Past due vs. Bills

In the NFL, a week might as well be an era after some errors.

Just ask the Bengals.com media forum.

Last week, the redhead was the fair-haired boy when the Bengals' Andy Dalton joined Dan Marino as the only rookie quarterback since the NFL merger to start their careers with two 100-plus passer ratings and nearly everyone picked the Bengals at home over the 49ers.

Well, the Bengals are at home again Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-ESPN 1530) against the Bills but after Dalton couldn't engineer a TD and had a number closer to a golf score than a passer rating (40), The Forum now Fears the Beard of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick instead.

But while The Forum is giving the nod to the Bills, they see a one touchdown game or less that could still go either way if Dalton or Fitzpatrick produce the fatal turnover late. Last week Dalton threw his first two NFL interceptions in the game's final 4:54 and the Bengals got beat. Fitzpatrick threw his two picks of the game in the first quarter and lived to slay the Patriots at the gun.

This week's Forum has a definite Ralph Wilson Stadium flavor with two voices that have dominated the local sports scene for two decades at The Buffalo News.

Reading columnist Jerry Sullivan has become a Western New York morning ritual rivaling only scraping windshields, and sometimes his tell-it-like-it-is canons can do that, too. But he's riding Fitzypalooza on this one, although he wonders how far the Bills can go with a punchless pass rush.     

News beat man Mark Gaughan has covered the Bills from Levy to Fitzy and is taking them in this one. Dalton may be better, but after chronicling Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman, and a cast of thousands, Gaughan knows how tough it is to favor a rookie quarterback.

The estimable Steve Wyche of the NFL Network, who made his name with his exhaustive coverage of Michael Vick's exit in Atlanta, always has a home here. Although he likes Dalton and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's aggressive, relentless scheme, he doesn't know where the Bengals are going to get the points to keep up with the Bills offense. But he sees a defensive grind job for PBS just like last week.

The one dissenting voice, a former top NFL personnel man for multiple clubs that we call The Guru, gives the Bengals the edge because of their young, athletic defensive line that is pitted against an offensive line that has some flaws.

SULLIVAN

"The fans are loving it. No question about it. It came out of nowhere, but they're hot and it looks like they're legit because they've got a lot of guys that can hurt you.

"I'm still a little skeptical. It reminds me a lot of the game in Arizona in '08 when the Bills were 4-0 and got beat by a 2-2 team out there. Plus, they've had no pass rush at all. Shawne Merriman (OLB) was supposed to help them there and he hasn't done much yet. I mean, Jason Campbell carved them up for 323 yards, so what's that say?

"And I may not be showing enough respect for Cincinnati's defense. They're playing well and I don't know how they bounced back after last year's game against the Bills. They not only gave up 49 points, but people were wondering if they quit after Fred Jackson broke one at the end. But they've looked good.

"But you know the Bills can score. They've got a lot of guys. I mean, Fred Jackson is an absolute beast. He can hurt you catching, too, and Fitzy is keeping it all together and when you've got a smart guy that gets rid of the ball…"

THE EDGE, Bills, 27-20

GAUGHAN

"The Bills defense is much better than last year. They've played good offenses the last two weeks and have been tested. The Raiders run the ball great, but for only 3.6 per against the Bills. Their first pick, Marcell Dareus at defensive tackle, has been a big difference and so has linebacker Nick Barnett. I'm not so sure Bengals running back Cedric Benson is going to have the day he had last year (124 yards) against them.

"The Bills just have so many options and Jackson makes them so dangerous. The fact it's also not going to be a homefield advantage helps the Buffalo offense."

EDGE, Bills, 28-20

WYCHE

"I think this is going to be a grind job just like last week against the 49ers. I don't think the Bills are going to get off offensively against a much disciplined Bengals defense that's getting great play out of its line. But at the same time, can the Bengals put up enough points? It's their albatross and will be all year.

"The Bills are so diverse offensively. Fitzpatrick can beat you in the pocket and out of the pocket. Chan Gailey is one of the best offensive coaches in the league and always has been to get big-time play out of guys you've never heard of. Mike Zimmer is one of the best D-coordinators in the league, so it's a great matchup of minds. The Bengals defensive line has to reset the line of scrimmage and not let Jackson pick his holes back there, and they can't let him leak out of the backfield for those 12-, 16-, 18- yard catches.

"And I think the Bengals offensive line has to take over. They need to run the ball and control the clock and keep the Bills off the field. Cedric Benson got, what, two 100-yard games against the Ravens a few years ago? The Bengals can run the ball. They've got to let that line do what it does best and pound it and stick with it and give it some traction.

"Dalton is OK. He's a game manager. Most rookie QBs are, except for Cam Newton and he's got the same record. They're not hitting home runs, and that's OK. I like how they're handling him. And he's clearly a capable starter and there's nothing wrong with that, but he's capable more along the lines of Colt McCoy than Cam Newton."

EDGE: Bills, 17-10

THE GURU

"I like what the Bengals are doing. They're the kind of team that's going to get better as the season goes along. I like the young quarterback. He's accurate and I think he's in a good offense for him.

"I think Cincinnati's defensive line is going to give the Bills offensive line problems. Buffalo has some issues there and the Bengals have some young guys up front that are athletic and quick. Not a great matchup there for the Bills.

"Cincinnati ought to be able to move the ball, and I think they can throw it on the Bills. They don't get much of a pass rush and the Bengals have got real threats with the rookie receiver (A.J. Green) and the tight end (Jermaine Gresham). New England and Oakland certainly did throw it on them.

THE EDGE: Bengals, 21-17

THE BOTTOM LINE

Just like last year, this is going to be a red-zone, turnover game in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick threw his pick-six in the first half and survived. Carson Palmer threw his end-zone pick in the third quarter with a three-point lead and the meltdown was on.

Interceptions are going to be big. The Bengals secondary doesn't have one. The Bills DBs have six. Buffalo's crossing routes and timing patterns supposedly allow for the defense to get tips and deflections that have to be caught. They need to do what Bills safety George Wilson did last year. That red-zone pick of Palmer in Game 10 was the Buffalo's secondary first pick of the season.

If the Bengals can slow the Bills in the red zone, where they've had 11 TDs in 14 trips, and the Bengals can snap out of their 3-for-8 doldrums, they can win.

But they have to stop the tight end. Vernon Davis hurt them between the 20s last week, but not in the red zone. They better find Bills tight end Scott Chandler in there. Four of his nine catches have gone for touchdowns.

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