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Thad’s three things: Bills vs. Bengals


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17), left, runs the ball for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Three things I’m watching when the Bills play their home opener against Cincinnati.

New (Ecstatic) Era

The fan base was already revved up this offseason by the potential of Josh Allen and the refreshing competence of the rebuild engineered by Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane. The two wins to open the season–one with drama, the other with impressive efficiency–have now pinned the needle on that BillsMafia engine.

This is the first time the Bills have played a home opener with a record of 2-0 (it’s only the 5th time in team history the first home game has come in week 3). The fans rightly believe there’s blood in the water for win number three with an apparent patsy in the Bengals coming to town.

Jerry Hughes told the rookies this week, “Don’t worry about bringing the juice. Just play football.” He knows the crowd at New Era will have one helluva lift ready for kickoff. If the Bills can ride it, there’s a chance they bury Cincy by halftime and turn the afternoon into a three hour party.

The Running Men

No Devin Singletary is certainly a loss for the Bills, but it’ll be interesting to see how much that matters. Last week, the Immortal Matt Breida and the Legendary Raheem Mostert put up 204 yards on 25 carries against the Bengals. Yes, it appears we’ve detected a vulnerability.

It’s no guarantee the Bills can take advantage. Frank Gore is a Hall of Famer, but he’s averaged 2.9 yards per carry on his 30 rushes this year. T.J. Yeldon’s next carry (which almost assuredly happens Sunday) will be his first for the Bills.

Neither has the appearance of a back ready to exploit a weakness. If the Bills do find a way to lose Sunday, there’s an excellent chance lack of production here will stand out as a factor.

Let The Bengals Be Bengals

In the opener at Seattle, the Bengals took a three point lead to the half and each of their first three second half possessions got inside the Seahawks 30 yard line. They ended with a fumble, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.

After Seattle followed with a go-ahead touchdown, Cincy had a chance to regain the lead with less than nine minutes to play. However, a first and goal at the four ended with a field goal try from the eight and the Bengals lost by a point.

Last week, the Bengals let a 49ers team making their second trip to the east coast in as many weeks steamroll them for a 41-17 win that was over three minutes into the third quarter.

The Bills are 8-3 under McDermott when they are the favorite (Buffalo is giving six points in Vegas this week) and they don’t dump many games where they are the better team.

Cincinnati will likely try to beat themselves at some point. The Bills need to just stay out of their way and keep their own mistakes to a minimum.

The Pick

With the crowd and the edge in talent clearly on their side, it’s hard to envision a Bills defeat that doesn’t involve a crippling injury or some weird convergence of bounces/turnovers.

There are concerns for the Bills. Cincinnati can throw. New coach Zac Taylor falls off the Sean McVay coaching tree and, through two games, his offense looks the part. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are still top defenders and pass rushers. Allen is only one game removed from a four turnover HALF.

I think the Bengals can keep this game mildly interesting at least, but at the end of the day, the Bills hype train won’t slow down one iota. Buffalo will leave the building 3-0 and hungry for a home date next week against the mighty Patriots. Bills win 29-17.

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