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5 important Bills the Bengals must contain in Week 11

The Bills have one of the most fun offenses in the NFL, but also some issues on the offensive line. Can the Bengals take advantage?

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

As the AFC North is still wide open, the Bengals’ (3-5-1) Week 11 game against the Buffalo Bills (4-5) is crucial if the team wants to keep any hope of sneaking into the Playoffs this season.

Rex Ryan’s team won four in a row from Weeks 3-6, beating the Cardinals at home and shutting down the Patriots in Foxboro. They’ve lost three in a row since, but put up a good fight against the Seahawks in Seattle two weeks ago and are a fun bunch to watch.

With a running game that resembles the Dolphins’ wildcat offense of the 2000s, the Bills have stayed competitive in the AFC, despite losing their only above-average receiver in Sammy Watkins. Their defense has been very porous of late, but they can still blitz and that is where the Bengals have struggled all season long.

Here are five key Bills you should watch for on Sunday. Mind you, this is not a list of Buffalo’s five best players:

Brandon Tate, kick/punt returner:

I have a bad feeling about this. The Bengals kissed him goodbye in the offseason and the veteran returner found a home near the Canadian border, where he has excelled thus far.

Tate is fourth in the AFC in kickoff returns, averaging 23 yards per return. And he’s fifth in punt returns with an average of 10.2 yards. He can occasionally add a catch here and there on offense, and pop in for a jet sweep, but his sweet spot is on special teams. It would be so Bengals if Tate scored on a return on Sunday.

Seantrel Henderson, right tackle:

The Bills are planning on a three-player platoon at the right tackle position for the game against the Bengals, but Ryan appeared to talk Henderson up during the week.

He hasn’t played since Week 12 of the 2015 season, but his replacement, Jordan Mills. surrendered four sacks and 15 hurries in the last three games.

Carlos Dunlap has been effectively neutralized the past two weeks, but a nice matchup on Sunday could help him regain his form. The Bengals are desperate for a reliable pass rush given the lack of depth they have on the defensive line and the state of the rest of the defense.

James Ihedigbo, safety:

As bad as the Bengals’ defensive line rotation was for them to play a free agent signed off the street days prior in last week’s game, the Bills face their own problems in the secondary. Ihedigbo was with Ryan in New York, and after two years with the Lions was unemployed.

Buffalo had been looking for somebody to fill in for Aaron Williams after he was placed on Injured Reserve a few weeks ago after a brutal hit by Dolphins’ receiver Jarvis Landry. Backup safety Robert Blanton was unreliable and now Bengals tight end, Tyler Eifert needs to take advantage of this.

In their last two games, the Bills have allowed tight ends to record 17 catches for 247 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Ryan Groy, center:

The Bengals need to win this game in the trenches, as their second-level defense would be hopeless against LeSean McCoy and friends in the open field. Groy replaces starter Eric Wood, who is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg in Seattle.

He won’t only be responsible for trying to stop standout defensive tackle Geno Atkins, but also for calling protections against a defense that is desperate for bringing heat to the quarterback.

Robert Woods, wide receiver:

He had a standout game with 10 catches for 162 yards against the Seahawks’ tough cover 3 defense and now faces a Bengals defense that on paper plays the same way... On paper being the key there.

If Cincinnati somehow manages to stop the Bills’ vaunted running game, Woods is the player they should be aware of in the passing game. Without Watkins and despite the Percy Harvin signing, Buffalo doesn’t have any other consistent pass-catcher, and most of their passing game revolves around the deep ball.

Woods can take advantage of this and be the receiver the Bills go to when in need of a conversion.