincinnati has any hope of scoring an upset on Monday, it will need an otherworldly effort from a defense that has been among the worst in the league thus far. One week after allowing formerly anonymous Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson to throw five touchdown passes in a 51-45 win, Seattle signal- caller Matt Hasselbeck was able to throw scoring strikes to three different wide receivers in last week's Cincinnati loss. A Bengals secondary led by cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal (11 tackles) and Johnathan Joseph (8 tackles) along with safety Madieu Williams (21 tackles, 1 INT) will have to grow up in a hurry on Monday, and must get some help from a pass rush that has been mostly nonexistent thus far. Cincinnati has just four sacks through three games, including one - by Robert Geathers (9 tackles) - from a defensive end. The front seven gave up 100 yards to Shaun Alexander last week, an improvement on the 200-plus game they gave the Browns' Jamal Lewis a one Sunday prior. Linebacker Landon Johnson (22 tackles) leads the club in stops as Week 4 begins.

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL

As if there was any doubt, you can expect Cincinnati to throw, throw, and throw some more on Sunday night. Any semblance of balance was thrown out the window when it was learned that running back Rudi Johnson (hamstring) was unlikely to be available, placing the burden of the ground game on usual third-down back Kenny Watson (60 rushing yards, 1 TD). That means you can expect to see a lot of connections between quarterback Carson Palmer (937 passing yards, 9 TD, 4 INT) and wideouts Chad Johnson (25 receptions, 3 TD) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (29 receptions, 4 TD), the trio that has more or less represented the entire offense through the first three weeks. Johnson leads the NFL in receiving yards (442), and fellow Houshmandzadeh is tops in the league in catches as Week 4 commences. In addition to Johnson, wideout Tab Perry (groin) is unlikely to see action on Monday night.

For all the accolades that the offense is receiving, few might be aware that the Patriots are also tops in the league in total defense (207 yards per game) as Week 4 begins. The New England pass rush has already generated 10 sacks on the year, with outside linebacker Mike Vrabel (18 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and end Jarvis Green (10 tackles, 2.5 sacks) ranking among league leaders in that category. The Patriots have also stifled the running games of the Jets, Chargers, and Bills, with nose tackle Vince Wilfork (7 tackles) and Ty Warren (13 tackles, 1 sack) making plays in the trenches and linebackers Tedy Bruschi (12 tackles) and Adalius Thomas (17 tackles, 1 INT) making plays behind them. The secondary has played well but is looking for a few more big plays, as cornerback Asante Samuel's (6 tackles) interception of Trent Edwards last Sunday ranked as the secondary's first pick of the year.

FANTASY FOCUS

Many Week 4 fantasy results will be contingent on how a few key figures fare in this game. Brady and Palmer, both unquestioned fantasy starters, will both be looked to for huge outings, as will top receivers Moss, Johnson, and Houshmandzadeh. Other Patriots Maroney, Watson, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, are also starting in most leagues, and even the backup running back Morris has been a worthy start! Cincinnati figures to put up some points in this game, so start the New England defense at your own risk, though the Patriots should pile up some sacks and turnovers no matter what the scoreboard says. The Cincinnati defense and the injured Rudi Johnson are must-not-starts at this stage.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Cincinnati rode a great wave of emotion to a win the last time it appeared at home, and Monday night's crowd should be just as vocal as the one that lifted Lewis and company to that win over Baltimore. But emotion can only take a team so far before talent takes over, and New England has a decided talent advantage in this contest. Cincinnati is perhaps the worst candidate in the league to stop the New England passing attack, which should have the Patriots scoring points at will. The Bengals will give the New England secondary problems as well, but short of scoring on every drive, you can't expect Cincinnati to do enough to run with an elite Patriots team for four quarters.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 38, Bengals 17

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Re: Monday Night Football

Patriots downgrade Neal, Washington; release Rader
ASSOCIATED PRESS

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots declared starting guard Stephen Neal and wide receiver Kelley Washington out for Monday night's game at Cincinnati.

Neal has been inactive because of a shoulder injury. Washington is bothered by a hamstring injury.

New England also released tight end Jason Rader from the practice squad reserve/injured list. He was placed on that list on Sept. 25.

The 26-year-old was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 3. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end played in five NFL games with the Miami Dolphins in 2006.

Rader was originally signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall in 2004. He was waived by Atlanta prior to the 2004 regular season and was signed by the Dolphins the following year.

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Re: Monday Night Football

What bettors need to know: Patriots at Bengals
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Dominant Pats

The Patriots have steamrolled their opposition so far this season, going 3-0 with ease and posting some of the best numbers in the league. They’ve scored exactly 38 points in each game this season and won by at least 20 points every time.

"We’ve had good weapons every year," quarterback Tom Brady told the Boston Globe when asked if this was the best Patriots offense he has played with. "It’s not like this passing game never existed before this season. We’ve done some good things."

"We led the league in passing for a few years, so it’s just a matter of whether it’s a different style, and I think we’re expanding the field a little bit more vertically."

The Patriots offense ranks first in the NFL with an average 441 yards and 38 points per game this season. But the defense – also No. 1 in the NFL – has been equally as impressive, allowing only 207 yards and 11.7 points per game.

Chink in the armor?

If the Patriots have shown one weakness this season it’s in defending in their own red zone. New England have surrendered TDs all five times opponents have moved inside their 20-yard line.

Always the pessimist, coach Bill Belichick recently pointed out his team has vulnerabilities that it is continually working on.

"We haven't stopped anybody yet, so it starts with me," he told the Associated Press this week. "We can't let them in the end zone every time they cross the 20-yard line. It's just ridiculous."

Ten other NFL teams have allowed the opposition to score from inside the red zone 100 percent of the time, but only New England has given up a touchdown on every occasion.

"We need to go out there and perform better in the red zone," linebacker Junior Seau added when speaking to the Boston Herald.

"Talking about how we’re going to do it is something we don’t want to hear. We want to go out there and showcase what we know we can do in the red zone (because) we haven’t been able to do that."

Bengals’ Johnson ruled out

Cincinnati will be without running back Rudi Johnson due to a strained hamstring. The Bengals injury report lists Johnson as out for the game and he didn’t practice on Friday.

Johnson has had more carries the past three seasons than any other running back in the league. But he started poorly this year, managing only eight catches and 58 rushing yards in three games.

Sixth-year running back Kenny Watson will step in for Johnson. It is Watson's first start since 2002 when he was with the Washington Redskins. Watson has been mainly used as a special teams player in his five seasons with Cincinnati.

"He's a little bit different style of runner than Rudi," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told the Associated Press. "Certain runs we do offensively have been set up a little differently than where Rudi's strengths are."

Special teams not so special

The Bengals were one of the best clubs in the NFL on special teams last season, but they have struggled in this area this year. They've allowed a kick return of at least 47 yards in each of their three games so far, and rank 25th in the league in punt returns, 18th in kickoff returns, 27th in punt coverage and 29th in kickoff coverage.

That’s compared to last season when they led the NFL in punt coverage, allowing just 5.6 yards per return, and were sixth in their kickoff coverage.

"We're not executing," head coach Marvin Lewis told the Cincinnati Post after last Sunday’s loss to Seattle. "We're not kicking it, were not covering it."

Cincinnati’s special teams struggles cost them a chance to win the game against the Seahawks. Receiver Glenn Holt was returning a kick with one minute remaining in a 24-21 game, but instead of going to ground and getting the offense on the field, he chose to run. Holt ended up fumbling the ball and losing possession.

Seattle then ran out the clock and secured the win.

"I can't say exactly what's wrong but I know we're going to stick together," Watson told the Post. "We're going to keep working hard at it."

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Re: Monday Night Football

Patriots at Bengals
By Brad Young
VegasInsider.com

Expect to see a plenty of fireworks for Monday Night Football when New England travels to Cincinnati. Both the Patriots and Bengals rank in the top-five in total offense by averaging over 393 yards per game.
   
Caesars Palace installed New England as a 7 ½-point road ‘chalk’ over Cincinnati, with the total set at 53 ½. The line has remained constant throughout the week, while the total opened at 53. ESPN will provide coverage of Monday Night Football beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET from Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.

New England (3-0 straight up and against the spread) continued its impressive early season run by steamrolling Buffalo last weekend as a 16 ½-point home favorite, 38-7. The combined 45 points eclipsed the 41-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 3-0.

The Patriots finished the contest with advantages in first downs (27-12), rushing yards (177-110), passing yards (311-83), turnovers forced (2-1) and time of possession (34:19-25:41). New England pulled away from the Bills with two touchdowns in the second quarter.

Quarterback Tom Brady was 23-of-29 passing for 311 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Laurence Maroney had 19 carries for 103 yards in the victory, while wideout Randy Moss caught five passes for 115 yards and two scores.

The Patriots have scored in 31 consecutive quarters dating back to last season, and have scored 34 points or more in seven of their last nine outings. The defense has also stepped up this season, allowing a league-low 621 yards the first three games of the year. New England also has the biggest scoring differential this season, 114-35.

Cincinnati (1-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) is currently mired in a two-game losing skid after falling to Seattle last weekend as a three-point road underdog, 24-21. The combined 45 points went ‘under’ the 50-point closing total, ending back-to-back ‘over’ outings.

Signal caller Carson Palmer completed 27-of-43 passes for 342 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Kenny Watson paced the ground game with 60 yards and a score on nine carries, while wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught12 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals ended the game with advantages in first downs (24-19), passing yards (328-238) and time of possession (33:22-26:38). However, Cincinnati was done for by losing the turnover battle (4-2) while also committing 10 penalties for 72 yards.

The Bengals defense rank 31st in the league by surrendering 31.7 points per game. Coach Marvin Lewis’ team is 4-22 when losing the turnover battle, but 25-3 when forcing more turnovers.

New England throttled Cincinnati last year as a 5 ½-point road underdog, 38-13, while the combined 51 points eclipsed the 46-point closing total. The Patriots also beat the Bengals back in 2004 as a 10 ½-point home ‘chalk,’ 35-28, while the combined 63 points toppled the 46 ½-point closing total.

New England running back Laurence Maroney (groin), wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth (knee) and free safety Eugene Wilson (ankle) are ‘probable’ versus the Bengals. Cornerback Randall Gay (thigh), defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (shoulder), offensive guard Stephen Neal (shoulder), linebacker Rosevelt Colvin (ankle) and defensive end Mike Wright (knee) are ‘questionable,’ while wide receiver Kelley Washington (hamstring) is ‘doubtful.’

Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson (hamstring) is expected to miss this matchup with the Patriots, while wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (knee), offensive tackle Willlie Anderson (foot), center Eric Ghiaciuc (thumb) and offensive guard Stacy Andrews (shoulder) are ‘probable.’ Strong safety Chinedum Ndukwe (hamstring) and linebacker Lemar Marshall (groing) are ‘questionable, while linebacker Ahmad Brooks (groin) and linebacker Caleb Miller (back) are ‘doubtful. Wide receiver Tab Perry (hamstring), safety Ethan Kilmer (knee) and linebacker Rashad Jeanty (shin) are expected to miss this game.

New England follows this contest with a home game against Cleveland before going on a two-game road trip against Dallas and Miami. Cincinnati has its bye week after this contest before traveling to Kansas City.

Monday’s forecast for Cincinnati is calling for scattered thunderstorms, with a high of 80 degrees and a low of 54.

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Re: Monday Night Football

Brady, Patriots meet Palmer, Bengals on Monday Night Football
By: Chance Harper

With 'spygate' behind them now, the New England Patriots look to keep their NFL juggernaut in high gear when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals with a Monday Night Football audience watching.  Can Tom Brady and the Pats offense shread another defense?

For once, the NFL universe is unfolding as it should. Teams with poor defenses are getting burned (that’s you, New Orleans), as are those with lousy offenses (hello, Chicago). It’s been a dream season for analytical handicappers...and supporters of the New England Patriots.

Everywhere you look on the Patriots’ roster, you see nothing but talent. The prohibitive Super Bowl favorites are 3-0 straight up and against the spread, scoring 38 points in each contest and driving the Over to the pay window. This juggernaut is rolling into Paul Brown Stadium Monday night to face a Cincinnati Bengals team that has lost two in a row and famously allowed Cleveland (!) to rack up 51 points two weeks ago.

Imagine the surprise, then, when the Pats opened as 7-point road favorites. Bettors were quick to hog-tie that line, forcing books to move the spread to at least 7½ points and as high as nine. The total, meanwhile, has steamed from 52 to 54 points at most locations.

Why the seven? Cincinnati is actually 2-1 ATS thus far, cashing in against Baltimore and Seattle. The Bengals’ offense is nearly as good as their defense has been bad, scoring 93 points in three games and ranking sixth in the league in efficiency. Quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown nine TD passes and sits fourth among pivots at 28.4 Points Above Replacement (PAR), well ahead of fifth-place Brett Favre at 21.8 after Week 3. There is no question that Palmer is one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

That’s the good news for Bengals’ supporters. Just about everything else is bad news. Palmer doesn’t have his full arsenal of weapons at his disposal. No. 3 wide receiver Chris Henry remains under league suspension until the second half of the season, leaving Palmer with only two reliable targets in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals have still managed to spread the field to some extent; Houshmandzadeh has been used primarily on shorter routes, while Johnson has three TD receptions on a career-high 17.7 yards per catch. But New England’s superior defense (No. 2 in the league in efficiency, and No. 4 against the pass) will be a lot less forgiving than the questionable pass defenses Cincinnati encountered in its first three games.

Worse, the Bengals’ rushing offense is ranked No. 26 in the NFL. Rudi Johnson has just 3.1 yards per carry this year, and his hamstring injury will reportedly keep him on the sidelines against New England. Kenny Watson is expected to get the start instead. Watson did manage 60 yards on nine carries in last week’s loss to Seattle; however, the Patriots’ front seven is one of the best in the NFL. The Pats have allowed just 74 rushing yards per game thus far -- league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson picked up a mere 43 yards on 18 carries in Week 2.

The nightmare scenario continues on defense. Despite that shocking 51-45 loss to the Browns, the Bengals’ corners have managed to hold their own; they rank 12th in the league in pass defense. Now try defending against Randy Moss, Donté Stallworth, Wes Welker, Ben Watson and whoever else Tom Brady feels like throwing to on Monday night. Moreover, Cincinnati’s No. 21-ranked rush defense will have its hands full against New England’s combo of Laurence Maroney (11.3 PAR, third among tailbacks) and Sammy Morris (7.5 PAR, 11th). That backfield is protected by the top run-blocking offensive line in the game today.

Closing the deal for New England is its sizeable advantage on special teams. Cincinnati’s are the absolute worst in the NFL. The same poor tackling that plagues the Bengals’ defense is even worse on kick coverage. Meanwhile, the Patriots are ranked 10th in special teams; Ellis Hobbs has excelled at kick returns, and PK Stephen Gostkowski is proving masterful at kickoffs. The Patriots have enjoyed excellent field position all year long -- they’ll be playing with an even shorter field in Cincinnati.

On the technical side, New England is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 Monday Night Football appearances. This will be the third year in a row (exhibition included) the Pats have visited Paul Brown Stadium; they covered the last two times as favorites, winning 38-13 on Oct. 1, 2006. No reason to expect anything different one year later. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

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Re: Monday Night Football

NFL Inactives (Monday, October 1, 2007)
October 1st, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The following is a list of inactive players for this week's NFL games.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS, 8:30 P.M. (ET)

Patriots - 3RD QB Matt Gutierrez, DT Santonio Thomas, DT Kareem Brown, WR Kelley Washington, RB Laurence Maroney, G Steve Neal, LB Chad Brown, T Ryan O'Callaghan.

Bengals - 3RD QB Jeff Rowe, WR Tab Perry, RB Rudi Johnson, LB Ahmad Brooks, DB Ethan Kilmer, LB Caleb Miller, G Dan Santucci, LB Rashad Jeanty.

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