Cincinnati Bengals’ road to playoffs starts with Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 18: The Buffalo Bills face off against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 18: The Buffalo Bills face off against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

When the Bengals host the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, there will be more than pride on the line. The road to a postseason berth could be at stake.

This was supposed to be the year of dominance for the Cincinnati Bengals. To some degree, that hasn’t been a total misrepresentation of the truth. The first two weeks of the 2017 campaign were a total washout, from an offensive standpoint. But, the defense has been a bright spot for the team. If the Bengals are going to make a run for the postseason, it has to start on Sunday. When the Buffalo Bills invade Paul Brown Stadium, the only option is a W.

To get a running start at making their way back to the playoffs, Cincinnati has to get a valiant effort from both sides of the ball. The Bills come to town as a legitimate contender and are demanding attention, since Sean McDermott has become the head coach. There are still a few doubters that claim the wheels will fall off soon. But, for now, Buffalo is doing what it takes to win. In the fickle NFL, that’s all that really matters.

McDermott has shown respect for the Bengals’ defense. He became a household name, as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. So, naturally, he should know a thing or two about the X’s.

"“They certainly have a talented back-end, a veteran back-end, and led by Vontaze Burfict in the middle,” McDermott offered. “A lot of it goes through No. 55 and his role in this defense is a big part of their success and I think the continuity they’ve had is key as well, in particular in the middle with Vontaze and some of the secondary positions also. They do a lot of really good things. This is a really, really salty defense.”"

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The Bengals will have to back up what McDermott put out there. Both teams are playing with a defensive intensity that’s taken the league by surprise. But, Sean is setting the defense up for mediocrity. How many times has a coach praised an aspect of the opposition and they promptly fell flat? It’s simple psychology.

In essence, the best answer for the mighty Bills would be to follow through. Take the hollow praise and make McDermott sorry he said it. Yes, it’s absolutely grand to show respect. But, to some extent, it was greasing the wheels for Tyrod Taylor.

The Bills have seen a change in Taylor this season. Part of that is due to his maturation and most to the schemes of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Taylor’s passing game has looked good. He’s flaunting a 100.7 passer rating and 65.7 completion percentage. But, he’s a threat to leave the pocket and run, when things break down. Essentially, the Bengals’ defense will be called upon to stop another version of what they saw with Aaron Rodgers. They can’t afford to let Tyrod extend plays.

Lazor Fine Execution

The running game has been missing in action. Week 5 will be the perfect opportunity to make a complete turnaround and get things in gear.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has Andy Dalton looking like a late MVP contender. Now, it’s time to find out what the ground game can do. This is not the time to be picky. If Joe Mixon can’t get untracked, Giovani Bernard is the next best thing. Mixon has the yards, but he’s getting 2.6 yards a carry. That’s not going to cut it. Gio is behind the same line and putting in work at a 4.9 clip. Either Joe is trying to do too much or Bernard’s vision is better than both his peers.

Next: The Numbers Behind Bengals-Bills

If the Bengals ground game doesn’t perk up, teams will do the usual. They’ll sit back and wait on Dalton to beat them with the pass. Hopefully, Lazor has the mindset to get the run back to prominence. A decent running attack can spur a deep playoff run. Mixing things up is paramount. Sunday, against the Bills’ top 10 D would be a good time to find success.

To be a playoff contender, they have to handle business against a team with postseason potential.