Tale Of The Tape: Cincinnati Bengals At Buffalo Bills
- QuarterbackAndy Dalton is not progressing the way he should this season if the Bengals are going to compete for the AFC championship. While they had a signature victory against the Patriots, Dalton is a limited leader who is cementing himself in the game manager category. Dalton can throw the short-range passes and reads defenses fairly well, but his medium- and long-range passes are questionable.The Bills suffered a terrible loss against the Browns when rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel went down with a knee injury and Jeff Tuel was inserted at the position. Tuel is not a reasonable alternative, so the Bills have signed Thad Lewis off the street and he is going to get the start this week. He is a mobile quarterback with moderate arm strength.
- OffenseThe Bengals have adequate skill-position players, but wide receiver A.J. Green has superstar talent. He is not able to channel it because Dalton lacks the consistency to get the ball to him downfield. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran with power and passion against the Patriots in Week Five, but rookie Gio Bernard has the speed to make explosive plays because of his speed and quickness.The Bills want to run the football, especially with an emergency quarterback like Lewis under center. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson give the Bills a two-headed rushing attack that can take the pressure off of the passing game. Stevie Johnson will likely sulk because of the quarterback situation, but he needs to get wide open to help Lewis out.
- DefenseThe Bengals held Tom Brady without a touchdown pass in the Week Five victory and that’s a huge accomplishment. Some of that was due to the horrific weather, but Geno Atkins and Domata Peko collapsed the pocket and made life difficult for Brady. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a vicious hitter who flies to the football.The Bills are an up-and-down defensive team that appears to change personalities throughout the game. Much of that is due to defensive end Mario Williams’ inconsistency. When he is on his game, he is a one-man wrecking crew. Kiko Alonso is a coming star who is a huge hitter with game-changing ability. He had 12 tackles vs. the Browns in Week Five.
- Special TeamsThe Bengals will play disciplined football on special teams as they stay in their lanes and don’t allow big plays. Mike Nugent made both of his FG attempts against the Patriots, including a 50-yarder. Kevin Huber rebounded from an ordinary game by averaging 45.8 yards on six punts against New England.Jeff Leonhard is not a speedster, but he is a smart player who can get everything out of a return because he is smart and can read his blockers. Punter Shawn Powell averaged 45.5 yards on his eight punts vs. the Browns. Dan Carpenter showed the leg strength to hit a 52-yard field goal.
The Bengals had a signature victory over the Patriots, and this is the kind of game that should be a jumping off point for them. However, that’s rarely been the case for a Marvin Lewis-coached team and it seems likely that the Bengals could be ripe for an upset. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor