This Sunday, the Bills will play their first game coming off of a win—after defeating the Detroit Lions last week—bringing their record to 1-8 for the year. This week, they take on the Cincinnati Bengals, who have also not lived up to expectations this season, and are host to a 2-7 record.
This game is full of key matchups that will make or break the outcome of the game, and it is a chance for the Bills to shut down Terrell Owens, who has already eclipsed every receiving statistic he had last season when he was a member of the Buffalo Bills.
Let’s take a look at the top individual player vs. player matchups to keep an eye on come Sunday.
Terrell Owens will face his former team this Sunday.
The Bills were noted for their strong secondary entering the season. However, the entire secondary has not recorded an interception all year long. This weekend, they have their hands full while they will struggle to contain two great receivers in Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
Owens has been targeted an astonishing 108 times this year, yet has only caught 59 of those passes for 834 yards, scoring seven times.
Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is slowly returning from injury, so it is unclear exactly how much playing time he will see on Sunday, but McKelvin is confident that he will earn his starting job back.
It has been no secret that the Buffalo Bills defense against opposing tight ends has been dreadful, mainly due to the transition from the 4-3 front to a 3-4, which has left most players in new positions.
Chris Kelsay has been the most visible of the struggling Bills, which has forced the Bills to play safety Bryan Scott at linebacker, while using safeties to keep an eye on tight ends. Against tight ends, the Bills have collectively allowed 36 receptions for 478 yards and eight touchdowns through the first nine games of the year.
Donte Whitner is the Bills leading tackler, with 79, and you would have to expect to see a lot of nickel and dime coverage against the Bengals, who have turned from a smash-mouth run offense, to a pass happy attack.
Jermaine Gresham, the rookie tight end out of Oklahoma, has caught 40 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and caught nine for 85 yards last week against the Indianapolis Colts.
Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson has emerged out of nowhere, catching 44 passes for 591 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
He will have a chance to play against Owens, who chose to mentor former Bills receiver James Hardy, rather than himself.
Johnson will line up with Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph—a young elite cornerback in the league who has recorded 23 tackles, while defending three passes and intercepting one. Josepth has been limited in practice this week due to a neck injury, so if the injury is still lingering come Sunday, Johnson will have some opportunities to execute his assignments.
Johnson has caught at least three passes in every game of the season, so this will be a good matchup to watch on Sunday.
Lee Evans is the Bills No. 1 wide receiver, but much of the spotlight has gone to fellow receiver Steve Johnson, but Evans still has contributed significantly, despite his lack of touches.
On the year, Evans has 31 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns, and he will have a tough cornerback to face off with in Leon Hall. Hall has already intercepted four passes, while defending another seven, and recording 29 tackles.
Many teams have been shading a safety over the top of Evans in order to limit his big-play ability, but with Bengals safety Chris Crocker limited in practice as well with a calf injury, Evans may be seeing more one-on-one matchups of his own.
Thankfully for the Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals are again without their premier pass rusher, Antwan Odom, and Frostee Rucker will be filling in for him.
The Bengals play a 4-3 front, which will give Bills tackle Demetrius Bell an opportunity to keep up his momentum from his great play last week against the Detroit Lions.
On the year, Rucker has just one sack and 17 tackles, and should be an even matchup between the two linemen.
According to Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey, second-year guard Eric Wood had the “best game of his career” against the Detroit Lions last week, after containing rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has been wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks through the first nine games of his NFL career.
Domata Peko is a big, strong physical defensive tackle, that clogs running lanes, and opens up space for the defensive ends around him. Wood needs to control Peko, who has 20 tackles, two of which for a loss, and a forced fumble on the year.
Ochocinco has caught just 47 passes for 559 yards with three touchdowns this year, due to Terrell Owens outstanding play on the year, but he is never a matchup to take lightly.
Bills cornerback Drayton Florence has played very well in the absence of fellow corner Terrence McGee, racking up 33 tackles, two of which for a loss, defending eight passes and forcing a fumble.