Buffalo Bills fans will forever have a special place in their hearts for Andy Dalton, the quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals whose 49-yard touchdown toss to Tyler Boyd on 4th-and-12 clinched the playoff berth for the Bills and snapped Buffalo’s 17-season playoff drought. That moment sent all of Western New York and #BillsMafia into a raucous celebration on Dec. 31, 2017.
The Bills welcome the Bengals to New Era Field at 1 p.m. Sept. 22 for their 2019 home opener. Despite all the good feels associated with that playoff berth, it’s a certainty the team hopes its defense shows Dalton and the Bengals no mercy as Buffalo goes for its fifth home-opening victory in the last seven seasons.
As our opponent previews for the Bills’ foes in 2019 continues, we went to Cincy Jungle, SB Nation’s Bengals blog for more information on how the Bengals look leading up to the start of the season.
Notable free-agent additions: G John Miller, DE Kerry Wynn, G John Jerry, CB B.W. Webb,
Over/under: 6 wins—Over. While there will be some growing pains with a completely revamped staff, this group of Bengals have shown they can be competitive when healthy. As long as Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Joe Mixon carry the offense while Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap anchor the defense, this team should get to seven wins in what’s ranked as one of the NFL’s ‘easiest’ schedules. But if injuries plague the team again, they could be closer to picking in the top five of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Rookie I’m most excited about: Jonah Williams was the easy call, but he’s the latest victim of the Bengals’ first-round pick curse. I’m actually going with third-round pick Germaine Pratt, a very talented but raw linebacker who began his college career as a safety. He can cover shiftier backs, rush the passer and has some serious thump that this linebacker group desperately needs.
Best position battle heading into camp: Linebacker. As mentioned above, this unit needs a lot of help going into next season, and all three spots should be up for grabs, though Preston Brown likely is the middle backer. Pratt, Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans and Malik Jefferson will be at war for those other two spots, though the team plays primarily in nickel. Sterling Sheffield and Chris Worley are two under-the-radar names to watch for as well.
Biggest storyline heading into camp: Andy Dalton. This is arguably the biggest year of Dalton’s career. At age 31, Dalton is in line for one more big contract if he can have a big season under an offensive-minded head coach in Zac Taylor. If that happens, then the Bengals will almost certainly give him an extension next offseason that pays him $20-25 million annually.
But if Dalton struggles and the Bengals finish with a poor record, the team could look to find his replacement in the 2020 draft and slowly phase him out.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp: Carl Lawson. The former fourth-round pick out of Auburn had a very promising rookie campaign, but his sophomore season was cut short due to a torn ACL. With Atkins and Dunlap aging, Lawson has the potential to become Cincinnati’s best pass-rusher if he can get back to his pre-ACL form, but that’s a lot to ask with an injury that can take a full season for players to fully come back from.
After back-to-back contests in New Jersey, the Bills kick off the home portion of the 2019 season vs. the Bengals at New Era Field. Thanks to Cincy Jungle for their thoughts on the Bengals.