By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

Top Five Matchups: A New Hope

The 2010 Football season is upon us, and with the way the Red Sox have been playing, it couldn’t have come soon enough. There has been some genuine excitement about this team, as they have added new weapons on offense and have revamped their secondary. Like with most season openers, the fans are more interested in how their beloved team looks as opposed to being excited about a specific opponent. With the Cincinnati Bengals coming into town, here are some things too look for:

1. Bill O’Brien’s play calling vs. Bengals Defense

Who Is Making The Calls On Offense?

Last years vanilla play calling needs a little ‘Ben and Jerrying’. I want to see Americone Dream or Phish Food out there. The predictable “Welker and Moss Show” left to many unconverted third and longs last year, and it cost the team dearly. Hopefully with the emergence of Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Alge Crumpler and Aaron Hernandez, Patriots second year play caller O’Brien will have more toys to tinker with.

2. Patriots Pass Rush vs. Bengals Offensive Line

Lets face it, Patriot fans are deathly afraid of a repeat of last year’s defensive performance. That team looked anemic and weak. They got pushed around at the line of scrimmage and lacked any semblance of a pass rush. Nobody wants to sit through painfully long and sustained drives by our hated foes, and watch big plays rolled on us because their quarterback had 10 seconds to stand in the pocket. I really wish I could tell you a heartening story about our revamped pass rush, but unfortunately the situation looks to be even meeker. Derrick Burgess has been released while Ty Warren is out for the year. So I wouldn’t hold my breath about New England’s ability to pressure the opposing quarterback, but as long as this weakness can be managed then the Patriots have a chance to unload their massive offensive juggernaut and come out with a ‘W”.

3. Cedric Benson vs. Patriots Linebackers

On a brighter note, the Patriots inside linebackers seem to be at the dawn of a new era. Jerod Mayo looks healthy and ready to bounce back from an injury laden sophomore slump. Standing next to him this season is Chatroulette sensation, Brandon Spikes, a mean and fiery SOB who brings some needed attitude into the linebacking corps. Also, after you Google it to figure out the reference, please don’t go and crucify him on 98.5 The Sports Hub, you yourself probably haven’t been to church in over a year. These tapes are the new normal, everyone will have one, (jk). But seriously, let the kid play football. His teammates and the coaching staff clearly like him, and it will only become a distraction if you, the fan, make it one. With that in mind, look for him to tackle Benson four times.

4. Gronkowski vs. Bengal Secondary

For all of you who traditionally skip the preseason, you should all get yourself acquainted with Gronk. What a beast. Now while I don’t want to get too gushy over a rookie’s performance in preseason games, it’s still refreshing to see a big man with nimble feet and soft hands going up the middle. Look for him to make some plays in the red zone.

5. Bengals Wide Receivers vs. Patriots Secondary

For too long the once-proud New England secondary has been patrolled by the likes of Deltha O’Neal and Ellis Hobbs. In an attempt to rectify this eyesore, the Patriot brass invested high draft picks in several intriguing players. It’s now time for the likes of Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Darius Butler to step up. With Ochocinco and TO lining up together, it will definitely be a challenge for the young secondary. Passing this test will go a long way to reassuring the fans that the Patriots secondary is revamped and ready to shine in the limelight.