The Bills travel to Cincinnati this weekend in a game that will either send them to 4-1 or drop them to 3-2. A win would have huge implications on their playoff aspirations. Here are my keys to the game for the Bills:
1. Get the run game going.
Last week was better than the previous two, but the Bills need to get the run game going in this one if they want to improve to 4-1 on the season. The Bengals run defense is currently 17th in the league, allowing about 109 yards per game. The Bills will have to do better than that average this week with the combination of McCoy and Tolbert. For this game, I would highly consider dressing Joe Banyard with the goal of wearing out the run defense as much as possible with a healthy rotation of fresh RB’s. Doing that will allow for Taylor to capitalize on play action to Charles Clay in the passing game, which have been their most effective plays.
2. Get creative in the passing game
The loss of Jordan Matthews will hurt the Bills. Tyrod Taylor has yet to develop any chemistry with rookie WR Zay Jones and the team resigned Philly Brown this week. It is never a good sign when you sign a guy off the street and he is starting the next Sunday. Spending all of the offseason here, Brown is familiar with the offense, but I wouldn’t expect him to put on a show this Sunday. After last week’s performance by Charles Clay, I am sure that the Bengals will do everything they can to take away Clay in the passing game. Rick Dennison is going to have to get creative in making sure that Taylor can still get the ball to Clay and McCoy despite the defenses attention to those players. Unfortunately, the Bengals pass defense is ranked 3rd in the league, so passing yards might be tough to come by in this one. For that reason, Taylor needs to connect when he is given the opportunity and when his receivers get separation.
3. Avoid the trap
I am extremely confident that if the Bills lose this game, it is not going to be because they overlooked the Bengals. Overlooking a team is not in Sean McDermott’s DNA. All of the language that we have seen out of One Bills Drive this week is consistent with who McDermott is. The players are stressing playing hungry, claiming that nobody ever won anything after 4 games, and that each and every week deserves their entire focus. It is key for the Bills to remain true to that for the duration of the game. Once 1pm comes along on Sunday, the Bills should forget about the fact that the Bengals are 1-3, but treat them just as they did the Falcons last week.
4. Protect the football
The Bills are very good at this. Buffalo has only turned the ball over once this year, which is tied for the second best in the league. For the Bills to win this one, that trend will have to continue. It is pivotal that the Bills do not give their opposition extra possessions and short fields, just as the Falcons did last week. With the Bills rushing the ball as much as they (hopefully) will, preaching ball security to the running backs will be key.
If these happen, I give the Bills a great shot to leave Cincinnati with a 4-1 overall record, 3-0 record in the AFC, and on top of the AFC East for another week.