It’s unfortunate to say that the Bengals upcoming game against the 2-0 Buffalo Bills is a must-win this early in the season. They were close in their first game against Seattle but followed that up by being blown out, 41-17, at home to the San Francisco 49ers.
If they want to save their season they will have to go into Buffalo and beat a red-hot team to save their playoff chances. There are a few guys in particular who really need to step up their game to put the team in a position to win and hopefully start a long winning streak.
Mixon was the AFC’s leading rusher in 2018, creating great expectations for 2019. Through two games, this has not been the case as he has only totaled 27 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Bills defense is currently ranked 10th in rushing yards allowed per game, allowing just below 100 Yds/G. For Mixon to put himself back on the list of top tier running backs, he will need to shred the Bills defense and take some pressure off of Andy Dalton.
Despite the popular saying, “The third time’s the charm,” it has been anything but that for Smith. The Bengals brought him back for the third time in his 11-year career to help add depth at the tackle position, but has gotten the start the first two weeks as starting left tackle Cordy Glenn remains in concussion protocol. Despite a groin injury during the 49ers game, Smith is expected to be good to go for Buffalo and will need to step up his game in a major way. He struggled against two stout defensive lines the first two weeks and won’t get any easier when he lines up against Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson.
Willis was named as a starting receiver leading up to the first game of the year, but has yet to prove himself as such. Willis has totaled a mere 36 yards through the first two weeks, causing fans to almost forget about him after such an impressive preseason. John Ross III and Tyler Boyd have both played well this season but if Willis can recreate his play from the preseason then this passing attack can easily be the best in the NFL.
Jessie Bates III
A lot of people expected Bates to play at an All-Pro level in 2019 after such an impressive rookie season. Unfortunately, Bates hasn’t seemed to be able to get down Lou Anarumo’s new defensive scheme, earning himself a terrible 29.3 grade from Pro Football Focus through the first two weeks. The Bengals defense did give up nearly 300 passing yards and 3 touchdowns through the air against the 49ers, some plays making the secondary look downright silly. If this team wants to get back on the right track then Bates will need to play like we all know he can and should this weekend versus Buffalo.
Just like 2018, it doesn’t seem like the Bengals linebackers are nearly athletic enough to keep up with the large majority of NFL running backs. The 49ers totaled 259 rushing yards with ease, with Brown and Vigil missing easy tackles and being exposed on a down-to-down basis. Brown came to Cincinnati from Buffalo in the off-season leading up to 2018 and I’m sure would like to play at his best against the team who drafted him. Even though running back Devin Singletary has been ruled out for the game, Brown will still have his hands full with Frank Gore and T.J Yeldon.