Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: CBS broadcast with Tom McCarthy (play-by-play), Steve Beuerlein (analyst) and Steve Tasker (analyst). The game will air in the Bengals home market on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Channel 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Channel 27) in Lexington, Ky.
Radio: Coverage on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals return to Paul Brown Stadium this week to welcome the Buffalo Bills in a Sunday afternoon home game. The matchup comes on the heels of two road games in which the Bengals exhibited what can be considered to be a significant momentum shift from their first two contests.
After starting the season 0-2 with disappointing home losses to Baltimore and Houston, the Bengals seemingly have begun to turn a corner, particularly with respect to their performances on offense. Cincinnati failed to score a touchdown in either of its first two contests, but the offense came to life in Week 3 at Green Bay, jumping out to an early 21-7 lead and controlling that advantage for most of the game before eventually succumbing to a Packers comeback, losing 27-24 in overtime. And in Game 4 last week at Cleveland, the Bengals' offense erupted for four TDs and a FG in a 31-7 win at FirstEnergy Stadium, earning the team its much-needed first victory.
In addressing the transformation of the offense over the past two games, head coach Marvin Lewis spoke about the collective effort by Bengals players. He also was quick to point out that blowouts like the win at Cleveland often can be few and far between in the NFL, and that a key for the team will be to learn how to finish the games with tighter score margins.
"A change wasn't going to just be one person," Lewis said. "Everybody had to change. Everybody had to do their jobs better. We fought through a tough game (against Green Bay) and we lost in overtime. We can't falter. We're going to have to play the close games all-out, because you don't get many (blowouts) like this one (against Cleveland). It's nice to get a lead and get on a roll, but that doesn't happen a lot. We have to know that we've got to grind in those close games — that those close ones are won in the fourth quarter."
Now the Bengals' focus will be to defeat the Bills and head into the team's Week 6 bye with a 2-3 record and an opportunity to even out their record at Pittsburgh on Oct. 22. But that's no easy task. Cincinnati and Buffalo enter this week's contest as mirror images of each other in the standings, with the Bengals at 1-3 and the Bills at 3-1. And continuing to cross the goal line effectively may prove to be particularly difficult against Buffalo, which enters the game ranked No. 1 in the league in points allowed at just 13.1 per game.
"You can't win two until you win one," Lewis said. "That's what I kept telling the players. All we can do is win one at a time. Now we have to go get ready for the Bills."
QB Andy Dalton has led the charge in the offense's revival the past two weeks. Under the guidance of former QBs coach Bill Lazor, who assumed offensive coordinator responsibilities after the first two games, Dalton recorded passer ratings of 124.1 at Green Bay and 146.0 at Cleveland. Against the Browns, Dalton completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was his fourth career game with four or more TD passes, and his first since Game 15 of the 2013 season. At one point in the Browns game, he had logged 16 consecutive completions. That was the second-longest streak of completions in a game in team history, behind only the team record of 20 straight completions by former QB Ken Anderson in the 1982 regular-season finale on Jan. 2, 1983 at Houston.
Aiding Dalton's efforts at Cleveland was third-year TE Tyler Kroft, who had six receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The receptions, yards and TDs all were career highs for Kroft, who has started all four games and assumed the No. 1 TE spot in place of Tyler Eifert, who missed Games 3 and 4 with a back injury.
For the most part this season, the Bengals' defense has been solid. The team enters this weekend's game ranked No. 3 in the NFL in net defense (273.3 yards allowed per game) and No. 3 in points allowed (16.8).
"I think guys are comfortable with what we're doing, and guys are playing with more confidence," Dalton said. "I think that's what it comes down to. We have to keep getting better. (The Cleveland game) was good for us, and we have to carry it into next week and use it as momentum. There's a lot of season left."
The series: Buffalo has been a fairly consistent non-division opponent for Cincinnati recently, with the two teams meeting in six of the last eight seasons. The Bills lead the series 16-14 overall.
The Bills won the last meeting, a 16-12 victory last season at Paul Brown Stadium. That loss broke a three-game Bengals win streak which dated back to the 2011 season. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is 3-1 against the Bills.
Prior to 2011, the Bills had won 10 straight against the Bengals, the longest winning streak on record by any team against Cincinnati. The Bills amassed that long winning streak after suffering a loss in the biggest game to date, the 1988 AFC Championship at Riverfront Stadium. The Bengals won that one 21-10, advancing to Super Bowl XXIII. The AFC Championship win left Cincinnati with a five-game winning streak over Buffalo.
Despite its streaky nature, the series balances out to be a competitive affair. The Bills' 16-14 overall lead includes two playoff losses to the Bengals. The Bengals' other playoff victory over Buffalo was in a 1981 season Divisional round contest at Riverfront Stadium. The 28-21 win advanced Cincinnati into its "Freezer Bowl" AFC title win against San Diego.
The Bengals are 9-7 against the Bills in Cincinnati, but just 1-4 vs. Buffalo at Paul Brown Stadium.
Team bests from the series:
Bengals — MOST POINTS: 52, in a 52-21 victory at Riverfront Stadium in 1984. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 31, from the 1984 victory at Riverfront. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 5, in a 5-0 loss to the Bills at Buffalo in 1978.
Bills — MOST POINTS: 51, in a 51-24 victory at Buffalo in 1979. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 27, in the 1979 game at Buffalo. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0 (twice), most recently in a 14-0 win at Cincinnati in 1980.
The last meetings: Summaries of the last two Bengals-Bills meetings — in 2015 at Buffalo and in '16 at Cincinnati — are on page 16 of this news release.
Records vs. Bills: On Sept. 9, 1979, Buffalo RB Roland Hooks became the first opponent to score four touchdowns in a game against the Bengals. He is now one of three players to share that record, and he also shares the record for total points in a game against Cincinnati (24).
On Oct. 21, 1991, Bills QB Jim Kelly became the second opponent to pass for five TDs against Cincinnati. Five players now share that record.
On Nov. 4, 2007, Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh scored a TD vs. Buffalo, giving him at least one TD in eight straight games to open the season, the longest in Bengals history to open a campaign. He was not able to extend the streak to nine in the next game.
On Nov. 21, 2010, Bills WR Stevie Johnson became the most recent Bengals opponent with three TD receptions in a game. Johnson is among eight players to do it.
Andy bests the Bills: Bengals QB Andy Dalton has just a 85.6 career passer rating against the Bills, but he is 3-1 against them. He has 90 completions in 152 attempts (59.2 percent) for 1105 yards (276.3 yards per game), eight TDs and five INTs.
Dalton's best passer rating against the Bills — 118.6 — came in the Bengals' 34-21 win in 2015 at Buffalo. Dalton completed 22 of 33 for 248 yards, with three TDs and no INTs in that game.
The 2011 Bengals-Bills game in Cincinnati was one of the pivotal victories in the young career of Dalton. The 2011 Bengals team was considered to be undergoing a rebuilding effort and was widely forecast to finish last in the AFC North Division. It entered the Buffalo game at 1-2 against a 3-0 Bills club. The Bills seemed to validate the bleak Bengals forecast by mounting a 17-3 halftime lead. But rookie Dalton and the Bengals stormed back to win, 23-20, and it became the starting point for a five-game win streak. K Mike Nugent kicked a 43-yard FG as time expired to win that '11 game against the Bills, and Dalton had a TD pass and a rushing TD in the second half. Cincinnati went on to finish 9-7 and earn a Wild Card playoff berth.
Other current Bengals skill position performers who have played against Buffalo include:
● WR A.J. Green: Four games; 14-for-257 receiving (18.4) with one TD.
● HB Giovani Bernard: Three games; 30-for-99 rushing (3.3) with one TD; 12-for-135 receiving (11.25) and one TD.
● TE Tyler Eifert: Three games; Nine receptions for 80 yards (8.9) and
● H-B Ryan Hewitt: Two games; One reception for 16 yards.
● HB Jeremy Hill: Two games; 32-for-118 rushing (3.9); three receptions for 14 yards (4.7) and one TD.
● WR Tyler Boyd: One game; Six receptions for 54 yards (9.0) and a TD.
● WR Alex Erickson: One game; One reception for seven yards.
● WR Brandon LaFell: One game; Four receptions for 32 yards (8.0).
Bengals-Bills connections: Bills WR Brandon Tate played for the Bengals from 2011-15 ... Bills DT Adolphus Washington is from Cincinnati (Taft High School) and played at Ohio State University ... Bills LB Preston Brown is from Cincinnati (Northwest High School) and played at the University of Louisville ... Bills C Eric Wood is from Cincinnati (Elder High School) and played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals LB Nick Vigil and Bills LB Zach Vigil (practice squad) are brothers ... Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett played (1979-86) and coached ('88-90) for the Bills ... Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier coached for the Bengals from 2003-04 ... Bills DE Jerel Worthy is from Huber Heights, Ohio (Wayne High School) ... Bills S Micah Hyde is from Fostoria, Ohio (Fostoria High School) ... Bills G John Miller played at the University of Louisville ... Bills TE Keith Towbridge (Reserve/Injured) is from Toledo, Ohio (Central Catholic High School) and played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals TE Mason Schreck (Reserve/Injured) played at the University of Buffalo ... Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander is from Rochester, N.Y., and played at Cortland State University from 1979-81 ... Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle coached at Syracuse University from 1991-93 ... Bengals quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor played (1990-93) and coached ('94-2000) at Cornell University. He also coached at the University of Buffalo from '01-02 ... Bengals offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Dan Pitcher is from Cortland, N.Y., and played (2008-11) and coached ('12) at Cortland State University ... Bills linebackers coach Bob Babich coached at Bowling Green State University in 1991.
Bengals career records watch: Here is a look at potential upcoming movement in the Bengals' career records book (regular-season).
● QB Andy Dalton has 23,106 career passing yards, 4043 shy of QB Boomer Esiason (27,149) for second place all-time. QB Ken Anderson (32,838) is the Bengals' all-time leader. Dalton passed QB Carson Palmer (22,694) for third place all-time in Game 3, Sept. 24 at Green Bay.
● Dalton also has 21 career 300-yard passing games, two shy of the Bengals' all-time leader, QB Boomer Esiason (23).
● Dalton also has 2002 career completions, 13 shy of Esiason (2015) for third place all-time. Anderson (2654) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Dalton also has 3183 career passing attempts, 34 shy of Palmer (3217) for third place all-time. Anderson (4475) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Dalton also has 148 career TD passes, six shy of Palmer (154) for third place all-time. Anderson (197) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● WR A.J. Green has 51 career TDs, two shy of WR Isaac Curtis (53) for fifth place all-time. FB Pete Johnson (70) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Green also has 51 career receiving TDs, two shy of WR Isaac Curtis (53) for third place all-time. WR Chad Johnson (66) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Green also has 506 career receptions, one shy of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (507) for third place all-time. Johnson (751) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Green has 29 career 100-yard receiving games, two shy of the Bengals' all-time leader, WR Chad Johnson (31).
● HB Jeremy Hill has 29 career rushing TDs, eight shy of HB James Brooks and FB Larry Kinnebrew (37 each) for fourth place all-time. Bengals FB Pete Johnson (64) is the all-time leader.
● P Kevin Huber has 28,431 career punting yards, 876 shy of P Pat McInally (29,307) for second place all-time. P Lee Johnson (32,196) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● CB Adam Jones has 1065 punt return yards in his Bengals career, 136 shy of CB Lemar Parrish (1201) for third place all-time. WR Brandon Tate (1411) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Jones also has one career punt return for a TD. One more would tie him for second-most all-time with WR Peter Warrick, WR Craig Yeast and CB Mitchell Price (each with two). Parrish (four) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● DE Carlos Dunlap has 58 career sacks, one shy of DE Ross Browner (59) for third place all-time. DE Eddie Edwards (83.5) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● DT Geno Atkins has 55 career sacks, three shy of DE Carlos Dunlap (58) for fourth place all-time and four shy of Browner (59) for third place. Edwards (83.5) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
Defense riding league-best sack streak: The Bengals last week recorded two sacks against the Browns, extending their streak of games with at least one sack to a league-leading 33 games (regular-season only). The next-closest team is Washington, which has 28 consecutive games with a sack, followed closely by Green Bay (27) and Arizona (24).
The Bengals' streak began in Week 4 of 2015, in a 36-21 home win over Kansas City in which the defense tallied five sacks. The Bengals were last held without a sack the week before, in a 28-24 Cincinnati win on Sept. 27, 2015 at Baltimore.
The longest streak of this type in Bengals history came in the early 1980s, when the team strung together 50 consecutive games with a sack over parts of five seasons (Nov. 8, 1981 to Sept. 15, 1985). The most recent NFL team to reach 33 was Green Bay, whose streak of 42 spanned from 2012 to '15.
Over Cincinnati's 33-game streak, the Bengals have recorded 81 sacks for 518 yards. Twenty different Bengals have at least a half sack over the span, and the defense has logged more than one sack in 23 of the 33 games. DT Geno Atkins has totaled the most sacks during the current streak, with 21, and he has recorded at least a half sack in 18 of the games. DE Carlos Dunlap is a close second, with 20, and has logged at least a half sack in 16 different games.
Through the first four games of 2017, seven different Bengals have recorded at least one sack. The Bengals have 12 sacks through four games this season and rank fifth in the NFL in sacks per pass play.
Dalton bounces back: Bengals QB Andy Dalton started the season with an uncharacteristic first two games, posting passer ratings of 28.4 (second lowest of his career) and 76.4. Unusual for sure, for the Bengals' all-time leader in passer rating (89.1).
But perhaps even more unusual, he was inaccurate, posting completion percentages of 51.6 and 57.1 in the two contests, for a combined 54.5 percentage over the two-game stretch. That mark, again, paled in comparison to his career 62.7 percentage (second in Bengals history). He had no TDs and four INTs through Week 2, ranking 33rd in the NFL in passer rating and 32nd in completion percentage.
But any tales of his demise were short-lived, as the seventh-year pro has bounced back with consecutive games that rank among the best two-game stretches of his career. In Game 3 at Green Bay, Dalton posted a 124.1 passer rating, with two TD passes and no INTs. And in Game 4 at Cleveland, he posted the second-best rating of his career, 146.0, with four TD passes and no INTs.
And his accuracy was back, too. His 77.8 completion percentage at Green Bay at the time tied for the third-best of his career for a single game. But he outdid himself the next week at Cleveland, with a career-best 83.3 completion percentage (previous best was 78.8 in Game 1 of 2013) on 25 of 30 passing. Over the two-game stretch, Dalton completed 80.7 percent of his passes (46 of 57), the most accurate two-game stretch for any Bengals passer (minimum 20 attempts) in 35 years (Ken Anderson, 81.7 in Games 8-9 of 1982). Previously, Dalton's most accurate two-game stretch came in Games 2-3 of 2012, when he registered a 74.1 completion percentage.
Dalton now ranks 15th in the NFL in passer rating, and has jumped all the way to a tie for seventh in completion percentage.
Bengals' D gets off the field: The Bengals' defense this year has proven adept at forcing opposing offenses off the field in a hurry. The defense has held opponents without a first down on 20 drives (out of 47 total) this season, good for fourth-most in the NFL behind Houston (28), Arizona (22) and Denver (21). That means opposing offenses this season have failed to make a first down on 42.6 percent their drives against the Bengals, a rate that ranks seventh in the league.
These instances are typically referred to as 'three-and-outs,' although they technically include all possessions in which the opposing offense is held without a first down.
Last week, the Bengals held Cleveland without a first down on five drives.
Geno's sack streak halted at six: Bengals DT Geno Atkins' most productive sack streak of his stellar eight-year career ended in Game 2 at Green Bay, when he was held without a sack for the first time since Game 12 of last season. Atkins had recorded at least a half sack in six consecutive games. His streak of six tied for the longest streak in Bengals history with DE Eddie Edwards (1983), LB Reggie Williams ('84) and current DE Carlos Dunlap (2010), and it had also been the longest active streak in the NFL at the time.
Over the span of the streak, Atkins recorded 7.5 sacks for 51.5 yards. He had two multi-sack efforts during the streak — two sacks for 19 yards in Game 13 at Cleveland last season (the first game in the streak), and two sacks in Week 2 of 2017 vs. Houston.
Atkins has 55 sacks for his career, fourth place all-time in team history and the most ever by a Bengals interior lineman.
Bengals D top five in seven categories: Riding the strength of last week's performance, in which it gave up just seven points at Cleveland, the Bengals defense is off to a fast start a quarter of the way through the 2017 campaign. The unit ranks in the top five in the NFL in seven major categories — total defense (third; 273.3), yards per play (third; 4.4), pass defense (third; 164.8), yards per pass play (third; 4.8), scoring defense (third; 16.8), first downs per game (tied for fourth, 17.3) and sacks per pass play (fifth; 0.09). The defense also ranks in the top 10 in third down efficiency (eighth; 22/60, 36.7 percent).
Bengals D keeps 'em off the board: The Bengals defense has made its mark in scoring defense over the last few seasons, and that momentum has carried into 2017. The unit currently ranks third in the NFL in points per game, allowing only 16.8 points per contest. Dating back to Week 10 of last season, when the defense held Buffalo to 16 points in a losing effort at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals have held opponents to fewer than 20 points in eight of the last 11 games. Over that 11-week stretch, the Bengals have held opponents to an average of 15.6 points per contest.
The Bengals last season finished eighth in scoring defense (19.7), thanks in large part to a seven-game stretch to close the year in which it held opponents under 20 points six times while allowing a scoring average of 15.0. That followed a 2015 campaign in which they ranked second in scoring defense (17.4). In 2014, Paul Guenther's first as defensive coordinator, Cincinnati ranked 12th in scoring defense.
"My job is to limit points, period," Guenther said. "That's what I get paid to do. It's not holding them to 200 yards but have three plays be touchdowns. Regardless of where they get the ball — if we turn it over (on offense) and it's the 10-yard line — let's go play defense. Hold them to three. I'm paid to keep them off the scoreboard."
Also of note regarding the defense:
● Cincinnati also has a top-10 ranking this season (ninth) in red-zone TD percentage, allowing TDs on only five of 11 opponent trips inside the 20 (45.5 percent). The defense finished 2016 ranked seventh in that category, allowing TDs on only 51 percent of opponent chances in the red zone (25 of 49).