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Patriots Unfiltered Roundtable: Week 16 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The writers of Patriots.com preview a major conference clash for the Patriots against the Bengals.

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This week the writers of Patriots Unfiltered break down what the Patriots need to do to get back on track against the Bengals after a last-second loss to the Raiders that dropped them back to 7-7 on the season.

Are you concerned the devastating ending to the Raiders game and its effects will carry over against the Bengals?

Yes, those types of events can go either way for a team. I'm hoping, based on history, that the head coach will use it as a bottom point from which to rise. Let's not forget how bad things seemed after the "They're not good anymore!" game in KC just before the Patriots destroyed the Bengals in 2014. That was a long time ago and a much different team but shows how a bad game doesn't have to negatively affect the next game. -Fred Kirsch

Absolutely, and not just because of the nature of the loss. It also dealt a critical blow to the team's playoff chances, and the reality of what it will take to make it now will be tough to overcome. The Patriots still control their fate by winning, but that's easier said than done. -Paul Perillo

Not exactly. I'm more concerned about the Patriots being the Patriots we've grown accustomed to this season. A disjointed offense that lacks the necessary details to finish drives with a defense that holds its own but ultimately can't make enough stops against a high-powered offense. I don't think the players will let go of the rope. I just don't think they're good enough to win this game. -Evan Lazar

I am because it feels like not much has gone right for the Patriots this season and I wonder how they can turn the page and play the kind of football it will take to win any of the next three games. It's one tall order to just expect the mistakes to suddenly let up and the execution to improve, but it's a lot harder to see under the shadow of how the Raiders game went down. It would take a total team effort, the best of the season to knock the Bengals off. ­-Mike Dussault

Who is one Patriots player you're looking to for their absolute best football over these final three games?

Mac Jones. Pretty please. -FK

In a perfect world the answer is Mac Jones. But based on the entirety of the season it's hard to imagine the offense suddenly clicking on all cylinders at this point. -PP

Matthew Judon. As the lone Pro Bowler on this roster, Judon needs to carry this team as its best player for the Patriots to have a chance at making the playoffs. It's not going to be Mac and the offense that gets them there. Defense needs to ball out. -EL

I'm on Judon too, especially this week and next when getting after the passer will be absolutely vital to the Patriots chances. I don't want to put too much on just him though, as Uche, Wise, Barmore and Ekuale all need to bring the heat. Judon doesn't have to be the only one getting the sacks but he's a focal point on the gotta-have-it moments. -MD

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9).
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9).

How can the Patriots slow down Joe Burrow and a Bengals offense that is fifth in both points and offensive DVOA and seemingly very much in a groove?

Very much like they did against the Raiders last week, albeit the Bengals won't blow a double-digit second half lead if they get it like the Raiders did and do regularly. It will take a similar complementary defensive effort for 60 minutes. -FK

It will have to be the pass rush, and Burrow's one problem is he occasionally holds onto the ball too long. Get after Burrow and see if he forces a few and makes a mistake as a result. -PP

Along the same lines as my last answer, pressure. The Bengals offensive line is better than it was a year ago. But its still a weakness overall and the Patriots pass rush should have its way with them. The Pats don't have the pieces in the secondary to win consistently against Cincy's receiver group, so they need to get to Burrow. -EL

Yup its all about pressure. It's really the only thing you can hope for when you're playing a quarterback this smart with the ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately. From Guy and Godchaux winning inside to the edge players getting around or through their tackles, it's all about getting to Burrow and preventing him from establishing a rhythm early then closing him out late. -MD

Aside from playoff implications, how much would a win over the Bengals mean?

Plenty, organization-wide. It would really mark the first time this season the Patriots beat a good team with a good offense playing well at the time. We need a win like that. -FK

Other than keeping the team alive for the postseason I'm not ready to make any declarations. This version of the Patriots needs to do more than pull off one upset in order to establish itself as anything more than an average team. It would be a nice bounce back but not much more. -PP

Obviously, it depends on how they win. But it matters to the players how they respond to the ending in Vegas. I'd love to see the offense rally around each other, regardless of their feelings on the coaching staff, and win for themselves. -EL

Of course, it depends on what it looks like but at this point a victory in any form would be a huge bounce back after the way the Raiders game ended. I don't have high hopes they'll win out and make the playoffs but if they can steal one or two wins they'd be something to build off of going into the offseason when you consider how little success they've had against the best AFC teams as of late. -MD

What is your key to a Patriots victory?

See answer to Roundtable games 1-14. -FK

Getting consistent pressure of Burrow and forcing the Bengals to turn the ball over. If the defense can contain the potent Bengals offense, the Patriots can pull off the upset. -PP

The Patriots defensive front taking over the game. The only matchup on paper that favors the Pats is their front against the Bengals O-Line. They need to dominate in the trenches. -EL

Defensive front has to overwhelm the Bengals offensive line. They have so many ways to beat you, the Patriots need to take the fight to the Bengals. Offensively I'm not expecting a breakout game, but avoiding turnovers and doing anything possible to get touchdowns are big keys. -MD

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