As the calendar flips to October, the message in the locker room is the same for both the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals - there are a lot of games left to be played.
The mood inside each locker room, however, is vastly different.
The surprising Bills look to remain undefeated and continue their dominance over the struggling Bengals when they meet Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
A year after being the NFL's last team to win following an 0-8 start, Buffalo (3-0) is the AFC's lone unbeaten after last Sunday's 34-31 comeback victory over New England. Rian Lindell hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired for the Bills, who overcame a 21-0 second-quarter deficit and snapped a 15-game losing streak to the AFC East champion Patriots.
That was the NFL's longest current winning streak over an opponent, but that distinction now belongs to Buffalo, which has won 10 straight over the Bengals since losses in Cincinnati during the 1988 regular season and AFC championship game.
"It feels good to be 3-0," said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is tied for second in the league with nine touchdown passes. "That being said, we're three games into the season and there's still a lot of games to be played and a lot of work. The goal is to get better every week and we need to continue to do that."
The win over New England came one week after a 38-35 victory over Oakland in which the Bills trailed by 18 points at the half before scoring touchdowns on their last five possessions. Buffalo, off to its best start since opening 4-0 in 2008 and one victory away from matching last season's total, is the NFL's first team to overcoming 18-point deficits in consecutive wins.
"When you go out there and make wins how we did, it just boosts our confidence even more,'' receiver Stevie Johnson said. "Worst to first: You've seen that plenty of times with teams. Why not the Buffalo Bills?''
The Bengals (1-2) also finished last in their division a year ago, but a leap to the top of the AFC North seems far less likely.
Cincinnati is coming off a 13-8 loss to San Francisco in front of the team's smallest crowd for a home opener in 30 years. The offense managed a season-low 228 yards, but coach Marvin Lewis isn't ready to write off his team.
In fact, he all but predicted his team would beat the Bills.
"We're early in the year," Lewis said. "We've got a lot of season ahead of us. And you know, at the end of the week when we're 2-2, there's going to be probably the other third of the league is going to be in the same situation."
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton had his first poor performance last week, throwing his first two interceptions in the fourth quarter. He had passer ratings above 100 in his first two starts, but went 17 of 32 for 157 yards and a rating of 40.8 against the 49ers.
"He did some things we (knew) he might do at some point, but he will come out of it and be fine,'' Lewis said.
Dalton now faces a Buffalo team that leads the NFL with six interceptions after picking off Tom Brady four times.
Running back Fred Jackson celebrated the Bills' win against the Patriots by running around the field with a team flag, but while a letdown seems like a possibility after that astounding comeback, they've had no trouble putting up points against the Bengals lately.
Buffalo's offense has regularly shredded Cincinnati, scoring at least 30 points in each of the last four meetings and in seven of nine.
The Bills are using the same formula for success this year, leading the league in scoring at 37.7 points. Their 113 points are a franchise record over a three-game stretch.
Similar to the norm this season, Buffalo also needed to overcome a significant deficit to beat the Bengals last season. In a 49-31 win at Cincinnati on Nov. 21, the Bills rallied from 21 down and scored 35 unanswered second-half points.
The Bengals couldn't contain Johnson, who caught all three of Fitzpatrick's second-half touchdown strikes. The former Harvard quarterback matched a career high with four TDs in his return to Cincinnati, where he backed up Carson Palmer in 2007 and '08.
Jackson, meanwhile, rushed for 116 yards and two TDs on 21 carries.
Jackson is off to a solid start, ranking fourth in the NFL with 303 yards and second with an average of 6.4 yards per carry. The Bengals, however, are the league's stingiest run defense, allowing 2.9 yards per attempt.
Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson, who on Tuesday appealed a three-game suspension issued for his offseason arrest, will play Sunday.