The Patriots and Bengals are set to kick off the season this weekend in a matchup between a pair of 2009 AFC division champions. It will also mark the return of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who tore the ACL in his left knee in last year's regular-season finale in Houston.
The Pats will open the season at home for the third straight year. They've won 13 of their past 15 home openers and are a perfect 8-0 at Gillette Stadium in home openers.
Tom Brady is fresh off a brand-new contract extension signing and will become the NFL's highest-paid player at $18 million per season when the deal kicks in.
The Patriots are 13-8 all-time against the Bengals, including a 7-2 mark in home games and a 1-0 record at Gillette Stadium. The teams' first meeting came in 1968 at Fenway Park, where the Pats won, 33-14. New England has won six of seven games against Cincinnati since 1993.
All eyes will be on the outside, where Bengals wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens — who have 23 combined years of NFL experience — will line up against Patriots cornerbacks Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty, who have one combined year of experience.
It will be a great first test for New England's corners, who will be without Leigh Bodden all year.
"I'm sure it'll be a huge test, obviously with Carson [Palmer] throwing the ball and the good running game they have," Butler said. "It will be a good challenge for us Week 1. It will be a good challenge for us right off the break."
Tom Brady has completed 58-of-84 passes (69.0 percent) for 679 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in three career games against the Bengals. Brady is 3-0 in those contests.
Safety Patrick Chung led the Patriots with 24 total tackles in the preseason, and he was second on the team with 19 solo stops. Linebacker Jerod Mayo was first with 20 solo tackles and second with 23 total takedowns.
Wide receiver Brandon Tate averaged 44.0 yards per kickoff return in the preseason, including a 97-yard touchdown.
Rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski (eight receptions, 109 yards, four touchdowns) and Aaron Hernandez (seven receptions, 72 yards, one touchdown) combined to catch 15 passes for 181 yards and five touchdowns in the preseason.
The Patriots have won 13 of their last 15 home openers, including an 8-0 record at Gillette Stadium.
New England has won six consecutive regular-season openers.
Quarterback Carson Palmer completed 42 of 59 passes (71.2 percent) for 415 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason.
Wide receivers Terrell Owens (1,006 receptions, 14,951 yards, 144 touchdowns) and ChadOchocinco (684, 9,952, 62) have combined for 1,690 catches for 24,903 yards and 206 touchdowns in their careers.
The Bengals only committed six penalties in five preseason games. The Patriots had 22 in four games.
Slot receiver Jordan Shipley, a rookie out of Texas, led the Bengals with 14 preseason receptions. He was fourth on the team with 118 yards.
Defensive end Antwan Odom was tied for the NFL lead in 2009 with eight sacks through five games before he ruptured his Achilles' tendon.
*From Thursday's practice report
Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur (back) did not practice and will not play.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) did not practice and likely won't play.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman (foot) had limited participation and is probable.
Running back Laurence Maroney (thigh) had limited participation and is probable.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington (groin) fully participated and is expected to play.
Defensive lineman Ron Brace (ankle) fully participated and is expected to play.
Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) fully participated and is expected to play.
Outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham (ankle) fully participated and will likely play.
Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick (toe) fully participated and is expected to play.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez (knee) fully participated and is expected to play.
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor (knee) fully participated and is expected to play.
Wide receiver Matthew Slater (hamstring) fully participated and is expected to play.
Wide receiver Andre Caldwell (groin) did not participate and is questionable.
Cornerback Brandon Ghee (head) did not participate and is doubtful.
Halfback Brian Leonard (foot) had limited participation had limited participation and is questionable.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee) fully participated and is questionable.
Defensive end Jonathan Fanene (hamstring) fully participated and is questionable.
The Patriots should have an edge in this matchup. If New England's offensive line can keep Tom Brady upright, the quarterback should be able to exploit the middle of the field. Cincinnati has a pair of very good cornerbacks in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, but the safeties lack in coverage skills, which could benefit Pats tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Expect the Patriots to start strong and win a close shootout.