The last time that the Cincinnati Bengals topped the Buffalo Bills I was six months old – Boomer Esiason and Ickey Woods reigned supreme. It was the ’88-’89 AFC Championship, a 21-10 Buffalo loss that sent Cincinnati to the Super Bowl where they ultimately lost to Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers.
Since then, the Bills have topped the Bengals in ten straight meetings, which happens to be the longest active streak in the league.
In my mind, Buffalo should win this one today against an as-of-yet unsettled Bengals team. Then again, the ‘Any Given Sunday’ rule always applies and as much as it seems silly to mention it this way, this could very easily be a trap game for the boys in blue, looking forward to coming back home for Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles a week from today.
In order to extend the streak and get the win as a road favorite for the first time since 2008, there’s a few things the team needs to look out for:
– The offensive line needs to keep playing at the high level that they have been. RG Kraig Urbik will be held out again so Chad Rinehart goes again in his place. Keeping Fitzpatrick clean against the ninth ranked pass rush in the NFL will be paramount to the team’s success. Ryan has only been taken down once in 112 dropbacks this season, and when the plays have broken down he’s been quick enough to get the ball out so I like his chances in this one. Along with him staying protected, and these go hand-in-hand, Fitzpatrick needs to get some time to set up deep throws. A physical Bengal secondary riddled with more name value than talent looks good on paper, but they have yet to record an interception this year. If 14 can keep spreading the ball at different levels as he does, it’ll serve to tire out the Cincinnati defense early on.
– The Buffalo defense needs to contain the Bengals’ only real offensive threat at this point in Cedric Benson. Benson has been cleared to play in this one and with two of their main offensive starters (quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver AJ Green) struggling as rookies, their runningback serves to see a lot of action. Benson averaged five yards per carry against our awful 2010 defense with a quality quarterback and two big name threats at receiver drawing defenders away from the line of scrimmage. With our unit greatly upgraded and theirs the exact opposite with the losses of Palmer, Owens, and Ochocinco I’d say that average will dip in this one.
– Shawne Merriman has to show up. Has to. He has five tackles this year with no sacks through three games. Beating Andrew Whitworth off the edge won’t be an easy task, but when he’s sent he has to disrupt plays and get Dalton rattled. That pressure could come from any of the Bills defenders, but I truly wouldn’t be surprised to see Lights Out riding pine following the bye week and giving way to youngsters Danny Batten and Arthur Moats (just finally moved back to his more natural outside position after spending the past few months at ILB) if he keeps struggling.
We all know by now what to expect out of Fred Jackson, David Nelson, and Nick Barnett – those three epitomize what this team is to me now as opposed to the past decade. Three hard-nosed, consistent players that help you out of a jam and make the big play when it’s needed. They’ll all need to be on point today as well if Buffalo wants to come back to their home crowd with a 4-0 mark on the season next week.
Buffalo will have NT Torell Troup active for the first time this season but will be without corners Terrence McGee, Aaron Williams, and Terrence Wheatley as well as LB Chris White, NT Kellen Heard, and offensive linemen Kraig Urbik and Sam Young. The only ones you’ll really notice there are at the cornerback position, which leaves depth thin – Florence, McKelvin, Corner, and Rogers top the chart there, which makes getting pressure all the more important today for the defense.
Gailey knows Dalton inside and out after scouting him heavily for the past year and coaching him at the Senior Bowl so hopefully the knowledge of his tendencies and what makes him tick will relay to the field today.
The Bills are three-point road favorites today, and I expect them to cover. Not to sound overconfident, but the Bengals have their fair share of problems right now and will not have a strong home crowd to back them up today (less than 44,000 attended last week’s game and it’s being reported that Bills fans are filling Paul Brown stadium up nicely). Should be great weather and a better game – see you all again tonight to recap what we saw.