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Bills/Bengals: What to Watch For


Buffalo Bills (3-4) vs Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)
November 4, 2007 @ Ralph Wilson Stadium
1:00 PM ET, CBS

BUF Injury Report :: CIN Injury Report

With two consecutive wins under their belts, the suddenly viable Buffalo Bills look to continue their winning streak against the Cincinnati Bengals, who despite their 2-5 record boast one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL. With the middle of the regular season upon them, both teams have something to play for - the Bills are fighting to get back into the wild card playoff race; the Bengals are fighting to get back into an AFC North race that isn't close to being as out of reach as the AFC East is.

Cincy Jungle ::

Playing in front of a home crowd, this is a must-win game for a young Bills squad that's eager to prove it can win no matter who is starting at quarterback. A win over a team as talented as the Bengals would not only keep the team alive in the playoff chase, it'd turn some heads as well. Why? Cincinnati's not close to being as poor as their 2-5 record indicates. But they're beatable - here's how the Bills can make that happen.

Offense: Control the Flow of the Game
With Trent Edwards doubtful with a sprained wrist, J.P. Losman will get his first start at quarterback since injuring his knee in Week 3 this season. With Losman under center, don't expect the Bills' game plan to change much against one of the league's worst defenses in Cincinnati. The Bills will employ their usual tactic of running the ball, using a controlled passing game and calculating the best time to throw deep. That's just what they do. They need to do it better than ever this week, however. They have a chance to control the middle of the field with TE Robert Royal - Cincinnati defines "beat up" at linebacker, and they can be exploited in that area. Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish could have an impact in that area of the field as well.

Of the utmost importance this week: controlling the clock, protecting the ball and scoring in the red zone. The Bengals can't be afforded any extra opportunities offensively, so the longer we can hold the ball (and not turn it over), the better. For once, however, we need to convert our long, methodical drives into 6 rather than 3. Cincinnati will get their share of points - we need to outscore them. It's as simple as that.

Players to Watch: QB J.P. Losman, RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Robert Royal

Defense: Make Big Plays
Many people are comparing the Bills' defense to Cincinnati's and saying that they're equally bad. They're half right; Buffalo ranks 30th in overall defense giving up 381.3 yards per game, while the Bengals rank 31st, surrendering 385.4 yards. What these defensive experts are missing is the most important defensive statistic there is: points. (Shouldn't that be obvious, or is it just me?) The Bengals rank 31st in the league, giving up a whopping 30.1 points per game. Buffalo? They're ranked 13th, giving up 19.3. The kicker: the Bengals actually gave up fewer points (34) to the New England Patriots than the Bills did (38). That's how bad Cincy has been in the rest of their games.

The keys to success for the Bills' D: creating big plays. With three elite offensive weapons in QB Carson Palmer, WR Chad Johnson and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, as well as a strong running game behind Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson, the Bengals have the ability to score with ease. They're going to rack up yards. The Bills can keep them off the scoreboard, however, with a strong pass rush and forcing turnovers; that's been the recipe for success to beating Cincinnati this season. Palmer ranks third-to-last among starting quarterbacks with 9 picks in 7 games; a strong pass rush could force him into 1 or 2 more tomorrow. (That pass rush may be getting Ryan Denney back for the first time this year, by the way.)

Players to Watch: DE Chris Kelsay, LB John DiGiorgio, CB Jabari Greer

Special Teams: Do What You Do
No special teams unit has played as important a role in winning football games this season than the Bills'. Even last week, several solid punt returns by Roscoe Parrish allowed the Bills to flip the field, which played a big part in not only gaining an offensive edge, but holding the Jets to 3 points as well. As usual, stellar play is needed from these units again, especially with the team needing a few extra points than normal to knock off a serious Bengals offense.

Keep this in mind: the last time the Bills played the Bengals, in December of 2005, Terrence McGee had the game of his life, scoring touchdowns on a 46-yard interception return and a 99-yard kickoff return in a 37-27 Bills victory. Think he's not licking his chops already? Both McGee and Parrish have the opportunity to break off long returns in this game; we could use them.

Players to Watch: K Rian Lindell, KR Terrence McGee, PR Roscoe Parrish