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Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Stevie Johnson vs. Nate Clements –Johnson, who has a touchdown catch in each of his first three games, will face a former Bills first-round pick in Clements. A free agent pickup of the Bengals, Clements still plays a physical game, but Johnson is an unconventional route runner, which could put Clements in tough spots at times.
2 – George Wilson vs. Jermaine Gresham –Gresham is one of the more athletic tight ends that the Bills will face this season, which will again put the pressure on Buffalo's cover men in the passing game. Wilson is likely to share this coverage assignment with the likes of Bryan Scott and Nick Barnett.
3 – Marcell Dareus vs. Clint Boling –The two college SEC foes square off in a battle of rookies. Boling has gone from college tackle to NFL guard, and he'll still have his hands full with Buffalo's top draft choice. He figures to get some help on most downs run or pass.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Third down defense –The Bills have faced the number one rushing team in football and the number one passing team in football the past two weeks, so their third down defense numbers don't look great, but they should look a lot better going against the worst third down offense in the league in Cincinnati. The Bengals are converting less than 24 percent of their third down opportunities.
Best advantage – Passing weapons –Most NFL clubs have two or three main passing weapons, but through three games Buffalo has proven to have as many as a half dozen. Stevie Johnson and David Nelson lead the team with 20 catches apiece, but three other targets have at least 100 yards receiving on the season or multiple touchdown catches. With Ryan Fitzpatrick's willingness to throw it to anyone that's open, defending Buffalo's pass game has proven supremely difficult.
Bills Number 1 Must
Points early –Despite leading the league in scoring, Buffalo has not scored in the first quarter in each of the past two games and only 33 of their league-leading 113 points have come in the first half (29%). The Bills have to get on the board early to put Cincinnati in a pass first mode putting more pressure on rookie QB Andy Dalton to make plays.
Benson to play SundayCedric Benson has appealed a three-game suspension handed down by the league stemming from assault charges filed against him in the offseason. With no NFL ruling on the appeal this week, Benson is expected to start in Cincinnati's offensive backfield Sunday against the Bills. Benson has been productive thus far for Cincinnati averaging 4.2 yards per carry with a touchdown in three games.
Simpson statusWR Jerome Simpson is under investigation after several pounds of marijuana was reportedly confiscated from his home. To this point Simpson has practiced all week as he has not been arrested by authorities and no charges have been filed. Simpson is Cincinnati's deep threat as he's averaging over 20 yards per reception this season and is second in receiving yards (186).
Batting BengalsThe Cincinnati defense has been getting some credit for their pass rush with nine sacks in their first three outings, including five this past week against San Francisco. However, they've also been effective even when they don't get to the opposing quarterback.
The Bengals front four has a total of nine batted passes in their three games this season. DE Michael Johnson leads the defensive linemen with three thanks in large part to his 6'7" and condor-like wingspan. The defensive line's nine batted passes is only one behind Cincinnati's pass breakup total of 10.
Red zone stinginessThe Bengals defense has been pretty stiff when it comes to allowing teams inside their own 20-yard line thus far this season. Cincinnati has allowed opponents into their red zone just six times this season, tied for fewest in the league. Opposing offenses have managed just three touchdowns on those six possessions good for second fewest in the NFL. In fact of the 39 possessions by opponents in Cincinnati's first three games only 10 have even made it over midfield into Bengals' territory (25%).
Dalton coming alongBengals rookie QB Andy Dalton has had the typical ups and downs experienced by a rookie quarterback. Through his first two games Dalton was 37-56 (66%) for 413 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a win and a loss. Last week against San Francisco however, Dalton was just 17-32 for 158 yards with no touchdowns and a pair of INTs and a passer rating of 40.8.
Cincinnati's passing game has been predominantly short passes aimed at helping Dalton get the ball out quickly and maintain timing with receivers. Dalton ranks 23rd in the league in yards per attempt averaging 6.48 yards per pass.
Tight ends running freeCovering opposing tight ends is one of the few problems that Cincinnati's defense has had so far this season. Cleveland's Ben Watson had three catches for 45 yards including a 34-yard touchdown grab in a Browns win over the Bengals. And this past week Cincinnati had no answer for Vernon Davis, who had eight catches for 114 yards in a grind it out 13-8 win for San Francisco. Safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson have had their share of problems in coverage.
Quote of the Week"We started 0-8 last year, we only one four games and we know how hard wins are to come by and I think with that, I don't think you'll ever see us take a game for granted."
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Stat of the WeekRyan Fitzpatrick in 16 starts for the Bills has 327-552 (59.2%) passing for 3,841 yards with 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and a passer rating of 86.2.
In the best statistical season of his Bills career (1991) Hall of Famer Jim Kelly was 304-474 (64.1%) passing for 3,844 yards with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.6.
*NOTE – Kelly only appeared in 15 games in the 1991 season.
Milestones in reachScott Chandler needs one touchdown reception to become the first Bills tight end with five in a season since 2004 (Mark Campbell, 5).
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs 159 passing yards for 1,000 in 2011.
Rian Lindell needs four field goals to reach 200 in his Bills career.
Final NoteStevie Johnson had a career best three touchdown receptions in Buffalo's come from behind 49-31 victory against the Bengals last season (Nov. 21, 2010).