Game Preview

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Game Preview: Bengals at Bills

180823-bills-bengals_special_teams_snap (AP)

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; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to Buffalo for a road matchup against the Bills, looking to bounce back from a 41-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last week’s regular-season home opener.

Cincinnati’s defense, which put together a strong Week 1 showing at Seattle, struggled to find its footing last week against San Francisco. After holding the Seahawks to 232 total yards and 72 rushing yards in the opener, the defense allowed 572 total yards and 259 rushing yards to San Francisco last week. The Bengals were also held without a sack against the 49ers, after racking up four sacks and applying consistent pressure to Seahawks QB Russell Wilson a week earlier.

Despite the lopsided Week 2 result, there have been plenty of bright spots for the Bengals so far this season. Bengals QB Andy Dalton enters Week 3 ranked second in the NFL in passing yards (729) and first in completions (61). WR Tyler Boyd’s 18 receptions rank tied for second in the NFL and count as the most in Bengals history through the first two games of a season. And WR John Ross III, who has enjoyed a fast start in 2019 after battling injuries and struggling to find the field in his first two seasons, leads the NFL in receiving yards (270). Ross is also tied for the league lead in receiving TDs (three) and receptions of at least 20 yards (six).

But while the Bengals have flashed their fair share of potential in the first two games, the primary challenge now is putting it all together and getting into the win column quickly.

History shows that a win this week at Buffalo would significantly boost Cincinnati’s hopes of securing a playoff spot later this season. A loss, though, would severely hurt those chances. Over the last 10 years (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.

The Bills enter this week’s matchup 2-0, after wins over the N.Y. Jets and N.Y. Giants to start the season.

The series: Buffalo has been a fairly consistent non-division opponent for Cincinnati recently. This weekend’s game will mark the seventh time in 10 seasons that the two teams have met for a regular-season matchup.

The Bills lead the series 16-15 overall, but the Bengals have won four of the last five meetings, including the last two matchups played at Buffalo. Overall, the Bengals are 5-9 in games at Buffalo.

The Bengals won the last meeting, a 20-16 victory in 2017 at Paul Brown Stadium. Since 2011, when he was drafted, Bengals QB Andy Dalton is 4-1 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’ 16-15 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.

Bengals career records watch: Here is a look at potential upcoming movement in the Bengals’ career records book (regular season):

  • QB Andy Dalton has 4014 career pass attempts, 461 behind QB Ken Anderson (4475) for the Bengals’ all-time lead.
  • Dalton has 2504 career completions, 150 shy of Anderson (2654) for the Bengals’ all-time lead.
  • Bengals WR Alex Erickson has 91 career punt returns, tied with S Tommy Casanova (91) for fifth place all-time and seven shy of CB Adam Jones (98) for fourth place. WR Brandon Tate (153) is the Bengals’ all-time leader.
  • Erickson has 719 career punt return yards, 65 shy of Casanova (784) for fifth place all-time. Tate (1411) is the Bengals’ all-time leader.
  • Erickson has 107 career kickoff returns, eight shy of FB Eric Ball (115) for fifth place all-time. S/CB Tremain Mack (146) is the Bengals’ all-time leader.
  • Erickson has 2522 career kickoff return yards, 230 behind RB Stanford Jennings (2752) for fourth place all-time. Mack (3583) is the Bengals’ all-time leader.
  • DE Carlos Dunlap has 73.5 career sacks, 10 short of DE Eddie Edwards* (83.5) for the Bengals’ all-time lead.
  • DT Geno Atkins has 71 career sacks, 2.5 short of Dunlap (73.5) for second place all-time. Edwards* (83.5) is the Bengals’ all-time leader
  • WR A.J. Green has 63 career receiving TDs, three behind WR Chad Johnson (66) for the Bengals’ all-time lead.
  • Green has 63 total TDs, one short of WR Carl Pickens and RB James Brooks (both with 64) for third place all-time. FB Pete Johnson (70) is the Bengals’ all-time leader.

*—The NFL has counted sacks as official statistics since 1982. However, the Bengals have sack statistics compiled since 1976 and recognize those sacks recorded from ’76-81 in its records. Thus, please note that, because the NFL has sacks statistics for all teams only since 1982, the Bengals’ sack statistics for players whose careers included seasons prior to ’82 will not be included in league information.

Bills fans showed gratitude to Dalton, Boyd: Sunday’s matchup between the Bengals and Bills marks Cincinnati’s first regular-season trip to Buffalo since one of the most memorable and dramatic moments in recent memory for both franchises. With 49 seconds remaining in the Bengals’ 2017 finale at Baltimore, QB Andy Dalton connected with WR Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard TD pass on fourth-and-12, putting the Bengals ahead to stay, 31-27.

The thrilling play sealed a Bengals win, which eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs and gave Buffalo its first postseason berth since 1999. Video of jubilant Bills players watching the play in the locker room after their game in Miami was viewed nationally, and Dalton and Boyd were the talk of the town in Buffalo.

Almost immediately, happy and charitable Bills fans took to the internet to show their appreciation, and they spoke loudest with their wallets. Over the days following the game, the Andy and J.J. Foundation website — AndyDalton.org — was flooded with donations. According to Dalton, the final tally included more than 17,000 donors and over $450,000.

Bills fans also heaped appreciation on Boyd. The third-year WR estimates that more than $100,000 was donated to his cause of choice, the Western Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Association, a youth sports league in his hometown of Clairton, Pa.

Since the Ravens game, both Boyd and Dalton have shown their appreciation to Bills fans in interviews with media and through their own social media accounts. And last year, when the Bengals traveled to Buffalo for a preseason matchup, the board of the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, which includes Andy Dalton’s wife J.J., traveled to Buffalo to present a donation to the Roswell Park Cancer Center.

Uniform watch: The Bengals are scheduled to wear black jerseys and white pants this week at Buffalo.

Since 2004, the year of the Bengals’ last significant uniform redesign, a number of color options for jerseys and pants have been available. Below are the records (regular season plus postseason) for the different combinations:

JERSEY PANTS W-L-T PCT.

  • Orange* Black | 6-1-0 .857
  • Orange* White | 16-6-1 .717
  • White (CR) White (CR) | 2-1-0 .667
  • Black Black | 16-15-1 .516
  • Black White | 36-34-1 .514
  • White Black | 28-35-0 .444
  • White White | 19-30-0 .388

* — NFL rules allow teams to wear designated alternate jerseys, color rush (CR) uniforms and/or throwback uniforms for a combined total of three regular-season games. As in years past, orange served as the Bengals’ designated alternate jersey, and for the third straight year, the team used their color rush uniforms (white jersey, white pants), which debuted in 2016. Cincinnati does not have a throwback uniform.

Bengals-Bills connections: Bills TE Tyler Kroft entered the NFL as a third-round draft pick (85th overall) of the Bengals in 2015, and was with Cincinnati through the ’18 season ... Bengals G John Miller entered the NFL as third-round draft pick (81st overall) of the Bills in 2015, and was with the team through the ’18 season ... Bengals LB Preston Brown entered the NFL as a thirdround draft pick (73rd overall) of the Bills in 2014, and was with Buffalo through the ’17 season ... Bengals OT Cordy Glenn entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick (41st overall) of the Bills in 2012, and was with the team through the ’17 season ... Bengals QB Jake Dolegala is from Hamburg, N.Y. (St. Francis High School) ... Bills S Kurt Coleman is from Dayton, Ohio (Clayton Northmont High School) and played at Ohio State University ... Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt played for the Bills from 1995-2003, and coached there from ’06-09. He also coached for the University at Buffalo in 2005 ... Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2002-03 ... Bills QB Matt Barkley was with the Bengals during the 2018 offseason ...Bengals CB Tony McRae was with the Bills briefly during the 2017 season ...Bengals TE Mason Schreck (practice squad) played at the University at Buffalo... Bills S Micah Hyde is from Fostoria, Ohio (Fostoria High School) ... Bills TE Nate Becker (practice squad) played at Miami (Ohio) University ... Bengals wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell coached for the Bills from 2010-12 ... Bengals assistant quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher is from Cortland, N.Y., and played (2008-11) and coached (’12) at Cortland State University ... Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo coached at Syracuse University from 1990-91 ...Bengals linebackers coach Tem Lukabu played (2000-03) and coached (’04) at Colgate University ... Bengals assistant offensive line coach Ben Martin coached at Union (N.Y.) College from 2016-17 ... Bills assistant offensive line coach Terry Heffernan played at the University of Dayton from 1999-2002, and coached at the University of Louisville in 2004 and Eastern Kentucky University from 2016-18 ... Bills offensive line coach Bobby Johnson played (1991-94) and coached (’99-2004) at Miami (Ohio) University.

ZT’s offense off to strong start: As the 2019 regular season has gotten underway, all eyes have been on first-year head coach Zac Taylor’s offensive system. And if the first two games are any indication, the new offense has the potential to light up the stat sheet. In his regular-season debut under Taylor, Bengals QB Andy Dalton posted career-highs in both completions (35) and passing yards (418), completed 68.6 percent of his passes, and posted a passer rating of 106.5. It was Dalton’s first career 400-yard passing game, and also counted as the most completions and passing yards by a Bengals QB in a season-opener.

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, Dalton leads the league in completions (61) and ranks second in passing yards (729). And even though star WR A.J. Green has missed the first two games with an ankle injury, the Bengals’ receiving corps has still put up big numbers.

WR Tyler Boyd’s 18 receptions rank tied for second in the NFL this season, and are the most through the first two games of a season in Bengals history. WR John Ross also became the first player in Bengals history with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games to start a season, and his 270 total receiving yards thus far are the second-most through the first two games of a season in Bengals history (Chad Johnson, 304 in 2007). Ross’ 270 receiving yards also lead the NFL through the first two weeks, and his career-long 66-yard receiving TD against San Francisco was the longest Bengals pass play in the team’s last 26 games (70-yard TD from Dalton to WR A.J. Green on Nov. 12, 2017 at Tennessee).

Ross’ happy homecoming: After battling injuries and struggling to stay on the field during his first two NFL seasons, Bengals WR John Ross III admitted over the offseason that he hadn’t been himself.

Nevertheless, there was no shortage of pressure on the Bengals’ 2017 firstround pick (ninth overall) entering his third season. To make matters worse, Ross suffered a hamstring injury just before the Bengals’ first training camp practice, didn’t practice until late August, and didn’t play at all in preseason.

And so it seemed fitting that the Bengals were to open their season in Seattle, home of Ross’ impressive college career at the University of Washington, and in the very stadium (CenturyLink Field) where he worked security in college.

Ross, though, struggled early on with drops, a problem that plagued him during his first two seasons in Cincinnati. But instead of finding himself on the bench, the Bengals stuck with him. After one drop in the second quarter where he would have had room to run for a significant gain, Dalton went right back to Ross on the next play and connected for a 55-yard TD (career-long for Ross).

When all was said and done at Seattle, Ross had posted career highs in receptions (seven), receiving yards (158) and receiving TDs (two). Only one other Bengal had ever broken 150 receiving yards and scored two TDs in a season-opener — A.J. Green in 2013 (162 yards, two TDs at Chicago). Not a bad homecoming. Through the first two weeks of the season, Ross has an NFL-best 270 receiving yards, including six catches for at least 20 yards (tied for league lead).

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