The Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) head to Buffalo to face the Bills Sunday hoping to carry over momentum gained last week in a victory over the Patriots. They will face a Buffalo team that features the league’s third best rushing attack but has lost its starting quarterback, E.J. Manuel to a knee injury.
The Bengals’ defense rose to new heights in a 13-6 victory against the New England Patriots. Despite being without defensive end Michael Johnson and cornerback Leon Hall, Cincinnati stifled New England’s pass attack, sacking quarterback Tom Brady four times and breaking his streak of 52 straight games with a touchdown pass. This week’s task are expected to be much easier.
Just when it seemed the Bills (2-3) had finally resolved their problems at quarterback, they were dealt a major setback. Manuel had been having an impressive rookie season his first four games before the injury. After losing in the final seconds in week one to the Patriots, the Bills had gone 2-1, including a win over the Panthers in which Manuel threw a touchdown pass with five seconds left.
Last week, the Bills were tied with the Browns, 17-17, when Manuel went down in the third quarter. They would go on to lose to Cleveland 37-24. Backup Jeff Tuel struggled in relief against the Browns, prompting the team to announce that Thad Lewis will make only the second start of his career against the Bengals.
It can be presumed that the plan for the Bills is to limit Lewis’ exposure against Cincinnati’s defensive line. The fourth year quarterback will primarily be asked to hand off to running backs Fred Jackson (309 yards rushing, four touchdowns) and C.J. Spiller (296 yards rushing, one touchdown).
With only twelve points in their last two games, Cincinnati’s offense is struggling behind inconsistent quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, will try to get their first win of the year on the road where they play significantly worse than they do at home. Two weeks ago in Cleveland, Cincinnati allowed inexperienced Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer to look comfortable in the pocket, a far cry from the pressure applied on Brady last Sunday. The defense has only caused one turnover in two road games compared with eight turnovers in three games at home. But a win against a Patriots team that had been 4-0 may have provided the defense with the confidence needed to maintain focus away from Cincinnati and to overwhelm Lewis and the Bills.