coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
On 10/07/2013 04:23 PM in NFL

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills: Preview and Pick

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills: Preview and Pick

After a tough loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals rebounded with a huge win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Now they have to avoid the letdown when the head east to take on another opponent from the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills. Luckily for the Bengals, the Bills will not have their usual starting quarterback.

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Bengals listed as (-7.5) point favorites. This line has shifted but it may not be due to the public as 53 percent of the early betting action is actually on Buffalo. The lien shift is mostly due to the fact that rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will not be on the field for this game. With that news, the line has moved and can now be found at (-9) if not higher at some of the top rated online sportsbooks.

The injury to Manuel is big news in Buffalo. Manuel went down at the end of a scramble on Thursday night. The mechanism -- a whipsawing hit onto an unplanted knee -- matched what we've seen happen to Fred Jackson and Robert Griffin III in recent seasons. Reports are that Manuel's injury matches that of Jackson and Griffin III, a mid-high grade LCL sprain.

Not too long ago, an LCL sprain was an uncommon injury for a football player. Most players take hits to the outside of the knee and have the inside ligaments (MCL, and if there's a rotational component to the hit, ACL) stressed and torn. Now, with defensive players often going low to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact, penalties and fines, we're seeing an increase in the hyperextension mechanism that stresses the ligaments outside and to the back of the knee (LCL and PCL). Thad Lewis sill start for the Bills and that should have the Bengals defense licking their lips.

The latest NFL betting trends for this game reveal some interesting wagering spots. The total has gone under in 5 of Cincinnati's last 7 games on the road and the total has gone under in 4 of Buffalo's last 6 games at home. Cincinnati is 1-10 straight up in its last 11 games when playing Buffalo and that includes an ugly 2-9 against the spread (ATS) number. In short, Buffalo has been a house of horrors for the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Pick

With plenty of time to go before kickoff of this week, I will wait to announce my pick when we get closer to game day. Check back the day of the event for my pick on this great game.

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/08/2013 02:19 PM

Among the media who were in the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room Monday afternoon the most asked question was: Who in the world is Thad Lewis?

Whether you're a Bengals fan, Buffalo Bills fan or somewhere in between, you may be asking yourself the same question.

Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey needs no introduction to the man who Monday was named Buffalo's starting quarterback. The two played together at Duke University from 2006 to 2009.



"That guy's a competitor, No. 1. I give him that," Rey said. "I just remember being at Duke and he had just like a no-lose mentality. He's going to fight until the end."

Sunday afternoon when the Bengals travel to Buffalo will be the first time the two have played against one another since their professional careers began in 2010.

Fresh off a 13-6 win over the New England Patriots, Cincinnati will be looking to extend its positive play against a Bills team that lost its starting quarterback Thursday. First-round draft pick EJ Manuel injured his knee in the loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Back to the mysterious Thad Lewis.

While Lewis and Rey were at Duke, they were part of teams that went 0-12 one season and 5-7 another. They did not reach a bowl game in four years, but they were guinea pigs in an experiment that eventually resulted in one. Last season, three years after the duo left for the NFL, the Blue Devils ended up making their first postseason trip since 1994. Quarterbacks guru, coach David Cutcliffe hired after Lewis' and Rey's freshman season, eventually carried the often forgettable football program to the Belk Bowl last December.

Although they were friends while in school, Rey contends he and Lewis keep in contact now mainly because there are so few Blue Devils in the NFL ranks.

"We've been following each other with how our careers have been going just because it's not many guys from Duke in the NFL right now," Rey said.

Along with Rey and Lewis, there are only six former Blue Devils on active rosters. Titans linebacker Patrick Bailey, Rams safety Matt Daniels, Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly and Falcons quarterback Sean Renfree are the others.

Until Monday, Lewis was not even on an NFL roster. Before being named the Bills' starting quarterback, he had been on their practice squad. Brought to Buffalo early in training camp, he has spent time with the Lions, Browns and Rams. It was with Cleveland last December that he received his first, and only other, career start. In that loss to the Steelers, he was 22-for-32 and threw for 204 yards and a touchdown and an interception. That was the only game in which the former undrafted free agent recorded stats.

Thad Lewis College Stats
Completions 877
Attempts 1,510
Yards 10,065
Comp. Pct. 58.1
Touchdowns 67
Interceptions 40
Passer Rating 123.4
Rushing Touchdowns 9

Much like another Browns quarterback, the now injured Brian Hoyer, Lewis provides the Bengals with very little game tape to watch as they try to prepare for him. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said his staff will scrounge up as much film as they possibly can on Lewis, but they know how real of a challenge he can be. After all, little-known quarterbacks like Hoyer have been the Bengals' nemesis in recent games. Cincinnati lost to Hoyer two weeks ago after he replaced starter Brandon Weeden.

Conversely, since the middle of last season, the Bengals have beaten five quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl. Including Tom Brady on Sunday, they have knocked off both Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.

"My feeling on quarterbacks is the reason why they're in the NFL is because all of them have won games in some time in their career," Zimmer said. "So whoever they are, we have a lot of respect for them."

Lewis commanded a level of respect when he was at Duke. He threw for more than 300 yards seven times during his senior season. That includes a four-game stretch in the middle of the year that included wins over Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina State and a loss to defending-conference champion Virginia Tech. The win over NC State came against former Wolfpack quarterback and current Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson. Lewis threw for 459 yards that day.

"[Wilson] was having a great game so subsequently, we weren't playing so well," Rey said. "But Thad kept coming back and completing some nice passes. ... That was one game where he just kept fighting to the end. It was like touchdown for touchdown."

The game was tied at 21 at halftime, but Duke ended up pulling away, 49-28.

His 10,065 career passing yards ranks 79th in college football history. It also ranks ahead of the likes of Chris Weinke, Andrew Luck, Daunte Culpepper, John Elway, Matt Ryan and Dan Marino.

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/10/2013 12:07 AM

Buffalo Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel still does not have an official timetable on the knee injury he suffered in last Thursday's game against the Cleveland Browns. Fellow rookie Jeff Tuel finished the game after Manuel went out but did not play particularly well in his first NFL action. The Bills brought up Thad Lewis from the practice squad earlier this week and now he'll make his second career start this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. How big is the dropoff from Manuel to Lewis?

Manuel has checked out in the bottom third of starting quarterbacks in most relevant QB statistical categories in his first year. His 42.2 QBR was 23rd among QBs, and both his 6.57 yards per attempt and 3.3 touchdown percentage registered 24th overall. He was about average in the interception category, recording a 2.0 interception percentage, good for 14th league-wide. Manuel's first year has been about what we'd expect from a rookie QB: not great but also not atrocious.

Lewis, for his part, has started only one game in his four-year career: Cleveland's finale last year when he completed 22 of 32 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's been on and off active rosters and practice squads before and since then.

Betting insider Evan Abrams weighed in on how the injury plays among the betting public, noting that Cincinnati opened on 10/2 as 3.5-4 point favorites before the injury but now stand as 7-8 point favorites heading into the end of the week.

"Do I think a rookie QB is worth 3-4 points for Buffalo?" Abrams said. "No, but I do believe with Lewis as his backup, Manuel does have value towards the spread. It's probably closer to 1-2 points, though, especially against a very talented Bengals defense."

Wacky things happen in the NFL so Lewis could come out and surprise the Bengals. He'll presumably have a healthy Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller tandem in support and, as ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak noted, the Bengals won't have any film on him. (Of course, the counterpart is that Lewis won't have many reps with the first team.)

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/10/2013 12:16 AM

Just in time for Sunday's Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals saw one of their key players return to practice for the first time in two weeks.

Cornerback Leon Hall, who injured his hamstring at the end of the Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers, worked out in a limited capacity Wednesday afternoon. While speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Hall was cryptic about whether he thought he might play at Buffalo. Most signs seem to suggest he will indeed give the hamstring a go.

"I feel pretty good," Hall said. "Obviously I haven't played football but we'll see how it goes."

Asked if he thought he had a shot to play this weekend, Hall replied: "I hope so. Two weeks is long enough."

This marks the second time in two years that Hall has dealt with a hamstring injury that held him out for two weeks. Just like this year, the Bengals brought Chris Crocker out of free agency in order to shore up the depth at corner while Hall healed. Just like this year, the Crocker addition worked well for them.

While Hall practiced for the first time in two weeks, it has now been 10 days since defensive end Michael Johnson has been able to contribute to the team. He informed trainers after Cincinnati's game at Cleveland nearly two weeks ago that he thought he experienced a concussion. When they evaluated him in the locker room afterward, they learned that he did.

Johnson appeared to show some sign of progress Wednesday, though, as he went through what appeared to be moderate conditioning during the open portion of practice for the first time since the concussion was diagnosed. He previously ha not been out on the practice fields as he went through the training staff's concussion protocol. If he cannot play this weekend, Johnson will be replaced by Wallace Gilberry for a second straight week

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/10/2013 12:18 AM

This time last week, it was all Jay Gruden's and Andy Dalton's faults. Both needed to be run out of town, banished from the city limits forever.

Still licking their wounds from a truly unconscionable 17-6 loss at Cleveland that was powered -- or, more accurately, wasn't -- by a punchless offense, Cincinnati Bengals fans made it known that they weren't happy with their offensive coordinator and his quarterback. They wanted replacements for both.

Yes, seven days ago, that was the talk all over southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky. There are still some who are concerned about the offense's apparent inconsistency, but with a win Sunday and the sight of the more balanced offensive attack that they had been hoping to see, most of last week's critics are keeping quiet this week.

Funny how that works, right? Then again, this is the National Football League; nothing stays the same from week-to-week.

Gruden, the Bengals assistant who admitted last week that his unit was still finding its identity, told reporters after Sunday's 13-6 win over the New England Patriots that while he's glad to celebrate a victory, there were still many improvements for his offense to make. Much like he did for the seven days when many wanted to see him lose his job, Gruden maintained his optimism, saying that "brighter days are ahead."

"The Patriots are a good defense and we're obviously pleased to get the win, but we also know that we have a long way to go before we reach our potential," Gruden said. "But we can get there quickly."

Cincinnati relied more heavily than it has all season on the quickness of running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard in Sunday's win. With a season-high 39 carries, the Bengals rushed for another season-high 162 yards as they compiled their most statistically balanced performance of the season. Only 17 yards separated the number of rushing yards from passing yards (179).

"With a guy like Benny [Green-Ellis], Benny gets better with the more carries he gets," Gruden said.

Green-Ellis' 19 carries were the second-most he's had this season, behind the 22 he put up against Pittsburgh in Week 2. Most of those touches came on the final two drives of the game as the Bengals were grinding out clock-eating drives to preserve their first victory of the season. Sunday's effort against the Patriots, though, may have been a better overall performance. One reason why: because it came right after the Bengals' Week 4 meltdown which saw them gain just 63 yards as a team on the ground.

Among the complaints about Gruden's offense last week was the fact that he seemed tentative to call rushing plays. Granted, the Bengals were trailing much of their game at Cleveland and were trying to get back into it with passes, but the air attack never really seemed in sync. Dalton's throws either overshot his receivers, undershot them or went into spaces they weren't even occupying. The passing game was out of rhythm, and they didn't know why.

Yet Gruden kept going to it. Specifically, he kept going to receiver A.J. Green. On 15 targets, the wideout only caught seven passes for 51 yards.

The offensive coordinator now realizes he can't do that. He knows he has a tendency to get pass-heavy with his play selection, but with players like Green-Ellis and the elusive Bernard in his backfield, he knows he has to blend his game plans more often.

"[Green-Ellis] wears down a defense and sometimes I don't have the patience for that," Gruden admitted. "I have A.J., I have [Jermaine] Gresham and [Tyler] Eifert and Mo [Mohamed Sanu] and Marv [Marvin Jones] and sometimes I'll throw it a little bit more. [Sunday] was a great example of how effective he can be if given more opportunities."

Calls for more rushing opportunities weren't just coming from fans and media. They were coming from within Gruden's own locker room.

Veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was among the players who both publicly and privately said he felt there needed to be a stronger ground game presence.

"That isn't coming from me," Whitworth said. "That comes from the fact that our line wanted that, the young guys on this offense want that. I'm never scared to stand up and say, 'Hey, this is what guys are whining to me about or saying to me or what they want the opportunity to show.'"

His message was apparently received loudly and clearly.

So were complaints from those outside the locker room who pleaded for more better balance to showcase the abundance of weapons the Bengals have. After going to Green on 35.7 percent of his throws against the Browns, Dalton only went his direction 29.6 percent of the time Sunday. In fact, of the 27 passes Dalton threw against New England, 15 went to his tight ends and running backs. The other 12 went to his receivers. Green was targeted on eight of those.

Among the biggest Week 5 takeaways for Gruden and his offense was the fact that it has to have more than one touchdown in a game, even against defenses that are as good as the Patriots'. A red zone interception, the first of Dalton's career from inside the 20, halted one potential scoring drive.

"I'm going to be hard to satisfy. The talent that we have on offense, we've got to do a lot better," Gruden said. "But we've just got to keep working. We've got a good unit, a good, talented group. We haven't come close to our standards yet, but brighter days are ahead."

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/10/2013 12:19 AM

Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd is expected to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday.

"We expect him to be able to play," Marrone said. "I'm really excited to see him back out there."

Marrone said he did not know if Byrd would start the game. During the opening portion of Wednesday's practice, the only part open to reporters, Byrd lined up in only some defensive packages.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Bills are now open to trading Byrd. Bills CEO Russ Brandon addressed the report on WGR 550 in Buffalo on Wednesday morning.

"I don't know where these reports come from," Brandon said. "We are not actively seeking a deal. It's the very same situation we talked about a month ago. It's not a topic of conversation in our building."

However, Brandon said they would listen to offers for any player.

"When someone calls us, we pick up the phone and answer it," he said.

The Bills have until Oct. 29 to trade Byrd.

Despite a contract dispute that led to Byrd not signing his franchise tender until late August, Marrone said Wednesday that he is not concerned with Byrd's mindset as he returns.

"I have no questions whatsoever on that. I don't think his mind was ever anywhere else other than getting himself better," Marrone said. "All I saw was a player coming back and just what I used to say -- and this wasn't a company line -- that the kid is working hard to get back."

Marrone maintained his stance that, as coach, he has blinders on to whatever else may be happening with Byrd behind the scenes.

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/10/2013 01:35 PM

A couple of weeks ago, the Bengals had to prepare for a game against the Browns without having much tape to watch on quarterback Brian Hoyer.

The Bengals lost that game, which is likely on their minds as they turn their attention to their Week Six game against the Bills and quarterback Thad Lewis. Lewis has played in one regular season NFL game, starting for the Browns at the end of last season in a loss to the Steelers, and he played one preseason game with the Bills this summer. That’s left Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer looking everywhere he can to find film on Lewis because the coach doesn’t believe Lewis’ low profile means that he can’t play.

“My feeling on quarterbacks is the reason why they’re in the NFL is because all of them have won games in some time in their career,” Zimmer said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “So whoever they are, we have a lot of respect for them.”

Based on the way the Bengals defense contended with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady this year, one wouldn’t expect Lewis to be much of a problem. The same could be said of Hoyer, though, so Cincinnati will be doing everything they can to make sure unheralded lightning doesn’t strike twice.

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/11/2013 11:55 AM

After holding Super Bowl champion quarterbacks in check in their three wins this year, the Cincinnati Bengals face a signal-caller making his second NFL start Sunday when they visit Thad Lewis and the Buffalo Bills.

The reputations and rings of the quarterbacks the Bengals (3-2) have faced seemingly has had very little to do with their results.

They have defeated New England's Tom Brady, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger - all at home - and held them to a combined 63.2 passer rating. They've lost on the road to Cleveland's Brian Hoyer and Chicago's Jay Cutler, who combined for a 99.0 rating.

"When the schedule came out, I think I counted that we played 10 of the last 12 Super Bowl participants," coach Marvin Lewis said. "Obviously with that comes very good quarterbacks and generally experienced football teams."

The latest defensive accolade came last Sunday in a 13-6 win over the Patriots. The Bengals snapped Brady's streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass while keeping pace with Baltimore and Cleveland atop the AFC North.

Sunday's matchup against the Bills (2-3) and their recently promoted practice-squad quarterback falls more in line with the formula against less established quarterbacks that has led to an 0-2 road record. Thad Lewis' only NFL regular-season game was a Week 17 start with Cleveland last season.

"You just have to be good at what you do," Marvin Lewis said. "They're going to generally look to play to their strength. We've got to get them off schedule."

Cincinnati's defense is holding opponents to the league's seventh-best scoring average of 17.4 points per game.

"It's definitely fun to watch that defense," quarterback Andy Dalton said.

The Bengals have allowed a total of 23 points in their last two games but have been outscored in that stretch by four. They've gotten into the end zone once in that span and rank 25th overall with 18.8 points per game.

Part of those struggles has been a limited connection between Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. Since they linked up nine times for 162 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 against Chicago, Green has 199 yards and one score in four games.

Dalton has gone consecutive regular-season games without a touchdown pass for the second time in his career - he's never gone three. He has thrown an interception in three straight and has gone beyond that once in his career.

The Bengals are 10th in the AFC with a minus-2 turnover margin while Buffalo is fifth at plus-3.

Thad Lewis will try to help those totals remain in Buffalo's favor in his first start with the team.

Coach Doug Marrone told him Monday morning when he arrived at the Bills facility for team meetings that he'd be starting for the injured EJ Manuel.

"We thought it was best for us to move on and play with Thaddeus," Marrone said. "With Thad, he knows the whole system inside out, so at least we can give him the things that we feel he's strong with, which gives us a better chance."

In his only NFL action, Lewis went 22 of 32 for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Browns' 24-10 loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 30.

After being acquired from Detroit in August, his play late in the preseason led the team to sign him to the practice squad and cut Matt Leinart.

"I just have to go out and put my best foot forward," Lewis said. "Don't do too much because you've got playmakers around you. But do enough to put us in a good position to get this 'W.'"

One of his playmakers, wide receiver Stevie Johnson, has just three catches in his last two games for 18 yards. He is day-to-day after hurting his back in last Thursday's 37-24 loss at Cleveland.

The Bills' offense struggled last week after losing Manuel in the third quarter with a sprained LCL in his right knee. Manuel got the Bills into the red zone before getting hurt on a scramble, and Fred Jackson ran for a TD four plays later to give the Bills a 24-17 lead. The six possessions that followed with Jeff Tuel at quarterback ended with four punts, an interception returned for a touchdown and a turnover on downs.

Bengals cornerback Leon Hall could return after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

The Bills have won six in a row at home against the Bengals but had a 10-game winning streak in the series snapped in the last meeting, falling 23-20 at Cincinnati on Oct. 2, 2011. Dalton threw for 298 yards, including 118 to Green.

coleryan Posts:11966 Followers:20
10/12/2013 10:54 AM

Defensive end Michael Johnson (concussion) and cornerback Leon Hall (hamstring) are questionable, but both practiced in full for the Bengals on Friday. Linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) and cornerback Brandon Ghee (thigh) are also questionable.

The Bills will be making game-time decisions on wide receiver Stevie Johnson (back, personal) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and they know they won’t have quarterback E.J. Manuel (knee) and cornerback Ron Brooks (foot). Running back C.J. Spiller (ankle) is questionable, but is expected to play.