Without Wilfork, the Bengals may try to give Dalton and Green some help by sticking to the run game. That was a struggle versus the Browns as rookie Giovani Bernard had just 37 yards on 10 caries and former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis had just 13 yards on six carries.
Green-Ellis will get a chance to play the Patriots for the first time since joining the Bengals as a free agent ahead of the 2012 season. In his four previous campaigns with the Pats, he ran for over 2,000 yards. That included a 2010 campaign in which Green-Ellis ran for 1,008 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
"We obviously have to be more effective running the football still, continue to commit to running the football, and stay with it, and make positive plays in the running game, and not get spooked away from it too often," said Lewis.
Despite having Green and Dalton, and adding rookies Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert to Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals rank just 15th in passing (243.8 YPG) and 22nd in total offense (327.5 YPG).
Green, who Belichick this week called "Lynn Swann-ish," has had trouble breaking off the big plays, but still has 26 receptions, 300 yards and three touchdowns.
"There were times when (the Browns) covered him pretty well and others that I could have made some better throws that gave him more of a chance," Dalton said of Green. "If they put a couple of guys on A.J. then we have to make plays with the other guys."
The Bengals rank 10th in scoring defense at 20.3 points allowed per game and are hoping to get some depth back in the secondary. Cornerback Leon Hall and safety Reggie Nelson both missed the Browns game due to hamstring injuries, the same alignment that has kept corner Dre Kirkpatrick on the sidelines.
Cincinnati figures to plan on getting at least one of those players back this weekend after releasing cornerback Curtis Marsh on Tuesday and signing linebacker Michael Boley.
Brady appears to be getting comfortable with the new faces on offense just in time to face a Bengals secondary that has had its share of injuries. Though Cincinnati may get a player to two back from injury, facing Brady at less than 100 percent is like trying to keep up with a Cheetah in a golf cart.
The loss of Wilfork will hurt, but the Bengals don't exactly have a game- breaking back to exploit his absence either. New England will likely try to get Cincinnati's ground game beat them rather than Dalton and Green.
Green and Talib should be a fun matchup to watch, but expect Brady to once again put on a show.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 27, Bengals 20