For second straight year, Bengals-Bills has do-or-die feel

shelbydermer
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Tyler Boyd #83 of the Cincinnati Bengals and James Wright #86 of the Cincinnati Bengals are unable to catch a hail marry attempt at the end of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Buffalo defeated Cincinnati 16-12. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Tyler Boyd #83 of the Cincinnati Bengals and James Wright #86 of the Cincinnati Bengals are unable to catch a hail marry attempt at the end of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Buffalo defeated Cincinnati 16-12. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Coming off their first victory of the season, the Bengals have another must-win scenario on tap this week when the first-place Buffalo Bills come to town.

On November 20, 2016, the Cincinnati Bengals wore all black for a home contest against the Buffalo Bills.

The color scheme turned out to be fitting.

On the second play of the game, A.J. Green suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Mike Nugent missed two extra points. The Bengals were shutout in the second half. Giovani Bernard tore his ACL on Cincinnati’s desperation drive in the game’s waning moments.

Yes, black was the proper attire for the season’s funeral that day – a 16-12 loss to Buffalo at Paul Brown Stadium.

Fast forward to 2017 and the tables haven’t turned that much. There’s a must-win feel to Sunday’s Bengals-Bills bout at PBS, only this time it’s here just five weeks into the season.

A torn hamstring suffered against the Bills last November landed A.J. Green on season-ending injured reserve. (Photo by Jon Grieshop/Getty Images)
A torn hamstring suffered against the Bills last November landed A.J. Green on season-ending injured reserve. (Photo by Jon Grieshop/Getty Images) /

The Bengals (1-3) avoided talk about next year’s draft with a 31-7 win over the Browns last week. Everything seemed to click at FirstEnergy Stadium. Andy Dalton threw for four touchdowns (two of them going to third-year tight end Tyler Kroft), the offense moved with efficiency, opting for quick hitters to its playmakers and the defense posted a shutout in the game’s first 58 minutes.

Look Out

But Cincinnati should be cautiously optimistic. The Buffalo Bills, a team many thought was tanking after trading star receiver Sammy Watkins during the preseason, come into the Queen City red-hot. Notable wins over Denver and Atlanta have the Bills at 3-1 – first in the AFC East – and a third-straight victory for the wagon-circlers could spell an early end for the Bengals in 2017.

No, 1-4 does not mean the world is coming to an end. There are still eleven games left to make some noise. But, a trip to Heinz Field is on the horizon after a Week 5 bye. It’s hard not to notice that Cincinnati’s lost six of seven against Pittsburgh (playoffs included) going back to 2013.

Scouting Report 

More from Bengals News

Going back to Buffalo, it’s once again eerily similar to 2016. Last November, the Bills were without Watkins going into Cincinnati, then lost running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Robert Woods during the game.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor had to turn to ex-Bengal Brandon Tate, who tallied a team-high 48 receiving yards in the win.

This Sunday, Sean McDermott’s offense will be without Jordan Matthews, who is expected to miss a month with a thumb injury. Matthews is the only Buffalo wideout with double-digit receptions this season, with Andre Holmes totaling six through the first four games.

That means once again the offense will revolve around McCoy. The five-time Pro-Bowler has twice as many carries (68-34) as Mike Tolbert – the club’s second-leading rusher – and leads the team in receptions with 21.

Last week in Atlanta, it was McCoy (108 total yards on 23 touches), tight end Charles Clay (five catches, 112 yards) and Stephen Hauschka (two fourth-quarter 50-plus-yard field goals) that led Buffalo to a 23-17 statement win over the defending NFC Champions.

The X’s

Defensively, expect the Bengals to try bringing the heat. But that task won’t be easy, with Buffalo’s offensive line ranked sixth in pass-blocking efficiency by Pro Football Focus.

One key is to limit Taylor’s scrambling abilities. Although he’s only run for 118 yards this season, Taylor can buy time with his feet and locate receivers downfield, on top of being an underrated pocket passer in an offense that prioritizes the run game.

Next: Run Game Needs A Boost

Defensively, this will be Bill Lazor’s toughest test. After 48 points combined against the Packers and Browns, the Bills come to town with the league’s best scoring defense, yielding just 13.5 points per game.

Sunday is the perfect time for the Bengals’ first home win of 2017. If it isn’t, October 29th (their next game at PBS) may be too late.

facebooktwitterreddit