Bill of Rights for a Patriotic opener:
- Tom Brady’s contract. Tom Brady’s car accident. Randy Moss’ collision with words. Logan Mankins’ holdout. There haven’t been this many distractions with the Patriots since the Tea Party.
The most controversial thing coming out of Bengaldom is Antwan Odom’s admission he tested positive for a banned substance and that the case is in appeal. A four-game suspension would hurt the Bengals, obviously. But that’s down the road. On this Sunday the Pats beat the Bengals when it comes to dealing with off-field issues.
- The first tweet of Game Day from The Ocho sums it all up: OGOchoCinco:@terrellowens:
“Wake up big bruh, for every negative word uttered about us not working as teammates today let’s unleash hell on the field!!”
And no matter what happens, who does what, what the final score is, the T.O.-Ocho experiment is going to drive the tone of the season. How will it work? It truly is reality TV. Just like it’s in your office, home, or classroom. If the Bengals win, it’s all good. You heard nary a peep from The Ocho last season as the passing game went into the shadows. Because they won. And no matter how it goes, reality is they made a big move when one needed to be made.
- Running back Cedric Benson, the offensive line, and the defense are still the barometer of the team’s performance.
For all the hype poured into the fuel tank of the Batmobile, those are the three principles of this season. They will only go as far as they protect quarterback Carson Palmer and Benson and the offensive line go hand-in-hand. So does the defense in a high-powered schedule that begins with Brady and ends with Brees and Rivers. They have to keep games manageable so opposing teams don’t tee off on Palmer.
- Palmer has more weapons in the passing game and this we all know. But the most intriguing question is how will offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski marry the smash-mouth concept with spreading the field? Run first got them to first place. Will they remember?
The Ravens’ game plan against the Pats in the last game at Gillette last year in the Wild Card Game is still as fresh as this morning’s Game Day program: Three penalties, 52 rushes.
- Sunday is all about special teams. It always is on the road against a well-coached, discipline team. Plus, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons is pitted against his mentor, Scott O’Brien.
For the first time in his eight seasons with the Bengals, Simmons has as many weapons in the return game as Palmer in the offense and Mike Zimmer in the defense. He also has a new kicker in Mike Nugent and is trying to replace three of his top four tacklers from last season.
But he also has a solid new special teams captain in linebacker Brandon Johnson. Smart, thoughtful, unselfish. A guy that has paid his dues in five quiet NFL seasons. This week he gave a glimpse at just one of the many invisible leaders the Bengals have in the locker room. He pumped up two of the younger players on teams, saying linebacker Dan Skuta is the best player in the kicking games and that linebacker Michael Johnson can be an elite player for as long as he wants to play.
At about 4 p.m. Sunday, everyone is going to be pointing to one special teams play.
They usually do in the glow of a win and the ashes of a loss.
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