One of the best games of Week 6 is a matchup between the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals (5-0) and the Buffalo Bills (3-2). Both teams have played significantly better than expected and appear poised for a run at the postseason.
Cincinnati's high-powered offense will look to win a battle against Rex Ryan's defense, led by Stephon Gilmore at cornerback. The Bills have several injury question marks on offense that should prove to have a big impact on the outcome of this one.
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Here are three keys to the game for both the Bengals and the Bills.
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1. Stick with Bernard
Jeremy Hill has been a virtual nonfactor through five games, and a matchup against Buffalo's third-ranked run defense isn't the time to try to get him going. Giovani Bernard's shiftiness is a better matchup against Buffalo's aggressive front seven as his ability to make defenders miss will extend runs.
2. Bernard's usage
Once the Bengals realize that Bernard is the better option Sunday, they should run him behind Andrew Whitworth and Clint Boling. Bernard has 27 carries for 196 yards when running to the left, compared to just 140 yards on 33 carries to the right, a difference of two full yards per carry. In the passing game, Cincinnati should utilize Bernard in the screen game to counter Rex Ryan's heavy blitzing.
3. Play conservative on defense
Buffalo's backfield is a mess due to a rash of injuries. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor (sprained MCL), receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Karlos Williams (concussion) are all iffy to play. Translation: The Bengals don't need to take any unnecessary risks on defense. As long as they avoid big plays, they should be able to avoid their first loss of the season.
1. Double-cover Tyler Eifert
Eifert is arguably playing the best of any tight end in the league right now. He's a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and he is a consistent winner in single-coverage. The Bills are thin at safety with Aaron Williams on short-term IR, so matching up Eifert with a single defensive back will be a challenge. To limit him, the Bills will need to chip him at the line of scrimmage and play a linebacker underneath with a safety over the top.
2. Limit A.J. Green with Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore is playing as well as any cornerback in the NFL, and he's more than capable of matching up against Green. Just last week, Gilmore allowed two completions on six targets with an interception, and allowed a 4.2 passer rating when he was targeted. If he can keep up that type of play against the Bengals, the Bills will have a good chance of limiting Green and the passing offense.
3. Stop the Bengals' two-headed monster at RB
Hill entered the season as one of the top running backs in the league after having a breakout second half of 2014. Now in Week 6, it appears as though Bernard has taken over the Bengals' backfield -- but Hill is very much still a factor. Given the fact that Cincinnati has two starter-caliber backs, the Bills will have to slow down both players as they'll be fresh throughout the game.