The Buffalo Bills, led by former Bengals back-up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and sporting an unblemished 3-0 record, come to Cincinnati for a 1:00 PM Sunday tilt with the 1-2 Bengals. The Bills are coming off a dramatic come-from-behind win over New England, while the Bengal offense was non-existent in an embarrassing 13-8 home loss to the 49ers.
As the last undefeated team in the AFC, Buffalo is getting the kind of media attention they haven’t seen in over a decade. Head Coach Chan Gailey’s spread offense has given them the 3rd-ranked unit in the league, and has helped them overcome 18-point and 21-point deficits against Oakland and New England. The Bengals, meanwhile, are still working to get accustomed to new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s West Coast scheme and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
On paper, it appears to be a mismatch. The Bills are favored by only 3, but nearly all the talking heads out there are going with the Bills, including The Enquirer’s Joe Reedy.
So can the Bengals shock the football world, and remove the Bills from the ranks of the unbeaten? Yes. Here’s how:
- Run The Ball: The Bengals struggled to get the running game going against San Francisco, but they should have an easier time against the Bills. San Fran was ranked 3rd in the league against the run. Buffalo is 24th, giving up an average of nearly 116 yards per game. Cincinnati should give Cedric Benson plenty of touches, particularly with double tight end sets. They should also give Bernard Scott his long-overdue and promised carries. This strategy would serve them well to keep Buffalo’s defense on the field (and their offense off of it).
- Capitalize on Mistakes: Buffalo has indeed won their first 3 games, but mainly despite themselves. In all their games, they’ve fallen behind due to errors, particularly penalties and turnovers. The Bills will put the ball in the air, and there will be opportunities for interceptions. The Bengals need to get a few and turn them into touchdowns.
- Take Your Shots: The Bengals will attempt to run the ball, and Buffalo knows it. They will stack the box with 8 and sometimes 9 man fronts to stop the Bengal attack and cover their weakness in that area. This will create opportunities for play-action passes and open the middle of the field for TE Jermaine Gresham. Look for Dalton to try to draw in Buffalo’s safeties with the play action and go for Gresham down the seam or A.J. Green on post patterns.
Buffalo has shown a penchant for falling behind, but to their credit, they’ve been able to overcome their own mistakes. I see the Bills doing the same this week, allowing the Bengals to capitalize. The Bills will be on the road, albeit in front of a ½ full and partially disinterested crowd, but this will likewise serve the Bengals. They will be the underdogs and will not be expected to put up much of a fight—much like week one at Cleveland.
The Bengals beat that Browns team, who is now 2-1, and barely lost at Denver before an off day last Sunday. They should be more game than people think. If they can eliminate their own errors, put together a better offensive outing, and capitalize on Buffalo’s mistakes, they can win this game.
The Bills have had numerous distractions this week with so much adoration from media-types while Cincinnati has gone back to forgotten team status (which is good for them), and their backs are against the wall. The Bengals are due after 10 straight losses to the Bills, and should want to exact revenge after last year’s debacle. The Bengals defense is better than the ones Buffalo has seen so far.
Cincinnati surprises 27-24.