Opening kickoff! Enough said.
1. Patriots Secondary vs Bengals Receivers. The Patriots are starting sophomore Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty against veterans Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. This is definitely not a match-up that favors the Patriots. Butler needs to utilize his athleticism and make big plays all day- but not in exchange for his solid tackling. All pre-season, Butler was right on his man and prevented the big play, but was unable to step up and prevent the ordinary play. McCourty is young and is most likely going to match-up against Owens- he just needs to forget that he's a rookie.
2. Patriots Defensive 7 vs Bengals Running Game. The Patriots were gashed last year against the Ravens' Ray Rice in the championship and Cedric Benson is looking to continue that aggression against the Patriots' Right Defensive End. Without rookie Brandon Deaderick inactive, look for Mike Wright and Myron Pryor to tag-team the RDE position.
3. Patriots Linebackers vs Bengals Offensive Line. The Patriots 3-4 defense is a 2 gap defense, which means that the linemen watch two gaps on the offensive line. That means the linebackers are the players who need to step up and make plays in the backfield. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo need to make plays in the middle of field and, hopefully, can cause some trouble crashing up the gut. At Outside Linebacker, the Patriots need ANYONE to do SOMETHING. None of the outside linebackers inspire confidence, but they'll have to step up and pressure Carson Palmer.
Final Things to Watch After the Jump!
4. Patriots Receivers vs Bengals Secondary. The Bengals' Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph are two of the most underrated corners in the league- and they're going to be facing up against the Patriots' Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Brandon Tate, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez . Hopefully the Patriots have too many receiving weapons for the Bengals to cover- and Gronkowski causes mismatches everywhere. Also, WES WELKER.
5. Patriots Running Backs vs Themselves. Laurence Maroney is out. Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are going to be looked at to carry the team to some semblance of a running game. Kevin Faulk is the only reliable player in the committee, except he's not an every-down back. If the running backs can get into a groove, they'll have a big day- but don't expect them to get into any sort of rhythm.
6. 2010 Bill O'Brien vs 2009 Bill O'Brien. Last year's offense was so plain and boring, fans were able to predict whole offensive drives. Can and Will O'Brien mix up his playing calling and keep opposing defenses guessing? He's been given another chance to shine and, hopefully, he'll be able to work wonders. With an injured offensive line, the 2009 Patriots were unable to use tight ends and have confusing schemes- with some new health, look for the Patriots to, once again, have an exciting offense.
7. Patriots Offensive Line vs ?????. Will the Patriots miss Logan Mankins? Can Matt Light revert to his pre-2009 form? Can Sebastian Vollmer have another fantastic year? Can Dan Koppen stop the defense up the middle? Can Stephen Neal stay healthy? Can Dan Connolly fill Mankins' vacated shoes? So many questions, hopefully some will be answered today.