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Take Five

Bills must do the expected and seize the opportunity vs. Bengals

Vic Carucci

Here are my five takes for Sunday's home opener between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals at New Era Field.

1. Seize the opportunity.

It's there, virtually being served to the Bills like a giant plate of wings. There simply is no reason for them to fail to emerge from this game at 3-0, something they haven't done since 2011.

What was true a week ago against the New York Giants is true again: the Bills are better than their opponent in every way. They shouldn't merely squeak by. They should win with ease.

All it will take is not dropping their guard against a club that is mostly deserving of its winless record. There's plenty of reason to believe they won't, because they didn't allow that to happen in either of their previous games.

Sean McDermott is proving that one of his greatest strengths is keeping his players tightly focused on the present and not having their thoughts naturally drift to what's in front of them: a game against their ultimate measuring stick, the New England Patriots.

The Bills' offense is showing steady improvement, especially with members of the line gaining greater familiarity with each other and those around them. Josh Allen is making steady progress in his development as a quarterback who has clearly become every bit as dangerous throwing as he is running.

The Bills' defense has done its part to prevent the opposition from building any traction in any phase. Granted, it has yet to take on an elite quarterback, but it has gone against some excellent running backs and, for the most part, performed well.

2. Plug into the electricity.

This should be pretty simple. New Era Field is likely to be rocking unlike any home opener in recent memory.

For one thing, fans have had to wait two long weeks for the game. For another, their team is 2-0 and showing considerable promise. Allen wasn't the starter at the beginning of last season. It also took pretty much his entire rookie year to begin building the foundation of encouragement that has been evident the past two weeks.

For yet another, the crowd can sense the great potential for a feeding frenzy with the hapless Bengals coming into their house.

Additionally, it will be summerlike weather that will be conducive to a feel-good vibe before kickoff. Expect the Bills to feed off of not only their own excitement, but the tremendous amount of it that figures to be pouring down from the stands the moment they set foot on the field.

3. Stay committed to the run.

The absence of Devin Singletary, who is out with the hamstring injury he suffered against the Giants, should not mean the Bills back off from running the football. Yes, Singletary is easily their best and most dynamic ball carrier.

However, the Bills should still find a great deal of success on the ground against a Bengals defense that has shown almost no ability to stop the run. The Bills must not hesitate to pound away and establish physical dominance at the line, which will wear down Cincinnati's front seven and generally take away the will of a team that doesn't look as if it will right itself any time soon.

On top of that, the Bills still have more than capable backs in Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Even if they don't necessarily share Singletary's explosiveness and elusiveness, they're highly seasoned and instinctive as runners and receivers.

The Bills' rebuilt offensive line also has shown that it can play with a nastiness and distinctive edge that didn't exist last season. That should do wonders in helping to generate running room, especially with temperatures expected to be in the 80s.

4. Turn up the heat on Andy Dalton.

Those warm, fuzzy feelings from a couple of years ago when Dalton's heroics led to a last-second win against the Baltimore Ravens and pushed the Bills through the back door of the playoffs are long gone.

Bills fans genuinely appreciated what Dalton and his Bengal teammates did, and showed their appreciation with thousands of dollars of contributions to the quarterback's charitable foundation. But that was then.

Now, the only thing they want to see from Dalton is him constantly running for his life and/or ending up under a pile of defenders. A turnover ... or two ... or three ... or more would be even more satisfying to them.

And this is a game that sets up for the Bills' pass rush to have a big day, given that the Bengals' run game is terrible. Between a secondary that should minimize big plays through the air and a strong pass rush, a one-dimensional offense plays right into the hands of McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

5. Keep the heat off of Josh Allen.

The Bengals will no doubt sell out to try to get to Allen, because of the expectation the Bills will go with the pass-heavy approach they've been using.

That means there will be added burden on the Bills' offensive linemen and other pass-blockers to continue to keep Allen's pocket as clean as they've mostly kept it the past two weeks.

As always, Allen can help his own cause by making the most of a scheme that generally asks him to get rid of the ball quickly with three-step-drop passes to his receivers and tight ends, and swing passes. With each throw, the quarterback is finding increasing rhythm with the offense and his targets.

If that continues Sunday, this has all of the the makings of a blowout victory for the Bills.

Game details

Here is what you need to know for Sunday's game.

• TV: CBS. Announcers: Tom McCarthy (play-by-play), Jay Feely (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), Eric Wood (color analyst).

• Series history: The Bills lead, 16-13.

• Bills injury report: Out: RB Devin Singletary (hamstring), TE Tyler Kroft (foot/ankle), CB Taron Johnson (hamstring). Questionable: LB Corey Thompson (ankle).

• Bengals injury report: Out: WR A.J. Green (ankle), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Kerry Wynn (concussion), DT Ryan Glasgow (thigh), CB B.W. Webb (forearm). Doubtful: DE Carl Lawson (hamstring). Questionable: G Michael Jordan (knee), OT Andre Smith (groin).

• Point spread: The Bills are a 6-point favorite at footballlocks.com.

• Did you know: The Bills rank first in the NFL with seven batted balls at the line of scrimmage. They finished last season as the league leader in that category with 19.

• Next up: Cue up the ominous, foreboding music from your typical horror movie, the classic signal that something bad is about to happen. The Patriots are coming to town and, well, you know the rest.

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