When you’re on a team, sometimes seeing a particular foe on the schedule brings shudders. For the Cincinnati Bengals and their fans, those feelings could be conjured up when they face the Buffalo Bills.
Even though the foes from the Northeast don’t conjure up the frustrations of those within the AFC North, eye-rolls occur when the “wagon-circlers” show up on the schedule. Even though the Bills have seemed to engage in a “fire sale” this offseason, they have shot off to a 3-1 start.
Because of that, there are a number of big player matchups to watch. Here are the top-five of this week, as the Bengals take on the Bills.
Bengals receiver A.J. Green versus Bills defensive back Shareece Wright:
Last year, one could coin the Week 11 matchup between the two a “bloodbath”. In a 2016 must-win game for the Bengals, Cincinnati lost Green and Giovani Bernard to what would become season-ending injuries.
Both are back healthy and with the Bills letting go of Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, it seems as if the Bengals’ passing game has a seam. Starting corner E.J. Gaines might play, but Wright is the guy who would step in for Buffalo.
The backup corner has been very opportunistic and would look to do so against Green and Andy Dalton. Even though he’s a big-play guy, Green should take advantage of a No. 3 corner.
Bengals center Russell Bodine versus Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus:
It’s been a rough go for the 2017 Bengals offensive line, as a whole. Bodine, a favorite whipping boy of Cincinnati pundits, hasn’t been immune to criticism, as the team has let up 14 sacks, good for the fifth-highest in the NFL so far.
Dareus has been eased into the Bills lineup because of an injury, but he’s one of the best interior linemen in the business when healthy. While the embattled Bengals center has had his moments of greatness, there are still pieces of evidence to point to him as a major issue up front. If the Bengals are to grind out the clock against the Bills defense, Bodine will need to show up big against the mammoth Dareus.
Bengals running back Giovani Bernard versus Bills linebacker Preston Brown:
Yes, Joe Mixon appears to be the guy who will get the most touches going forward, but Bernard remains the most explosive so far in 2017. Bill Lazor has dialed up screens and other run plays to get No. 25 in the best situations possible and it has largely worked so far.
Brown is a guy who fits the 4-3 mold of Sean McDermott and has made plays in a Buffalo defense who has largely carried the team to the 3-1 start. Can the nimble Bernard make the big play against a stout Bills defense?
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones versus Bills receiver Brandon Tate:
To the disappointment of fantasy owners, wide receiver Jordan Matthews is out this week, with an apparent thumb injury. Because of it, the former Bengals special-teamer is now stepping into a prominent role.
Rightful criticisms exist with Tate’s tenure in Cincinnati, but we can’t deny that he stepped up when called on when it comes to the offense. Jones has stepped up since his return from a one-game suspension, but the Bengals’ third-ranked pass defense needs to step up against the 29th-ranked Bills offense.
Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson versus Bills tackle Cordy Glenn:
Lawson has been one of, if not the best rookie for the Bengals this year. Even after losing his front teeth last week, the guy has 3.5 sacks as a reserve player in four games. There’s no doubt that the Bengals like what Lawson brings, but he’ll need to be disciplined against Tyrod Taylor.
Glenn has been nicked up, so even though Lawson is a reserve player, he might have his hands full. There might not be a more effective rookie than Lawson in the NFL this year, but aside from his traditional pass-rush abilities, he’ll also need to contain Taylor in the pocket.