Buffalo Bills vs Cincinnati Bengals: 6 Marquee Matchups to Watch in Week 4
This week the 3-0 Buffalo Bills take on the 1-2 Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are a very different looking team this year than they were the last time these two franchises played, as wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have departed, as well as Carson Palmer.
Also out for this game will be the Bengals leading rusher, Cedric Benson, who is reportedly expected to miss the next three games due to a suspension resulting from an assault charge that occurred during the NFL lockout.
The Bills are looking to improve to 4-0 and take command of the AFC East division, while the young Bengals are trying to turn things around.
This slideshow takes a look at some of the key matchups that can make or break the outcome of this game.
Bills WR Stevie Johnson vs. Bengals CB Nate Clements
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is the the team's leading receiver, catching 20 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns throughout the first three games of the year. Last year against the Bengals, he had a career day, while breaking out the "Why So Serious?" undershirt.
He has been one of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite targets, and that shouldn't change this week, despite the Bengals 5th ranked pass defense in the league, as they have allowed an average of 188.3 yards per game through the air.
Johnson will be lined up most of the game against former Buffalo Bill, Nate Clements, who joined the Bengals during the offseason after departing from the San Francisco 49ers.
Clements has been solid in in his play this year, making 14 tackles, breaking up two passes, and making a tackle for a loss.
Bills SS Bryan Scott vs. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham
Buffalo Bills strong safeties Bryan Scott and George Wilson have filled the void left by Donte Whitner quite well throughout the first three weeks of the year. However, the Bills have continued to struggle to contain opposing tight ends, and the Bengals have a pretty good one in second-year player, Jermaine Gresham.
Against the New England Patriots, tight end Rob Gronkowski dominated the seam routes, catching seven passes for 109 yards, while scoring two touchdowns.
Jermaine Gresham has caught 12 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown this season, and it's expected that he will see a decent amount of targets from rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton. If the Bills can keep Gresham in check, they have a solid chance of winning the defensive battle.
Bryan Scott has been one of the most productive defenders on the Bills, recording 22 tackles, a sack, an interception, two tackles for a loss, two deflected passes, and an interception.
Bills RB Fred Jackson vs. Bengals Rush Defense
Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has been a highlight of the Bills offense this season, but can he continue his success against the Bengals? The Bengals are ranked seventh in the National Football League against the run, allowing an average of just 88 yards per game on the ground.
Jackson has rushed 47 times for 303 yards, scoring three touchdowns, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry, while adding another eight receptions for 115 yards out of the backfield.
The Bengals have a strong front seven led by defensive tackles Domata Peko and Geno Atkins, that could present a strong challenge against the Bills' interior line. However, the Bills run blocking has been solid to say the least, creating holes on almost every play for Jackson.
Bills Offensive Line vs. Bengals Defensive Line
The Buffalo Bills offensive line has allowed just one sack in three games this year, and Demetrius Bell was ranked among the top linemen last week according to Pro Football Focus. The Bills offensive line was the franchise's biggest question mark heading into the season, but the group consisting of Bell, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, and Erik Pears have performed way higher than expected.
However, the Bengals have a mean defensive front that has racked up nine sacks on the year. Defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Jonathan Fanene have combined for 22 tackles, four sacks, and four tackles for losses.
This will be a tough battle in the trenches, and the Bills offensive linemen need to hold their own at the point of attack in order to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick in the pocket, and allow Fred Jackson to continue his success.
Bills CB Drayton Florence vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green
Bills cornerback Drayton Florence will have a pretty tough matchup this weekend against rookie wide receiver, A.J. Green. Green has taken over Chad Ochocinco's role as the Bengals No. 1 wideout, catching 15 passes for 194 yards, and two touchdowns.
With Bills' cornerbacks Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee sidelined with injuries, Florence has to be the leader of the secondary, and have another performance similar to that of what he had last week against the New England Patriots.
Florence has played extremely well this year, recording eight tackles, while defending four passes, and making two interceptions. His lack of tackles are a testament to his strong coverage and physicality against opposing receivers, which will be much needed against the bigger and stronger Green.
Bills Defensive Line vs. Bengals Offensive Line
The Buffalo Bills starters on the defensive line haven't recorded a sack this year, despite utilizing their No. 3 overall draft pick on defensive linemen Marcell Dareus. However, they have applied a ton of pressure, and reated holes for linebackers Nick Barnett and Andra Davis to make plays.
The Bengals have allowed their rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, to be sacked six times, so there should be some opportunities to take him down this weekend. Marcell Dareus will most likely be lined up against former first round tackle Andre Smith, who has moved to right tackle, while Kyle Williams will probably be double teamed by Nate Livings and Kyle Cook.
Cincinnati is ranked 17th in the league in rushing offense, gaining 96.7 yards per game on the ground, and the Bills should be able to shut them down, considering that Cedric Benson is likely to be suspended, leaving Bernard Scott as the primary back.