The Bengals have been faced with a drought of points in the last two weeks. The Serengeti has dried up and only the higher species of football teams have adapted to such harsh conditions. Much of the blame for their personal dustbowl stems from turnovers and shaky quarterback play, and it appears there will be no relief in Buffalo.
Like the Bengals, the Bills have a stout defensive front; running the ball won't be as easy as it was against the Pats a week ago. To make matters worse, disgruntled safety Jairus Byrd returns from his injury and his pouting and looks to take out his frustrations against anything orange on Sunday.
When a team is only able to score one touchdown in eight quarters, something is usually wrong with their passing game. When a team has trouble passing, other teams force them to do exactly that. I was pleased with the rushing emphasis last week and I think it was the right way to go, but 13 points won't win the majority of games in the NFL. I know Jay Gruden is chomping at the bit to demonstrate more passing prowess from his offense and, ready or not, this week he must have his men throw it more in Orchard Park.
Pass protection then becomes paramount. Andy Dalton still has not yet developed a healthy pocket presence about him. The merest fracture in the pocket and the safety zone in his mind comes crumbling down. Fortunately, the offensive line has been rather excellent so far in 2013, but that benefit has not resulted in any prolific offensive output. We all know that Dalton does not move around the pocket like Drew Brees, but, like all pro quarterbacks, when he's given time, he can be effective.
The unit as a whole has to show that they can stretch the field some through the air, or opposing defenses will inch closer and closer to the line of scrimmage. A football season is not a repatitive or stagnant display, or at least shouldn't be. The good teams are always slightly shape-shifting to keep their enemies off guard, one step ahead as the saying goes. So far, the Cincinnati offense has shown an ability to move the ball on the ground effectively enough to kick field goals, but that is a step to the right or left, nothing remotely progressive. I want to see Dalton throw deep accurately. I want to see A.J. Green separate from his coverage more consistently. I want to see Tyler Eifert gash the middle of the field on seam routes. In short, I want to see something explosive no matter how short-lived.
Yes, the defense faces a young quarterback with only one start in his pro career. Yes, they are coming off of a brilliant performance against the legendary Tom Brady. And yes, they get Leon Hall and Michael Johnson back, but we just saw this movie in Week 4 against Cleveland. I feel embarrased that I was again forced to learn the lesson that no team in the league should be taken for granted, but it happened, and I'm living with it. Now I don't think that Thad Lewis is going to light Lake Eerie on fire and dazzle the world with his arm and legs, but I also don't think he will look completely inept. That being said, the primary objective for the Zim Clan this week is to contain outside runs by Lewis, C.J. Spiller and Freddie Jackson. Runs up the gut should be handled without much problem, but let these guys sniff the open air of space outside of the hash marks and chunk plays will result. The defensive ends have to remember to be patient and set the edge on lateral running plays. If they collapse down too much on fake handoffs, Lewis will find freedom moving toward the sidelines and force cornerbacks to become the team's run-stuffers.
The Bengals have yet to win on the road so far in their short season, but they have four of their next five games away from home and have to prove at some point that they can travel and succeed. While I am gun shy to call this week easy, it does appear that there may not be an easier game than this on their away schedule. Losing these types of games makes the end of the season needlessly more stressful. Good teams get through it, even if it's not pretty.
Bengals 20, Bills 13
Mojokong-the primate in the sky.