Off to a surprising 3-1 start to the season, the Bills head to Cincinnati in Week 5 to take on a team that has gotten off to a surprising start of their own. At 1-3, the Bengals have certainly underperformed so to this point, but fresh off a 31-7 drubbing of their in-state rival the Cleveland Browns, they may be turning the corner.
Buffalo leads the all-time series against Cincinnati 16-12 but haven’t had much luck of late against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton is 3-1 against the Bills since entering the league in 2011, with his only loss coming in a sloppy 16-12 game in Week 11 of last season.
The Bills meanwhile are looking to keep pace with the 2011 Bills squad that also got off to a 4-1 start to the season and head into their bye week on a high note. If they do, Sean McDermott would become the first coach in franchise history to begin his tenure 4-1.
Here are this week’s 5 matchup notes…
1) Bengals cooling off the Bills
During the Bills hot start in 2011, they actually began the season a perfect 3-0 and were averaging 37.6 ppg before traveling to Cincinnati to face the Bengals in Week 4. Cincinnati quickly brought Buffalo back down to earth, handing them a 23-20 loss. It was actually Bengals QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green’s rookie season and just the fourth game of their careers. Dalton completed 18 of his 36 passes that day for 298 yards and threw one touchdown and two interceptions. Green caught four passes for 118 yards. While the Bills went on to win two of their next three games, they finished that season 6-10 overall and missed the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season. Six years later, Buffalo is off to a 3-1 start to the season and hope to avoid a similar let down in Cincinnati.
2) Bengals undefeated uni combo
From the strange but true category, Bengals beat reporter Jay Morrison of Cox Media Group noted earlier this week that Cincinnati is 4-0 when rocking the orange jersey, black pants uniform combo. Wouldn’t you know that’s the exact look they’ll go with on Sunday. Buffalo has defied plenty of odds through the first four weeks of the season though, so why not add handing the Bengals their first loss in that jersey, pants combo to the list?
The #Bengals have never lost while wearing orange jerseys and black pants (4-0).
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) October 3, 2017
3) More points, please
This matchup pairs two of the leagues stingiest defenses against each other in terms of points allowed. Despite their 1-3 record, Cincinnati has done a good limiting their opponent’s scoring. Entering Sunday, their defense is yielding just 16.8 points per game on average, which ranks third in the NFL. Buffalo, meanwhile, leads the league in that category, allowing just 13.5 points per game on average. On the flip side, neither team’s offense is really lighting up the scoreboard. The Bengals 16 points per game ranks 27th in the NFL, while Buffalo’s 18.3 points per game ranks 23rd. For what it’s worth, Cincinnati’s offense has found a rhythm in each of their last two contests. Against Green Bay, in Week 3 they put up 24 points in a loss, and just last week they hung 31 points on the struggling Browns. The Bills defense has faced tougher tests this season though, most notably the Falcons high powered offense that they held to just 17 points last weekend. All things considered, points may be hard to come by in the one.
4) Turnover margin
When it comes to forcing turnovers, Buffalo has been one of the league’s best. In four games they’ve recorded seven total turnovers, including six interceptions. Conversely, their offense is extremely frugal with the football, having given the ball away just once so far this season. In fact, since quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s interception on the Bills opening drive of the season, they’ve gone on to establish a new franchise record for consecutive quarters without committing a turnover (15). Buffalo carries a turnover differential of six, which is tied for second in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bengals, on the other hand, can probably contribute their slow start partially to the fact that they’ve been extremely turnover prone. Their eight total giveaways are the fourth-most in the league to this point and their turnover differential of minus five is tied for the second worst. That said, despite losing the turnover battle twice this season – both times resulted in a loss – they have cut down on their giveaways significantly over the last few weeks. After turning it over five times in their season opener against the Ravens, Cincinnati has committed just one turnover in each of the last three games.
Since entering the league together in 2011, Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have been quite the dynamic duo. When Dalton finds Green for a touchdown, the Bengals are an impressive 28-13. Of those 41 games, Green has compiled 100+ yards in 21 of them and Cincinnati is 14-7 when he accomplishes both feats. Green has never caught more than two touchdowns in a single game and in the six instances he’s done so the Bengals are 4-2. Green has scored and gone for 100-plus yards just once in four meeting with the Bills. He caught six passes for 103 yards and one score in a 27-24 win over Buffalo in 2013. Last year when the two teams met, Green was injured on the Cincinnati’s first possession and didn’t return, in what ultimately became Buffalo’s first win in the series since 2010. The lethal Dalton-to-Green connection is something to make note of because it’s burned so many teams, including the Bills, in the past.
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