Bills at Bengals: Game preview, odds, prediction

The 3-5-1 Cincinnati Bengals host the 4-5 Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 11. Here’s a preview, prediction and odds for this Sunday’s game.

Protecting quarterback Andy Dalton will be the Bengal’s chief concern this week. He’s been sacked 28 times, the third-most in the NFL. Now the Red Rifle will face the toughest pass rush in football. The Bills have taken down opposing quarterbacks a league-high 30 times but it’s not the only tough matchup facing the Bengals this week.

There’s also the not-so small matter of resisting Buffalo’s second-ranked rushing offense. It’s going to be tougher still since the Bengals are owners of the 24th-ranked run defense in the NFL.

It’s little wonder oddsmakers are calling this one so close. In fact, the Bengals are favored by just three, per Odds Shark. The numbers are pretty standard from Vegas, one merely reflecting homefield advantage.

Buffalo can make up the difference if they win on both sides of the line of scrimmage. It shouldn’t be a problem for the Bills’ versatile rushing attack to boss the trench warfare on offense.

Jay Morrison of the Dayton Daily News relayed some numbers that should worry Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther:

Led by LeSean McCoy, Buffalo averages 155 yards per game, which is 9 yards more than any other AFC team.

McCoy has rushed 133 times for 683 yards (5.1) with six touchdowns and is one of three Bills who average at least 5.1 yards per attempt.

Dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor has carried 54 times for 362 yards (6.7), while backup tailback Mike Gillislee has 254 yards on 42 attempts (6.0).

It will be important for Guenther to load the box. He should roll safeties down to the line of scrimmage, particularly hard-hitting Shawn Williams.

Odds

Line: BUF (-3)

Over/Under: 45.5

Just as important, Guenther would be smart to stack beefy middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the D-line. Burfict’s 6’1″, 250-pound frame should be added to the interior gaps to create mismatches for Buffalo’s blocking schemes.

The Bills love to use hat-on-hat, power-style blocking. So Guenther ought to have his D-linemen vary their splits to create angles for slants into the backfield. It’s vital the Bengals take the cutback lanes away from shifty running back LeSean McCoy.

Keeping McCoy bottled up will be a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to the one facing the Cincy O-line. Bills head coach Rex Ryan is still a master at moving players around to keep blockers guessing and create pressure.

The Ryan mantra has worked wonders for rush linebacker Lorenzo Alexander this season. The 33-year-old former Washington Redskins special teamer has redefined himself to lead the league in sacks with 10.

Alexander will be a tricky matchup for left tackle Andrew Whitworth. He’ll also be moved all over the front and blitzed from multiple positions.

Speaking of the blitz, the Bengals need a plan for it after struggling against the rush during their 21-20 loss to the New York Giants last Monday night. Dalton has been sacked 11 times and completed just 55.4 percent of his passes when opponents have blitzed this season, according to ESPN.

Dalton’s best bet for beating the blitz will be to exploit tight end Tyler Eifert against Buffalo’s inside linebackers.  Eifert missed the first six games this season, but has been in superb form in the last two.

He caught nine passes for 102 yards against the Washington Redskins at Wembley in Week 8. Eifert also reeled in three for 96 against the Giants, including this 71-yarder from Dalton, relayed by the league’s official Twitter:

Moving Eifert around should be central to offensive coordinator Ken Zampese’s plan. It will give Dalton more chances to get rid of the ball quickly and stay free from the rush.

Dalton is in brilliant form this season, but in a cruel twist of irony, his supporting cast has deteriorated. Still, the Bengals have been playing teams close.

If they can keep Dalton upright, a fourth win is likely.

Pick: Bengals 24, Bills 19

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