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Scouting Report

Bills' pass defense can't sleep on Bengals' wide receivers

Here is the scouting report for Sunday's game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals at New Era Field.

When the Bills run: Who will run is the big question after rookie running back Devin Singletary missed practice at the start of the week with a hamstring injury. Singletary has brought the home-run threat to the offense, averaging a whopping 12.7 yards per carry through the first two weeks. Veteran Frank Gore leads the team with 30 carries, but is averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt and does not have a run of 10 yards or longer. If Singletary can’t go, T.J. Yeldon will see his first significant playing time on offense. Even without Singletary, if it comes to that, the Bills should be able to run the ball against a Bengals defense that gave up 259 yards rushing in a Week 2 loss to the 49ers. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bills throw: Quarterback Josh Allen has been content to take what defenses are giving him. He’s also improved his accuracy on short and intermediate throws, completing 64.2% of his passes. John Brown and Cole Beasley have been exactly the additions the passing offense needed. Each is averaging nearly 14 yards per catch. The Bills continue to find creative ways to get Isaiah McKenzie involved, including on a quick forward pitch that went 14 yards for a touchdown against the Giants. The forgotten man through two weeks is Robert Foster, who is yet to make a catch in two games. The Bengals are giving up 236.5 passing yards per game, but that total is down because teams are having so much success running the ball against them. On a per-play basis, the Bengals give up 10.28 yards, which ranks 30th in the league. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bengals run: Avert your eyes. This has been ugly. Cincinnati is averaging a paltry 29.5 rushing yards per game in the first two weeks. That’s an inexcusable number for a team with a running back as talented as Joe Mixon. Clearly, the issues are more than just Mixon, who has been dealing with a sprained ankle suffered in the season opener. The offensive line’s run blocking has been non-existent. Former Bills tackle Cordy Glenn has been in the NFL’s concussion protocol for more than a month. The result is 59 rushing yards in two games. That’s tied for the fewest by an NFL team in its first two games in the Super Bowl era. The Bengals’ average rush of 1.79 yards is the worst of a team in the Super Bowl era through two games. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bengals pass: This is where the Bills can’t sleep on the Bengals. Wide receiver John Ross, a former first-round draft pick, is being utilized correctly and enters Week 3 leading the NFL with 270 receiving yards. That’s 60 yards more than he had all of last year. Ross’ 270 yards are second in franchise history behind Chad Johnson, who had 304 in the first two games of 2007. Tyler Boyd is also a big-time weapon for quarterback Andy Dalton, with a team-leading 18 catches for 182 yards. The Bills catch a break in that Bengals star receiver A.J. Green will not play this week because of an ankle injury. When he gets back, that will be a formidable top three for Dalton. This is a matchup of strength against strength, as the Bills lead the NFL in passing yards per play allowed, at 4.6. EDGE: Bills.

Special teams: The Bills miss return man Andre Roberts. Safety Micah Hyde has averaged just 5.3 yards on three returns. The team has yet to attempt a kickoff return – a play that is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s NFL. Cornerback Siran Neal was a beast on the coverage teams in Week 2, making three tackles. Punter Corey Bojorquez’s net average was hurt when he outkicked his coverage, leading to a 60-yard return by the Giants. Bengals kicker Randy Bullock has missed his two attempts this season from 40-plus yards. Both teams have covered punts and kicks well. EDGE: Bills.  

Coaching: Sean McDermott has pulled on all the right strings through the first two weeks. He kept his team in the game against the Jets when things went sideways. He had them believing they were underdogs against the Giants even when they were road favorites. Now, the challenge is keeping his team focused on the Bengals and not a looming Week 3 showdown with the Patriots. New Bengals coach Zac Taylor is from the Sean McVay coaching tree. He’s been dealt a difficult hand in trying to win with an inferior roster. The biggest decision Taylor has to make is if Dalton is going to be his starting quarterback in the future. EDGE: Bills.

Prediction: Bills, 30-13.

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