The Buffalo Bills are putting up numbers not seen in upstate New York since the days of the "K-Gun" offense that sent the Bills to four Super Bowls in the nineties. With a win in Cincinnati Sunday, the Bills would start 4-0 for the first time since Jim Kelly and company did so in 1992. In their path, however, is a young and improving Cincinnati Bengals defense ranked third in the NFL through three games. Something's got to give. Will it be the young Bengals defenders or Ryan Fitzpatrick's equally young and impressive offense?
Like the Bengals' defense, the Bills' offense is powered through youth. Gone are Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, and other former mainstays of a stagnant Buffalo attack. Head coach Chan Gailey has taken a group of young players and a cast off quarterback and turned them into an offensive juggernaut.
The Bills have put up 113 points in three games, tops in the NFL. Last week's comeback against the New England Patriots exhibited just how explosive this offense can be. The Bills fell behind early 21-0, but outscored the Pats 34-10 over the final three quarters. Fitzpatrick threw for 369 yards.
The Bengals know about this comeback ability first hand. Last season, Cincinnati held a commanding 31-14 halftime lead against the Bills only to see Fitzpatrick bring them back to win 49-31.
The main weapon then and now for Fitzpatrick is wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The former Kentucky standout has become one of the leading receivers in the league, Johnson has three touchdowns already this season, averaging 85 yards per contest. Big tight end Scott Chandler and third wide receiver David Nelson have also given Fitzpatrick some potent red zone weapons as well.
The Bills operate mostly out of a spread offense which necessitates opposing defenses employing extra defensive backs. This opens up running lanes for Fred Jackson, who is taking full advantage of the scheme, averaging 101 yards per game and finding paydirt three times in as many games. Second year all-purpose back CJ Spiller has also excelled in this wide open offense.
The Bills defense has given up some large chunks of yardage, but has also shown themselves to be opportunistic. Buffalo's defense comes into Sunday ranked 26th in the NFL, giving up 387 yards and 24.3 points per game. The Bills have forced nine opponents' turnovers however, giving their offense additional scoring opportunities. Last week, the Bills picked off future Hall of Famer Tom Brady four times en route to their comeback. Unlike their youthful offense, Buffalo has brought in some high-powered veterans to lead their defense. Former Packer Nick Barnett and former Charger Shawne Merriman lead their linebackers while Drayton Florence has brought veteran leadership in the secondary.
Sunday's Bengals-Bills matchup should be a polar opposite of last week's Bengals grinding loss to San Francisco. Look for both teams to find the end zone early and often and plenty of scoreboard fireworks.
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