One of the young NFL season’s biggest surprises, the undefeated Buffalo Bills, ride into Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Hot off a thrilling 34-31 comeback win over the New England Patriots, the Bills are the highest scoring team in the league but face the third-ranked Bengals defense. Something has to give on Sunday.
The Bengals’ defensive line brings an impressive combination of athleticism and strength with their depth. They are able to get after the quarterback well and defend the run too. This is a stiff test for the Bills’ offensive line, which has only allowed one sack through three games and has paved the way for running back Fred Jackson.
The Bills’ defense has not been stellar against the pass, allowing lots of yardage, but managed to get some key turnovers to key the victory against the Patriots. The pass rush has been non-existent, but the Bills played two run-heavy teams and Brady is phenomenal at getting the ball out quickly. The Bengals do have a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton who has played pretty well, but this could be the chance for the Bills’ defense to exert some control to mirror the offense.
Keys to the game, Bengals:
1. Keep up the pressure – No one has solved the Bills’ offensive line and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick yet, but the Bengals have done well with getting after the quarterback so far. The Bengals need to get to Fitzpatrick early and often to derail the highest scoring offense.
2. Contain Fred Jackson – While Fitzpatrick controls the offense, everything is keyed by Jackson. After the slow starts against the Oakland Raiders and the Patriots, Jackson was one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle getting those games turned around. The Bengals need to contain him in both the running and passing game.
3. Pound the ball with Cedric Benson – While the Bills’ pass rush has been nonexistent to this point, the Bengals should try to keep the pressure off their rookie quarterback anyways. The best way to do that is establish Benson early. If the Bengals can get their run game going, that will also keep Fitzpatrick and company off the field.
Keys to the game, Bills:
1. Protect Fitzpatrick – The reason that the offense has been so effective (besides staying balanced) is that the offensive line has kept Fitzpatrick mostly clean through three games. True, the Bills have been using quick passes to keep pressure off the offensive line and keep the pass rush on its heels, but the line has played very well through three games. With the Bengals’ pass rush, the line has to be on the top of its game from the first offensive snap Sunday. Head coach Chan Gailey needs to keep doing what has worked so well the first three weeks, spreading the defense out and letting Fitzpatrick make quick decisions.
2. Stop Benson – The Bills have contained running backs Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden in the first two weeks of the season. They will need to do the same against the Bengals. Benson figures to be the center point of the Bengals’ offense until Dalton gets his feet under him and confident. The Bills need to keep that from happening, and it starts with stopping Benson.
3. Get after Dalton – The Bills’ defense has not gotten good pressure on opposing quarterbacks through three weeks. The Bengals have one of the most underrated left tackles in the NFL, Andrew Whitworth. The Bills cannot depend on scoring 30+ points a game through the rest of the season, eventually the pass defense needs to come around. Against a rookie quarterback, more blitzes might be a good start.
Prediction: Many are talking about this game as a trap game for the Bills. Who would have thought the Bills would be in a trap game as the team potentially being trapped this season? However, the core of this Bills team suffered through an 0-8 start to last season and a number of players were on the roster when the Bills started the 2008 season 5-1 and finished with a 7-9 record. Unless the Bengals play much better than they have to start the season, the Bills win this game comfortable, 31-14.
The Buffalo Bills pre-game playlist, Week Four:
Let’s Go Buffalo!