Three things to watch this Sunday (1 p.m., CBS) as the Patriots look to move to 5-0 on the 2013 season:
The Bengals aren’t who we thought they were
The Bengals were considered by many to be Super Bowl contenders heading into the season but the early returns aren’t so spectacular. They very well could be the class of the AFC North by the time 2014 rolls around, but at this juncture, that’s not saying much.
Cincy is 2-2 and perfectly mediocre heading into Sunday’s game, having scored 81 points on the year and having given up, you guessed it, 81 points on the year. They are 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road.
Andy Dalton’s play has been lackluster so far (83.2 QB rating, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) and star wide receiver AJ Green was on the verge of blowing a gasket in the Bengals’ loss to the Browns last Sunday. Green said after the game that he needed to keep his cool.
“You don’t want to show up that guy,” Green said. “I sensed it in myself. That’s not me. I watch the game film and my arms are flailing and all loose and that’s not me. That’s not the way I act.”
If ya got a strong back, we can use ya
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was famous in New England for never fumbling the ball. In fact, in the four years he played for Bill Belichick, he never once put the ball on the ground (510 carries). Since signing with Cincinnati last year, Green-Ellis has fumbled four times, including one this year against the Packers in which Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews delivered a “flying tackle” to pry the ball loose.
Green-Ellis is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry this season.
HBO Hard Knocks star Giovani Bernard, the rookie out of North Carolina, hasn’t lit the world on fire either as he has 147 yards total on the season on 32 carries.
The Patriots are also doing things in a running back-by-committee fashion, but seem to be having a bit more success than Cincy. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley combined for 117 yards rushing on 20 carries in last week’s Pats win over Atlanta.
Embrace the great unknown
Tight end Matthew Mulligan caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady last week against the Falcons. Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Joe Vellano is one of the prime candidates to fill the role of Vince Wilfork on the Pats’ D-line. Wide receiver Austin Collie’s 2012 stat line read like this: 1 rec., 1 target, 6 yards, 0 TD.
All three of those players are expected to contribute for the Pats in the coming weeks.
Collie is the newest addition to the Patriots, having been signed Thursday. Neither of these two scenarios would be surprising: A. Collie is cut by New England as soon as Danny Amendola is healthy or B. Collie resurrects his once-thriving career following multiple concussions and a torn knee.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS