Cincinnati Bengals: 5 things to know about Sunday’s game vs. Bills


The Cincinnati Bengals are unbeaten through two games this preseason but the most telling outing will be Sunday when they play at Buffalo.

This “dress rehearsal” is treated most like a regular-season game before teams turn to their backups in the preseason finale to get a last look at players who might be on the bubble for roster spots.

Cincinnati is 2-0 with wins against the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, while Buffalo is 1-1 and coming off a 19-17 win against Cleveland last week.

Here are five things to watch for Sunday:

1. Week 1 starters

For the most part, the starters in this game will be the ones Marvin Lewis trots out in the opener at Indianapolis on Sept. 9, and the first-team offense and defense should get the most playing time they’ll see this preseason.

However, Lewis indicated earlier this week there are several young or new players he still wants to see against Buffalo’s regulars.

On offense, that most likely applies to the ball carriers and receivers, as the line still needs time to jell. This week’s depth chart still lists guard Trey Hopkins and tackle Bobby Hart occupying the right side, and those seem to be the two spots not totally settled as far as starters go.

»RELATED: Nothing settled on offensive line

“Just good tempo,” Lewis said when asked what he’s looking for. “We are going into the game, and I want to see each guy touch the ball just so many times. We have experienced players who have played, so it’s not like I need to see Joe (Mixon) carry the ball 10 times. If he carries the ball two times, I’m good and let’s move on to the next guys.

“We have other guys competing to stay here. That’s more of the focus.”

Wide receiver Cody Core, one of the players seemingly on the bubble, was sidelined for practices this week, which could open up opportunity for rookie Auden Tate. Tate has been impressive as a big target in practices, and a strong performance on special teams could be a swaying factor for a roster spot.

2. Eyes on the rookies

Center Billy Price will no longer be the Bengals’ only rookie starter, as Jessie Bates slides into the free safety spot opened with the release of George Iloka – who is now with the Vikings — on Sunday.

»RELATED: Bates eager to take on starting role

Bates has impressed since he came in as a second-round draft pick this spring, but admitted he needs to keep working on his tackling – something he felt he showed improvement in last week at Dallas when he tied for the team-lead with four tackles. Sunday will mark his first (unofficial) NFL start.

3. Eifert’s status still uncertain

Lewis continues to remain non-committal when asked about whether Tyler Eifert will see his first game action since last September. He’ll play “when everyone feels good about it,” Lewis said.

Eifert has said he doesn’t necessarily feel he needs to play in a preseason game to be ready for Week 1, but it’s hard to imagine Lewis won’t want to give him a little playing time to make sure he’s good to go.

The one-time Pro Bowl tight end is coming off back surgery that sidelined him for all but two games last year. He made the trip to Dallas last week but was listed as an inactive before the game and he’s been practicing as usual this week during the 30-minute windows open to media each day, including a walk-thru on Friday.

4. First opportunity

Defensive tackles Josh Tupou and Andrew Brown haven’t had a chance to play yet this preseason because of injuries sidelining them for almost two weeks but both were back to practice this week and are expected to play.

»RELATED: Bengals release veteran lineman, continue youth movement

The Bengals cut eveteran Chris Baker on Friday, and there are some big decisions to make with the backup spots on the defensive line. Brown and Tupou are among the young players fighting for spots, and Lewis specifically mentioned wanting to see them in Sunday’s game.

5. Familiar faces

There are several connections between these two teams, as the Bengals acquired linebacker Preston Brown as an unrestricted free agent and left tackle Cordy Glenn via trade from the Bills this offseason. Former Bengals center Russell Bodine and backup quarterback AJ McCarron are now with Buffalo after leaving in free agency this offseason.

»RELATED: Former Bill Glenn not interested in talking about his former team

McCarron is likely out after suffering a shoulder injury that at first appeared to be a fracture in his collar bone. He returned to practice Wednesday but was limited and the Bills are expected to start Josh Allen on Sunday.

Bills fans likely will show some love for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver Tyler Boyd, who connected on a 49-yard touchdown pass in the 2017 regular-season finale to beat the Ravens and send Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Donations of at least $550,000 to both players’ foundations can be traced back to Buffalo, as Bills fans contributed as a sign of appreciation for ending their postseason drought.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

NBA star Russell Westbrook, wife Nina expecting twin girls
NBA star Russell Westbrook, wife Nina expecting twin girls

NBA star Russell Westbrook and his wife, Nina, announced Tuesday they are expecting twin girls in a YouTube video produced by the Oklahoma City Thunder. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  The video is called "The Westbrook Family." Nina lets out the news they're having twins 2:12 into...
HS Results 9/18: Alter and Fenwick boys soccer tie 0-0

Boys Soccer Tuesday’s Results Alter 0, Fenwick 0 Beavercreek 3, Northmont 0 Bellbrook 1, Eaton 1 Butler 8, Greenville 1 Centerville 2, Springboro 0 Colerain 1, Oak Hills 1 Fairfield 1, Middletown 0 Fairmont 3, Miami Valley School 0 McNicholas 3, Badin 0 Miamisburg 3, Wayne 0 Middletown Madison 2, Carlisle 1 Milton-Union 4, Preble Shawnee 0 Monroe...
Buckeyes on the return of Urban Meyer to sideline: ‘He drives our culture’
Buckeyes on the return of Urban Meyer to sideline: ‘He drives our culture’

Life has returned to normal for the Ohio State Buckeyes in that they will play the remaining nine regular-season games with their head coach, Urban Meyer, on the sideline. His three-game suspension ended Saturday when Ohio State beat Texas Christian 40-28. The Buckeyes went 3-0 with Ryan Day serving as acting head coach and will run out of the tunnel...
Three area teams top regions in first OHSAA computer ratings
Three area teams top regions in first OHSAA computer ratings

Top-ranked Chaminade Julienne and Coldwater joined Bellbrook as the No. 1 teams in their respective regions of the first Ohio High School Athletic Association computer football ratings released on Tuesday. The ratings made their debut after Week 4 games. The Associated Press announced its first high school state football polls last week. CJ and Coldwater...
Cincinnati Bengals sign kicker Bullock to contract extension
Cincinnati Bengals sign kicker Bullock to contract extension

The Bengals on Tuesday rewarded kicker Randy Bullock for his reliability. The Bengals signed Bullock to two-year contract extension through the 2020 season. Bullock was in the final season of a two-year deal. »RELATED: Panthers’ offensive style presents challenges for Bengals Since joining the Bengals during the 2016 season, Bullock has...
More Stories