3 Things To Watch: At Buffalo

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Leave it to the wily nine-year veteran to explain why the Bengals shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact they’re winless after two games.

“We have to move forward," said quarterback Andy Dalton. “It’s all we can do. We have to realize that this is not the standard of play. We are a lot better team than what we showed (against the 49ers). So, there’s going to be an extra focus this week. We have to have attention paid to all of the little details as we go into next week for this game plan. We have to be ready to go.”

Consider that over the previous 10 seasons (2009-18), teams who start 0-2 have gone on to make the playoffs 10.3 percent of the time. That rate jumps to 24.8 percent for teams who start 1-2, but falls to a mere 2.3 percent for teams who start 0-3.

There is still plenty of time for the Bengals to turn their season around. It all starts on Sunday as the Bengals face the Bills.

Here are the three things to watch:

1. Sugar Rush –Throughout the offseason, a lot of the talk about head coach Zac Taylor's offense focused on how the team would utilize its two dynamic running backs in Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. So it is a surprise when looking at the stats and seeing that Cincinnati ranks last in the NFL with 59 total rushing yards through two games. 

Taylor mentioned it’s a combination of factors that have contributed to the running games’ slow start.

“When you watch the 13 ‘good’ runs we (called) on proper down and distances, it was usually just one player,” Taylor said. “It was a different player every time. It’s not like you can point the finger at the same guy. It’s mistargeting and guys getting beat in one-on-one matchups. Those are things we need to clean up. As we get our rhythm in the run game, which will get going, we’ll feel a lot better about it."

Getting a balanced attack on offense will be a priority. Buffalo gave up 129 rushing yards last week to the New York Giants, but it’s too early in the season to gauge how strong the Bills' defense will be committed at stopping the run.

Take a walk down memory lane to some of the best images of the Bengals versus Bills series.

2. Limit The Mental Mistakes – Sunday is the Bills home opener. It’s important to quiet the crowd, force turnovers and avoid mental mistakes.

The Bills are minus-one in turnover margin, while the Bengals are right behind at minus-two. If the Bengals can get the run game going and control the clock, they have a great opportunity to put Buffalo in some difficult game situations.

Both teams through the first two weeks have also taken too many penalties. The Bills were flagged nine times for 65 yards against the Giants after committing seven penalties for 55 yards in Week 1. Cincinnati has been flagged 14 times, but only two of those flags have come on defense. It’s been the inopportune timing of the penalties that have grinded drives to a halt in the Bengals’ first two games.

3. Revamp The Pass Rush – When the Bengals defense is on, it’s the pass rush that leads the way. That was evidence in the defense’s performance at Seattle with four sacks on Russell Wilson and eight and a half tackles for loss. However, last week the Bengals failed to record a sack and registered only two quarterback hits, both coming from Ryan Glasgow. The defense, specifically the line, knows it has to play better to help set the tone.

The good news is Buffalo’s offensive line has not been as stout as years past. The Bills’ offensive line has battled issues with penalties and pass protection. Starting left tackle Dion Dawkins has allowed a team-high three sacks and three pressures through the first two games. 

GAME COVERAGE

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Tom McCarthy (play-by-play) and Jay Feely (analyst).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

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