Pregame primer: Everything you need to know for Bills-Bengals, plus five things to watch for - The Buffalo News

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Pregame primer: Everything you need to know for Bills-Bengals, plus five things to watch for

CINCINNATI – It's the Battle of Queen Cities on Sunday.

The Buffalo Bills made themselves home at Paul Brown Stadium last year, with a 16-12 win on Nov. 20, 2016.

Cincinnati is off to a 1-3 start, but has looked better the last two games after making a change at offensive coordinator.

Here are all the details you need for Sunday's game, plus five things we'll be watching for:

• TV: Ch. 4. Announcers: Tom McCarthy (play by play), Steve Beuerlein (color analyst).

• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).

• Series history: Bills lead, 16-12.

• Uni watch: The Bills are going with white jerseys and white pants against the Falcons in what good be a messy game with rain in the forecast.

• Did you know? Through the first four games this season, the Bills have only allowed four touchdowns. That ties the third-best start in franchise history (allowed two in 1982, three in 1983, and four in 1995 and 1999).

• Next up: A break. The Bills are on their bye in Week Six.

Here are five things to watch against the Bengals:

1. Can Zay Jones put an end to his slump? The rookie receiver has just four catches in his first four games. Coaches and teammates have repeated ad nauseam that they’re not worried about Jones’ production, but the kid gloves have to come off now. Jones figures to step into the No. 1 receiver role with Jordan Matthews out of the lineup because of a thumb injury. None of the Bills’ receivers have been that productive in the first four games, but at some point that will have to change. The longer Jones goes without looking like the player the Bills traded up in the second round to draft, the more pressure that will be on him.

2. If E.J. Gaines can’t go, is Shareece Wright ready to step in? The Bills on Saturday promoted cornerback Greg Mabin from the practice squad and released receiver Philly Brown. That’s not a great sign that Gaines, who is questionable for the game with a hamstring, will be ready to play. If he sits, Wright will start opposite rookie Tre’Davious White. The Bengals have an elite receiver in A.J. Green,

3. Can the offense sustain longer drives? The Bills are going three-and-out 32.5 percent of the time. That's the third-highest rate in the NFL, according to analytics website Football Outsiders. That puts a great deal of stress on Buffalo's defense, which then has to defend shorter fields and also doesn't get the rest with comes with an offense that picks up at least one first down. The Bills currently rank 24th in NFL in average time of possession.

4. Who starts at defensive tackle, Cedric Thornton or Marcell Dareus? Coach Sean McDermott raised some eyebrows this week when he said it "there's great competition on our roster right now, and I love that. The players want that. That's why they work during the week. They understand what's at stake. We're only going to continue. Competition takes everyone's game up a notch. That's good for us." It's not good that Dareus, the team's highest-paid player, isn't contributing, with just one assisted tackle in three games. The Bills obviously need much more than that from him.

5. Is Matt Milano ready for his first career start? The rookie fifth-round draft pick will replace Ramon Humber — who’s out with a thumb injury — at linebacker. Veteran Lorenzo Alexander said the defense is confident that Milano – with a full week of practice – can capably fill in. Humber has been a steady tackler for the defense, so Milano would do well to match his level of performance.

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