WEEK 16 · Sat 12/24 · 1:00 PM EST
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots will return to Gillette Stadium for the next two games, starting this Saturday when they host the defending AFC Champions and AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals. Following the Bengals game, the Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Jan. 1.
New England owns a 10-2 home record against Cincinnati, including a 4-0 record against the Bengals at Gillette Stadium.
While New England is 10-2 all-time at home against Cincinnati, including 4-0 at Gillette Stadium, the series is tied at 7-7 in games played at Cincinnati. However, the Patriots are in front, 3-2 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The New England Patriots will host the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time since a 35-17 win on Oct. 16, 2016 and play the Bengals for the first time since a 34-13 win at Cincinnati on Dec. 15, 2019. It will mark the 27th meeting between the two teams.
New England leads the all-time series by a 17-9 margin in a series that dates back to 1968. The Patriots have emerged victorious in eight of the last 10 meetings.
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run - Edge: Bengals
After being dormant for the last several weeks the Patriots running game showed signs of life in Vegas on Sunday. Rhamondre Stevenson shook off an ankle injury that kept him out of practice for much of the week and turned in a career-high 172 yards on the ground including the go-ahead 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He ran with power, speed and elusiveness against a decent Raiders run defense that at times was knocked off the line of scrimmage. While it was a terrific effort by Stevenson, things won't get easier on Christmas Eve against the Bengals. Cincinnati allows 109.6 yards per game on the ground (eighth in the league) and 4.2 yards per carry (also eighth). D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill are space eaters on the inside up front and they do a great job protecting linebackers Germaine Pratt, Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither. Opponents have rushed for 102 yards or fewer in five of the last six games dating back to the Bengals loss in Cleveland on Halloween, which was also Cincinnati's last loss. The Patriots offensive line showed improvement against the Raiders, playing with the same five starters for the third consecutive game as Conor McDermott continues to replace the injured Isaiah Wynn at right tackle. That group will need to be at its best against a tough Bengals front.
When the Patriots pass - Edge: Bengals
Mac Jones and the Patriots passing attack looks lost. Jones is coming off one of the worst games of his young career when he completed just 13 of 31 passes for 112 yards with no touchdowns. He's thrown just seven TDs all season and the Patriots can't seem to establish any sort of rhythm through the air. The pass protection has been an issue, and Jones was under pressure at times against the Raiders, but he wasn't sacked in the game and failed to hit a handful of open receivers downfield. At other times he was victimized by drops, one big one by Hunter Henry on a late third down that prevented a conversion. Jakobi Meyers led the wideouts with two catches in the game, and with DeVante Parker sitting out with a concussion the passing game struggled. The Bengals don't have a great secondary with corners Eli Apple, Mike Hilton and rookie Cam Taylor-Britt joining safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. Hilton (knee) and Taylor-Britt (shoulder) are dealing with injuries as well, which could affect and already thin group. The Bengals pass rush has been impacted by health concerns as well as Sam Hubbard (calf) left the win over the Bucs and Trey Hendrickson (broken wrist) are banged up. That pair combined for 12.5 sacks and no other Bengal has more than two. But based on the sporadic nature of the Patriots passing game it's hard to have much faith.
When the Bengals run - Edge: Patriots
The Bengals haven't been able to run the ball effectively on a consistent basis all year. Despite the presence of Joe Mixon, who is one of the league's underrated runners, Cincy has struggled to establish much on the ground. The Bengals average 100 yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league, and only 3.9 yards per carry, which is 28th. The Patriots front has done a solid job for most of the year, including the second half of the Raiders game when they limited Josh Jacobs to just 23 yards on eight carries. Mixon is a solid back who is similar in style to Jacobs. He's racked up 722 yards and averages 3.9 yards on his 183 carries and has six touchdowns. Samaje Perine serves as the third down back but also receives his share of carries. He chips in with 85 carries for 373 yards and a pair of scores, but most of his work comes as a receiver. The Patriots should be able to control the front with Lawrence Guy, Davin Godchaux and Deatrich Wise continuing their strong play. Thanks to their solid work, the Patriots rank ninth in both rushing yards allowed (110.9) and yards per carry (4.2), and given the Bengals struggles on the ground that should continue on Saturday.
When the Bengals pass - Edge: Bengals
Joe Burrow has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in football, and he has the Bengals offense red hot coming down the stretch. After spotting the Bucs a 17-point lead on Sunday, the offense responded with 34 straight points and won going away. Burrow shook off a slow start in part due to a summer appendectomy and has been clicking as of late. He's completing better than 68 percent of his passes and thrown for 3,885 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and four of those picks came in the season opener. As a result the Bengals have won 10 of their last 12 games including six straight. Looking at the Bengals skilled positions it's easy to see why Burrow has had so much success. Ja'Marr Chase is one of the best young receivers in football and he leads the team with 71 catches for 881 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing more than a month with a hip injury. Tee Higgins emerged as a go-to guy when Chase was out and he has 65 grabs for 894 yards and six TDs. Slot receiver Tyler Boyd is dependable as well with 50 receptions for 690 yards and five touchdowns. Few teams in football can boast a trio like that. Tight end Hayden Hurst (48-400-2) has dealt with injuries but has been productive as well. The one Achilles' heel for the Bengals passing game is Burrow tends to hold the ball occasionally and has been sacked 37 times on the season. Given the Patriots injury problems in the secondary, it will be vital for Matthew Judon and Josh Uche to continue to provide pressure, otherwise it could be a long day.
Special Teams - Edge: Bengals
The good news is Nick Folk has reverted to his near-perfect form, connecting on field goals of 47 and 54 yards in Las Vegas. Otherwise, the Patriots special teams are a mess. The Raiders consistently raced past the 25-yard line on five of their six kickoff returns, blocked a punt to set up a touchdown late in the first half and Marcus Jones was unable to generate much in the return game. It's been a continuation of the struggles that Cam Achord's group has experienced for most of the season, and it's having a big impact on games. Michael Palardy also shanked a 36-yard punt when he had a chance to pin the Raiders deep in their end as he continues to struggle with his consistency. With the offense struggling to produce points, the Patriots can ill afford to have slipups on special teams. The Bengals have a solid kicker in Evan McPherson, who has made 21 of 25 field goals on the season with two of those misses coming on opening day. Drue Crisman replaced Kelly Huber as the punter midway through the season and has been solid. Trent Taylor (punts) and Chris Evans (kicks) handle return duties with Taylor (10.5-yard average) providing a bit of a lift. The Bengals punt coverage has been sporadic, so perhaps Jones can deliver a big play to help the Patriots cause.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2022 REGULAR SEASON
|Total Yards Gained
|Total Offense (Rank)
|Points Per Game
|Total Yards Allowed
|Total Defense (Rank)
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost
|Total Touchdowns Scored
- Scotty Washington
- Tristan Vizcaino
- Devin Asiasi
- Mike Hilton
- Ted Karras
- Marlon Hobby
WHAT TO LOOK FOR...
- The Patriots scored on defense for the fifth time in 2022 at Las Vegas, tied with Arizona for the most defensive touchdowns scored in 2022. The Patriots team record for most defensive scores is six in 2003 and 2007.
- The Patriots have returned three interceptions for touchdowns so far in 2022. The Patriots have had four interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season in 1997 and 2010 and five in a season in 2001 and 2003.
- The Patriots have scored a defensive touchdown in each of the last two games with a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by LB Raekwon McMIllan at Arizona on Dec. 12 and a 16-yard interception return by DB Kyle Dugger at Las Vegas on Dec. 18. The last time the Patriots had a defensive touchdown in three straight games was in 2004 - Nov. 28, 2004 vs. Baltimore when DE Jarvis Green recovered a fumble in the end zone, Dec. 5 at Cleveland when CB Randall Gay returned a fumble 41 yards for a touchdowns and on Dec. 12 vs. Cincinnati when CB Asante Samuel returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown.
- The Patriots now have 48 sacks for the year, third in the NFL behind Philadelphia (55) and Dallas (49). The Patriots are on pace to finish with 58 sacks. If the Patriots continue the current pace they will finish tied for the second-most sacks in team history, trailing the 66 sacks recorded in 1963. The Patriots also had 58 sacks in 1977. The Patriots need one more sack to tie for the most sacks the team has had under Bill Belichick with 49 sacks in 2015.
- LB Josh Uche has a career-high 10½ sacks, all in the last seven games. He leads the NFL in sacks since Week 8 with his 10½ sacks. DL Javon Hargrave of Philadelphia is second with nine sacks during that time frame.
- Uche has two 3-sack games in 2022 with 3 sacks at Arizona on Dec. 12 and 3 sacks vs. Indianapolis on Nov. 6. Andre Tippett (three games with 3 sacks in 1985 and 1987) and Mike Vrabel (two games with 3 sacks in 2007) are the only other Patriots players with multiple 3-sack games in a season.
- LB Ja'Whaun Bentley has recorded 10 tackles in each of the last two games with 10 tackles at Arizona on Dec. 12 and 10 tackles at Las Vegas on Dec. 18. He can become the first Patriots player since LB Jamie Collins in 2014 to register at 10 tackles in three straight games. Collins had 13 tackles vs. N.Y. Jets on Oct. 16, 11 tackles vs. Chicago on Oct. 26 and 11 tackles vs. Denver on Nov. 2.
- Bentley has a team-leading 95 total tackles and needs 14 tackles to set a single-season career-high and surpass the 108 total tackles he had in 2021.
- WR Matthew Slater has 8 special teams tackles and needs two more to reach double-digit special teams tackles for the 11th time in his career. The 10-time special teams Pro Bowler has the third-most special teams tackles in the NFL among all players since 1994 with 167, behind Larry Izzo (205) and Keith Burns (197).
- K Nick Folk enters this week seventh in team history with 430 total points. He needs 13 points to move past Tony Franklin (442) into sixth place on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Rob Gronkowski is fifth in points with 482 total points.
- Folk also enters this week 4-of-5 on field goals from 50 or more yards. With one more 50-yard field goal this year he will tie the franchise record for most 50-yard field goals in a season. Folk (2021) and Stephen Gostkowski (2013) share the record for most 50- yard field goals made in a season with five.
- Folk enters this week with 59 straight field goals made under 40 yards. His last miss under 40 yards was a 31-yard field goal attempt on Oct. 12, 2017 vs. New England when he played for Tampa Bay. The NFL record for most consecutive field goals made under 40 yards is 70 by Baltimore's Justin Tucker (2016-20).
- Folk leads the NFL with 30 field goals and is one of six NFL players with at least five seasons with 30 field goals made. He is on pace to finish with 36 field goals, which would match his career-high of 36 field goals in 2021.
- RB Rhamondre Stevenson enters this week third in the NFL among running backs with 60 receptions and sixth in the NFL with 381 receiving yards.
- Stevenson has a team leading 60 receptions and is on pace to finish the season with 72 receptions, which would be the third most in a season for a New England running back to the 87 by RB James White in 2018 and the 77 by Tony Collins in 1986. New England has had a running back lead the team in receptions eight times.
- Stevenson has averaged 6.0 yards per carry in three games so far in 2022 with a 6.1 average (12-73) vs. Baltimore (9/25), a 6.4 average (25-161) vs. Detroit (10/9) and a 9.1-yard average (19-172) at Las Vegas (12/18). The most games in a season for the Patriots with a 6.0-yard average is RB Carl Garrett with four games in 1969.
- Stevenson leads the team in rushing attempts (183) and receptions (60). The Patriots have had a player lead the team in rushing attempts and receptions three times – Tony Collins (1987), Sam Cunningham (1977) and Mack Herron (1974).
- Stevenson had 172 yards rushing last week at Las Vegas. He looks to become the first Patriots running back with back-to-back 100-yard games since RB Damien Harris had 101 yards rushing vs. Dallas on Oct. 17, 2021 and 106 yards rushing vs. the New York Jets on Oct. 24, 2021.
- DB Kyle Dugger has two touchdowns in 2022 with a 59-yard fumble returned for a touchdown vs. Detroit on Oct. 9 and a 16-yard interception returned for a touchdown at Las Vegas on Dec. 18. With one more touchdown he can become the first New England player since 1970 with three defensive touchdowns in a single season.
- Rookie Marcus Jones, who won the 2021 Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player after returning two punts and two kickoff returns for a touchdown in college in 2021, ranks first in the NFL with 824 total return yards (326 punt return yards and 498 kickoff return yards).
- Jones is second in the NFL with a 13.6-yard punt return average and third in the NFL with a 24.9-yard kickoff return average.
- Jones returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown in the win against the Jets on Nov. 20. He looks to become the first Patriots player to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown and punt for a touchdown in the same season and the first NFL player to accomplish the feat since 2019 when Jamal Agnew did so for Detroit.
- Jones will join Troy Brown (2001), Irving Fryar (1985) and Mike Haynes (1976) as the only Patriots players with two punt returns for a touchdown in a season if he records one more over the last three games.
- Jones, who scored on a 48-yard pass from Mac Jones vs. Buffalo on Dec. 1, looks to become the second Patriots defensive player to have more than one offensive touchdown in a season, joining LB Mike Vrabel who had two touchdown receptions in 2004, three in 2005 and two in 2007. The last defensive player with two touchdowns in a single season in the NFL was DL J.J. Watt in 2014 with Houston with three touchdown receptions.
- DB Devin McCourty enters this week second to Harrison Smith for the most interceptions among all active NFL players with 33. McCourty, Smith, Marcus Peters and Patrick Peterson are the only active players with at least 30 interceptions. The Patriots are 26-4 when McCourty has a pick in a regular season game. McCourty's 33 interceptions are third in team history to the 36 by Ty Law and Raymond Clayborn.
- McCourty's 551 return yards are third in team history. He needs five return yards to move past Clayborn for second on the all-time team list.
- McCourty has 39 career takeaways and needs one more to become the fourth Patriots player with 40 total takeaways, tying Ty Law for third in franchise history.
- Undrafted rookie DB Brenden Schooler is leading the team with 13 total special teams tackles. He needs four more special teams tackles to set the team record for most special teams tackles by a rookie. DB Willie Andrews had 16 total special teams tackles as a rookie in 2006.
- LB Matthew Judon is second in the NFL to Nick Bosa (15 1/2) with 14 1/2 sacks and is on pace to finish with 18 sacks. The Patriots have never had a player lead the NFL in sacks.
- Andre Tippett is the only Patriots player that has had more sacks in a season than Judon. Tippett had 18 1/2 sacks in 1984 and 16 1/2 sacks in 1985.
- WR Tyquan Thornton scored on a 19-yard touchdown run at Cleveland on Oct. 16, 2022. He is the sixth Patriots wide receiver to score on a touchdown run and first since Cordarrelle Patterson in 2018. If Thornton has a rushing touchdown this week he will become the first Patriots wide receiver with two rushing touchdowns in the same season and would join Darryl Stingley as the only other Patriots wide receiver with two rushing touchdowns for his Patriots career.
TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Mark Wolff and directed by Suzanne Smith.
NATIONAL RADIO: This week's game will be broadcast by ESPN Radio. Steve Levy will handle play-by-play duties with former Patriots Rob Ninkovich as the color analyst.
LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 33 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.
For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.