Top 7 storylines to follow for Bills-Bengals

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1. WHO'S PLAYING?

It's a pertinent question, with all the injuries the Bills have had this year. As the practice week moves along, we should get a better sense of the lineup Buffalo will be able to put on the field, as they fight through their early-season spate of injuries.

One key player to watch is WR Sammy Watkins who has missed the last two games with a calf muscle injury. After a vigorous on field workout Friday and another one Sunday in Tennessee, Rex Ryan is optimistic about Watkins chances of returning to the lineup.

"I was really encouraged with Sammy," Ryan said Monday, "how Sammy went through even with his workout before the game. We thought it was best to give him a little more time. Sometimes you can go on the practice field and all that, but that game speed is a little different and the intensity is certainly different. We thought it was best to just hold him out of that game and get him really ready for this one."

Ryan is holding out hope for injured RB LeSean McCoy this week, and the Bills await clearance on backup RB Karlos Williams, who suffered a concussion in the Giants game nine days ago.

Bills GM Doug Whaley told the morning show at WGR 550 that he's been pleasantly surprised by Karlos Williams progress through the league mandated concussion protocol.

"There haven't been any setbacks," Whaley said. "He had some tests Monday and I'll be getting those reports to see where he is. He's responding to treatment and he's getting better and better. Will he play this weekend? Only time will tell and we'll know later on in the week."

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  1. CAN THE BUFFALO OFFENSE GET UP TO SPEED?**

After flying down the field in their first two possessions against Miami, the Bills offensive attack has been slowed at the start of the last two games.  Against the Giants and the Titans, Buffalo has put up a total of just 3 points in the first half of those two games. The Bills have averaged 64-yards of total first half offense in the last two.

The aforementioned absence of Watkins and McCoy are certainly big factors, but Rex Ryan thinks luck plays a role as well.

"Sometimes you just need a break," he says. "You just need to find a way to make a play. We had some plays out there, but we weren't hitting them."

3. BALTIMORE-THE CRADLE OF COACHES

The coaching staffs of the Bills and the Bengals both trace their roots to the Super Champion Baltimore Ravens of 2000. Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis was the coordinator of the Ravens record-setting defense that year, and Rex Ryan was his defensive line coach.

The defensive coaching staff also featured current Bills DBs coach Donnie Henderson, current NFL Head Coach Jack Del Rio (Oakland) , and former Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith.

4.   GREEN MEANS GO

Bengals WR A.J. Green presents one of the toughest challenges the Bills talented DB corps will face all year. Adriel Jeremiah Green (as Bengals play by play man Dan Hoard frequently calls him) has already caught 31 passes. He put up 227 receiving yards in the Bengals win at Baltimore.

Green has been one of the NFL's top receivers since the Bengals made him the 4th overall draft pick in 2011.

He's likely to see a lot of Bills CB Stephon Gilmore Sunday, and the two have matched up in their high school days in South Carolina and in college in the SEC.  Gilmore is a product of South Pointe HS in Rock Hill, S.C., while Green played at Summerville HS.

"I played against him in college in my freshman year," Gilmore said Tuesday. "We never played against each other in high school, because I played quarterback and he played receiver, so we never really played against each other. But I played against him in college, that's it."

It should be one of the key matchups in Sunday's game.

5. "E' FOR EIFERT

After dislocating his elbow in the first game of 2014, Bengals TE Tyler Eifert has come back with a vengeance. He's got five touchdowns already, and he's third among NFL tight ends with 24 catches this season.

Even as they just begin to dive into the game video of the Bengals, the Bills recognize Eifert as one of the key targets for QB Andy Dalton.     

"He's running a lot of seam routes," Safety Corey Graham says. "He's catching the ball   well. He's catching tough balls. He had some times where they were contested and he found a way to bring it down."

6. ANOTHER WRISTBAND WEEK?

It worked, apparently, Rex Ryan's plan to hand out red wristbands that say "Yes Sir." Bills players wore the wristbands before and during last Sunday's game to remind themselves not to challenge officials' calls, even when they think it was a bad call. The goal—say "Yes Sir," and walk away.

The Bills went from 17-penalties against the Giants to 7 last Sunday in Tennessee. But the focus on avoiding unnecessary penalties is likely to be a constant struggle for the team.

7. NO BLEMISH YET ON THE BENGALS RECORD

Cincinnati brings a 5-0 record to Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday, one of six unbeaten teams in the NFL. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis knows the record, but he plans on keeping his high-flying team grounded this week.

"We don't put the schedule together," Lewis said Monday. "We knew our job was go to out and win each game, one at a time. That's what they've done."

The last time an unbeaten team came to Buffalo this deep in the season was two years ago, when the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs came to town. They beat the Bills that day 23-13 to go 9-0, but went on to lose their next game.

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