A couple of AFC teams that both finished with six wins last year seem to be headed in opposite directions starting the 2019 season. The 2-0 Bills come home to face the 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals this week.
Here are some of the top storylines to follow as the Bills prepare for their 2019 home opener:
1. FINALLY HOME
The Bills finally get to “defend their dirt” after the team established a franchise first with two straight wins on the road to start the season. They’ve won six of their last 10 home openers. But most importantly, Buffalo has a chance to start the season with a three-game winning streak. The last time the franchise did that was 2011.
“We’re excited to play at home,” head Coach Sean McDermott said this week. “It’s good to be home in front of our fans. Yet the preparation still has to be the same in terms of our process. Within that, they have to understand sometimes there are some things we have to handle, tickets-- you know all of that process is a little bit different. So, we want to get that squared away as early as we can and get focused on our preparation.”
2. WILL 'THE MOTOR' BE RUNNING?
The status of rookie running back Devin Singletary will be a focus this week. He pulled up with a hamstring strain with five minutes to go in the win over the Giants last Sunday. McDermott says Singletary is “day-to-day.”
He’s only had 10 carries in the first two games, and caught five passes, but Singletary has already become an important sparkplug for the Buffalo offense. He averages 12.7 yards per carry, and ‘Motor’ has generated big plays through the first two weeks when the Bills have needed them the most.
3. THE ULTIMATE DUAL THREAT: JOSH ALLEN
Bills quarterback Josh Allen is opening eyes around the league with his performance in the first two games. And since halftime of the opener against the Jets, he has put up outstanding numbers.
In the last six quarters of play, Allen has completed 68 percent of his passes for 355 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Allen is running the ball well also. He scored Buffalo’s first touchdown against the Giants on a six-yard called run around the right side. And with that score, Allen became the second-fastest quarterback in NFL history to hit 10 career rushing touchdowns (in his 14th game). Cam Newton did it in his 11th game.
Going back to last season’s finale against Miami, Allen has produced a passing and rushing touchdown in three consecutive games, the first NFL player to do that since Newton did it six years ago.
4. ‘SMOKE’ SIGNALS
The early production from free agent acquisition John ‘Smoke’ Brown has been exactly what the Bills were missing last year. He’s been targeted 18 times in the first two games and caught 14 passes, averaging 13.9 yards per catch.
Only eight NFL receivers have more receptions through the first two weeks. Brown is on a pace for a Bills-record 112 receptions this year. And his production is not simply coming with deep shots downfield. The Bills put him to work over the middle, out of the slot, and in the short passing game as well, lining up he and his receiving teammates all over the field.
“We like to move our guys into different spots,” receiver Cole Beasley told One Bills Live on Monday. “John (Brown) will get some snaps in the slot, I’ll get some in the slot, and then I’ll move outside and everybody else, too. ‘Dabs’ (OC Brian Daboll) does a good job of moving everybody everywhere and giving them different looks. They’ve got to play us a lot differently depending on who’s there.”
5. BENGALS MISSING THEIR TOP TARGET
The Bengals head to Buffalo not likely to have top wide receiver A.J. Green in uniform. He tore ligaments in his ankle on the first day of training camp. Green has resumed some running on the side, but he’s not expected to play this week.
Cincinnati has found success with another receiver, however, former first rounder John Ross. The ninth overall pick in the draft two years ago, Ross ran a record-setting 4.22 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine in 2017.
His first two seasons were quiet, but Ross has come around in the Bengals first two games this year. He caught two touchdown passes and finished with 158 yards against Seattle in their opener. And he followed that up with four catches for 112 yards against the Niners last Sunday, including a 66-yard touchdown catch.
6. A HOMECOMING FOR FORMER BILLS
A trio of recent Bills early draft picks come back to Orchard Park this week to play against their former team.
John Miller, drafted by the Bills in the third round in 2015, starts at right guard for Cincinnati, after leaving in free agency in March. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is on the Bengals roster, but the former second round pick of the Bills has yet to play this year. He suffered a concussion in week two of preseason and hasn’t played since.
Linebacker Preston Brown, the Bills third round pick in 2014, has settled in for his second year in his hometown. He led Cincinnati with 14 tackles Sunday against San Francisco.
7. BENGALS QUARTERBACK ROOM HAS BUFFALO TIES
Cincinnati’s quarterback depth chart is familiar to Bills fans, and probably somewhat popular, too.
At the top is veteran Andy Dalton, returning to New Era Field for the second time since he engineered the game-winning touchdown pass that put the Bills into the 2017 postseason. Dalton received a warm ovation from Bills fans the last time he played in Orchard Park during a preseason game in August 2018. The reception may not be as warm this week.
He’s been inactive the first two games, but Hamburg native Jake Dolegala is expected to make the trip home as Cincinnati’s third quarterback. Dolegala, a product of St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, and Central Connecticut State, had a great preseason for the Bengals that earned him a roster spot.
He’s the grandson of all-time Bills great Al Bemiller, the center on the AFL Championship teams of the mid-1960s.
And the Bengals quarterbacks’ coach is Alex Van Pelt, who played nine seasons as a backup quarterback for the Bills, spent two years as the color commentator on the Bills Radio Network, and four years after that as a Bills offensive assistant coach.