Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Leodis McKelvin/Terrence McGee vs. Terrell Owens –For the second straight week the matchup to keep an eye on will be out wide. McKelvin and McGee are expected to share the assignment with McKelvin handling return duties and McGee just about fully recovered from the nerve problem in his leg. Owens is on pace to set single-season career marks in receptions and receiving yards. He'll want to keep that pace and put on a show.
2. Donte Whitner vs. Jermaine Gresham –The Bills fared a bit better defensively against the tight ends last week, but still gave up seven catches for 84 yards. Last week against the Colts, Gresham had a career-best nine catches for 85 all by himself. He leads all AFC rookies in receptions. Whitner is likely the best matchup to run with the athletic rookie.
3. Lee Evans vs. Leon Hall –The pair of former first-round picks should make for an entertaining matchup. Hall is again the Bengals interception leader this season with four INTs after leading the team in that category each of his previous three seasons. Evans is due to score as Fitz hasn't found him in the end zone in the last three games.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage –Kick return – Yes, the Bills are down their top kick returner this week with C.J. Spiller on the shelf, but Buffalo has their franchise record holder for kick return yards in a season as their reserve. There will be no drop off with Leodis McKelvin returning kicks and against the Bengals 29th ranked coverage unit, there could be a big one coming back.
Best advantage –Pass game – Cincinnati is second to last in the league in sacks with just nine in nine games. Not having top pass rusher Antwan Odom again this week will not help despite the fact that he's now off suspension. Provided Buffalo's ground game is effective enough to keep the defense honest, Ryan Fitzpatrick should have time to hit his receivers and move the ball consistently.
Bills Number 1 Must
Win Red Zone –Buffalo has been very productive in the red zone on offense. Through nine games the Bills lead the league in red zone touchdown percentage (68.4%). Though Buffalo's red zone defense ranks just 25th, Cincinnati's red zone play on both sides of the ball is average (defense – 16th) to below average (offense – 21st). They have to win most of the plays inside the 20 to take this one.
Close gamesThe Bengals, much like the Bills, have wound up on the wrong end of a handful of close games thus far this season. After a 2-1 start Cincinnati is reeling having lost six straight. Four of their last six losses have been decided by six points or less and their average margin of defeat over the six-game span is 5.8 points per game.
Stuck in neutralCincinnati was the ninth best rushing team in football in 2009 and it was instrumental in helping the Bengals win the AFC North last year. This season however, the production is down 36 yards per game and leading rusher Cedric Benson is struggling averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Even worse Benson is dealing with a foot injury suffered in last week's game, and right tackle Andre Smith was lost for the season to a broken foot.
Giveaway giftsWith the Bengals run game struggling to be productive, it's often left their offense one-dimensional. As a result Carson Palmer has the third most pass attempts in the league thus far this season and though he's done a great job of spreading the ball around to his receiving targets he also has 11 interceptions, including three in last week's loss at Indianapolis. Cincinnati has also coughed the ball up on fumbles eight times in nine games. Their 19 giveaways rank second most in the AFC.
No Ocho?Chad Ochocinco was limited in practice Wednesday and then did not practice altogether on Thursday due to a painful shoulder injury. The receiver sustained the injury in the second half of the Bengals loss to the Colts last Sunday. Ochocinco told Cincinnati reporters that the shoulder was still swollen mid-week and extremely sore. Though he's expected to play it could limit his effectiveness Sunday.
Rookie contributorsThe Bengals added a couple of promising rookies to their offense. Tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver Jordan Shipley were taken in the first and third rounds respectively this past April. Through nine games both sit third and fourth on the team in receptions and receiving yards. Gresham has been more of a red zone threat with three touchdowns on the season while Shipley has been a go-to guy on third downs. Shipley is tied for third in the AFC with 15 third down receptions this season.
New booterBengals kicker Mike Nugent suffered a knee injury (torn ACL) in last Sunday's game at Indy and was put on season-ending injured reserve. Cincinnati was reportedly turned down by recently released veteran Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed. Instead the Bengals signed Aaron Pettrey, who does not have an NFL regular season attempt on his resume. The Ohio State product was most recently with the Lions in training camp this past summer. The report on him is that he's very good on kickoffs, but a bit inconsistent on field goals.
Quote of the Week"Should, could, would, is kind of always the story. You still have to go out to do it. The Bengals have lost a number of close games like we have. We have to find a way to come out on top."
--WR Lee Evans
Stat of the WeekRyan Fitzpatrick is the top-rated passer on third downs in the AFC completing over 68 percent of his passes, averaging over eight yards per attempt with five touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 110.
Cincinnati's Carson Palmer is the lowest-rated passer on third downs in the AFC completing just 50 percent of his passes, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and four interceptions and a passer rating of 59.8.
Milestones in reachRyan Fitzpatrick is just 251 passing yards away from 6,000 for his career.
Fred Jackson needs 47 receiving yards for 1,000 in his career.
Steve Johnson needs six catches to record his first career 50-reception season.
Drayton Florence needs two pass breakups to mark his fifth season with 10 or more passes defensed.
Final noteThe Bills have won nine straight games against the Bengals. It's tied for the longest win streak ever against the Bengals. A nine game streak against Cincinnati was also accomplished by the Miami Dolphins.