The Buffalo Bills are feeling the love this week in the wake of their big victory over the New England Patriots.
They're on the cover of Sports Illustrated. They're deluged with national media requests. Their fans are ecstatic over their 3-0 start. Bills coach Chan Gailey isn't ignoring the situation.
"I'm talking a lot to these guys about handling all this stuff and making sure they don't get away from what got us to where we are," Gailey said as the Bills prepared to travel to play at Cincinnati on Sunday.
Can the Bills cope with success? It's a question that has not been asked in recent years. The Bills are 3-point favorites over the Bengals, who stand 1-2 after a 13-8 home loss to San Francisco on Sunday.
It's the largest favorite role the Bills have faced on the road in almost three years, since they were 3-point favorites at Kansas City on Nov. 23, 2008.
The Bills say their struggles of last season still are too fresh in their minds to allow them to get too big for their britches.
"We started out 0-8 last year," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "We only won four games. We know how hard wins are to come by. With that, I don't think you'll ever see us take a game for granted."
"The guys that were here a year ago know what we had done to us last year," said safety George Wilson. "So we don't want to put ourselves in that position by beating ourselves with penalties, turnovers, and giving up the big play on defense. So we just need to continue to do the things that we've done to get us to this point."
Gailey acknowledges, however, the Bills have to be careful to avoid distractions.
"When you were 0-8 the first half of the season and you were finally able to go 4-4 in the second half, we have not dealt with a lot of good times," Gailey said. "And right now, our guys are having to deal with everything that goes on when you are playing well, all the media attention, everybody patting you on the back. You have to keep a work ethic going. If you don't keep a work ethic going because you think you have arrived, you're completely wrong. What I told them: It's obvious you haven't arrived because if you've arrived, you're not down by 18 and 21 in two straight games."
Cincinnati is the scene of last year's great comeback by Gailey's Bills. Buffalo trailed, 28-7 and 31-14, before rallying to win, 49-31.
"We have to start fast," Fitzpatrick said. "We have to quit putting ourselves in holes, and that's limiting mistakes, whether it's turnovers, flags that set you back and limit your possessions. It'll be an emphasis for us."
The Bills are averaging a league-best 37.6 points a game. The Bengals are averaging 19 a game.
Cincinnati's defense, however, is off to a good start. The Bengals have allowed just 276 yards a game, third fewest this season. They have allowed the sixth-fewest points (54). They already have nine quarterback sacks.
The Bengals haven't played potent offenses. (The attacks the Bengals have faced rank 26th, 27th and 32nd.) But the Bills' three opponents so far rank low on defense (23rd, 28th and 32nd).
"We have a huge challenge this week, in this being the third-ranked defense in the NFL," Fitzpatrick said. "The pressure they create on the quarterback, the talent they have on the back end, this is probably our biggest challenge yete."
"No matter who you play," said linebacker Nick Barnett, "if you don't think about the task at hand, you're going to get your butt handed to you. They're not a bad team. We're in Week Four. To go out thinking about trap games, you can't make that judgment. I've been on teams where we started 1-2 and ended up with home-field advantage in the playoffs. You have to do what you're supposed to do."
The Bills playlist
What the players are listing to on their iPods.
Dirt Road Anthem
My Kinda Party