1) Pressure Andy Dalton
Pressuring the quarterback is always a good idea, yes, but numbers show that Andy Dalton is one of the league’s worst-performing QBs when pressured. In 2016, Dalton’s 91.8 passer rating ranked 16th among quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts. When Dalton was pressured though, Pro Football Focus found that his rating dropped significantly to 57.1, which ranked seventh-worst in the NFL. For his career the Bengals QB has the 14th worst passer rating among nearly 40 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts. Football Outsiders also revealed a severe dip in Dalton’s numbers when he faces pressure. According to their DVOA metric, Dalton’s -77.7-percent DVOA in 2016 when facing pressure ranks 25th among qualifying quarterbacks. What that essentially means is that last season Dalton was 77.7-percent worse than the other QBs when facing pressure. There will be plenty of opportunities for Buffalo to pressure Dalton on Sunday. Cincinnati’s offensive line has allowed 14 sacks already this season.
2) Bills play-action game, strong
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been at his best this season, when utilizing play-action passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor has a 78.6-percent completion percentage on play-action attempts this season, which is the second highest in the NFL. Additionally, he’s posted a league-best 19.9 passer rating on play-action passes this season and his 14 yards-per-pass on those plays are third most. Without a run fake, Taylor has completed 43 of his 71 passes, is averaging only six yards-per-attempt and has a passer rating of 81. In their Week 4 win over the Falcons Taylor completed seven of his nine play-action passes for 126 yards. His lone touchdown toss – a nine-yard completion to Jordan Matthews – came on a play-action pass as well. Pro Football Focus called it the Bills secret weapon and there is certainly some truth to that. Cincinnati is somewhat vulnerable against the run too – they’re yielding nearly 90 yards-per-game – so if the Bills can get their rushing attack going those play-action plays are only going to be even more effective.
3) It’s a trap!
The Bills made a statement last weekend by knocking off the undefeated, defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. They’ve got everyone’s attention now and at 3-1 they look the part of a potential playoff contender. But, as quickly as they’ve risen to the top, they can stumble back down to the bottom just as fast if they lose to the 1-3 Bengals in Week 5. In the words of Admiral Ackbar…
This is a classic trap game. The Bills are coming in feeling good, they just took down the big, bad Falcons, it would be easy to look past this struggling Bengals team and think about the bye week that looms, Buffalo can’t let that happen. Good teams win these games and that’s been a point of emphasis from head coach Sean McDermott throughout the week.
Well, since the Bills made me eat my words last week, it’s round one of me keeping my promise to not pick against them the rest of the season until they play New England. I’m a man of my word, what can I say. Anyway, there are two major concerns for Buffalo heading into this matchup. First and foremost, they’re banged up. WR Jordan Matthews and LB Ramon Humber have already been ruled out, two other key defensive starters in CB E.J. Gaines (Groin) and S Micah Hyde (Knee) enter Sunday questionable. Backup CB Shareece Wright (Back) is also questionable and because they’re only carrying four corners on the roster, Buffalo was forced to promote CB Greg Mabin off the practice squad. Depth remains this team’s biggest issue and now that the injuries are starting to pile up it could simultaneously open up some major vulnerabilities. The other big thing is that as the last key eluded to, this is a trap game. Let’s flashback to 2014 for a second – painful as it may be to remember. It’s December, the Bills are “in the hunt” as usual and in Week 15 they come out and earn a surprise win over the Packers at home 21-13. Buffalo could taste the playoffs. One week later, in a classic trap game, the Bills took a trip to Oakland to play the 2-12 Raiders and were handed a gutwrenching 26-24 loss. And the drought marched on for a 15th season. This game may be the biggest berometer yet of how much McDermott’s culture change is resonating with players. Based on everything McDermott and his players said all week about not overlooking Cincinnati simply because they’re 1-3, it feels like it is sticking. Past Bills teams lose this game, McDermott’s doesn’t. The Bengals are favored by three, I’ll take the Bills outright 24-20.
Follow me on Twitter: @Spcncito_