Bills Defense Will Face Toughest Test of the Year


After facing the weakest offensive opponent so far this season last week, the Buffalo Bills will be facing one of the NFL’s best this week when Andy Dalton and the Bengals come to town. The Bengals have ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards this year (421.4) and 4th in points (29.6). It seems as though Dalton is having the breakout year he desperately needed this year, and with the weapons he has around him, the Bengals offense is a nightmare to stop.

Dalton is having far and away the best year of his career, leading the league in Total QBR among quarterbacks who have started every game. The highest career QBR for Dalton up to this year was 56.8 in 2013, his current QBR through the first five games is 83.7. Cincinnati has had weapons around Dalton, however he has hit his stride with the offense this year throwing 11 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. Last year Dalton finished with a less than stellar 19 TDs to 17 INTs It seems in previous years every highlight of Dalton involved him throwing a prayer, usually answered by A.J. Green. With a much more balanced attack this year Dalton has been much more efficient moving the ball while limiting the turnovers that have been a downfall in the past.

In order for the Bills to contain Dalton and the Cincinnati passing attack they must first focus on the running game. The Bengals have been incredibly balanced so far this year with 160 passing plays and 155 rushing plays. The league average this year is 187 and 112 rushing plays. The Bengals feature one of the best running back combinations in the league with Jeremy Hill, and speedster Giovani Bernard, who is also exceptional in the screen game.

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The Bills must stop the run first, before they worry about the passing game for Dalton and the Bengals. Doing so may put Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore in some 1-on-1 situations early on with Green and Mohamed Sanu, two of the most athletic receivers in the NFL. As long as Buffalo can get away with leaving Gilmore and Darby on an island in the early going it will force the Bengals into straight drop back passing situations, rather than the running game and the play action passing game.

By forcing the Bengals into throwing situations, the Bills pass rush should have a chance to get going. Once the edge rushers such as Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams can stop worrying about the run, and focus on rushing the passer before the ball is even snapped they are at a significant advantage. The Bills are built around their defensive line, and for Buffalo to have a chance in this game Dalton can’t have the opportunity to get comfortable in the pocket.

The Bills will rely heavily on Gilmore and Darby to continue their great seasons against former Pro-Bowler A.J. Green. However, it is Tyler Eifert that should have Buffalo worried. Eifert has been a matchup nightmare for teams thus far, racking up 24 catches this year. The Bills are going to need a big game from Preston Brown, who will have to deal with Eifert. Buffalo would be better suited to have both safeties helping over the top against Green and Sanu, but if Brown is not capable of keeping up with Eifert, they may be forced to matchup with a safety.

However the Bills choose to matchup with the Bengals recievers will not matter if they don’t stop the run first. If the Bills want a chance to win this game, the defense must be up to the challenge of stopping the Cincinnati offense.