Bills @ Bengals
Final Score: Bengals 24, Bills 18
Writer: Adam Nardelli (@adamnardelli on Twitter)
Remember when the Bengals offense was inept? I only do from being in attendance Week 4 against the Titans, but that sure seems like centuries ago at this point. Joe Burrow and the rest of the offense came out firing, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions. Josh Allen and the Bills matched the Bengals’ first touchdown with a seven play drive of their own, resulting in a short touchdown run from Allen. While Cincinnati managed another seven points before the halftime break, the Bills’ first touchdown was their lone score of the first two quarters. They looked to be stuck in the mud after their opening possession, much like they have for about the past month. An early fourth quarter Dalton Kincaid fumble in the redzone proved to be a costly turnover and likely the difference in the game. The Bengals kicked a field goal off the turnover and increased the lead to 14. Allen was able to lead a long touchdown drive later in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to six, but a 32 yard pass from Burrow to Tyler Boyd on the final drive of the game helped seal the deal for Cincinnati and ensure their fourth straight win.
All the Bengals’ Tight Ends got in on the fun tonight, making big contributions and with two of them scoring touchdowns. The Tight End position hasn’t traditionally been a real significant part of this Bengals offense, but it’s at least something to be aware of considering how shallow the positiion is. Also I’m a little worried all the Bengals’ Tight Ends mixed up their dates and thought it was National Tight Ends day.
- Dalton Kincaid – Quickly becoming one of Josh Allen’s go-to receiving options and a clear must start at this point
- Tee Higgins – Burrow’s favorite target tonight and looks fully healthy just in time for the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs
- Joe Burrow – Season high in passing yards and can actually run again, as he said in a post-game interview
- Gabe Davis – Another disappearance game for Davis after Josh Allen barely looked his way.
- James Cook – 10 touches, but not much to show for it.
Josh Allen: 26/38, 258 yards, TD, INT, sack | 8 carries, 44 yards, TD
Sloppy and sluggish were some ways to describe Josh Allen and the Bills so far this year, but not on the first possession. Allen led a seven play, 85 yard drive culminating in him faking out a Bengals defender like he was Steph Curry on his way to a 2 yard touchdown run. Unfortunately we were reminded quickly why sloppy has been a common description of the Bills when Allen under threw Gabe Davis, leading to an interception in the second quarter. The broadcast noted that Josh Allen has 91 turnovers since 2018, the most in the NFL. Luckily for Buffalo the interception didn’t directly lead to points, as Cincinnati punted on the following possession. The first half ended on a sour note for Allen and the Bills after he was called for an intentional grounding that pushed Buffalo out of field goal range.
The second half began with an 11 play 58 yard drive resulting in a 34 yard field goal, cutting the lead to 21-10 and helping the Bills to at least re-gain some momentum from how poorly the first half ended. Allen threw ten times on the drive, as it appeared Offensive Coordinator Ken Dorsey started using the quick passing game as an extension of the run game. The six-year veteran threw an absolute dime to Stefon Diggs on the sidelines for 15 yards, helping Bills fans remember why they have to live with some turnovers in order to reap the rewards Allen will inevitably deliver. The Wyoming product orchestrated a 12 play 75-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that culminated with an impeccable throw by Allen to Stefon Diggs for a 17-yard touchdown. From a fantasy perspective, tonight was a perfect example of how Allen may not play a perfect real life game, but will still deliver in the fantasy world, largely because of his rushing ability.
James Cook: 6 carries, 20 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 19 yards
I mentioned earlier that it appeared offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey opted to use the quick passing game as an extension of the running game, which is somewhat of an indictment on Cook. Six carries for 20 yards can explain why Dorsey may have went in the quick passing direction. Ideally Cook touches the ball more than ten times, but you can’t blame the Bills for not emphasizing Cook more when he only comes away with 39 scrimmage yards on those ten opportunities. He just wasn’t able to break off any significant chunk plays, with all his receptions coming underneath and his longest rush only coming in at eight yards. His inefficient night made the Bills largely one dimensional, forcing Josh Allen to have to put more on his shoulders.
Latavius Murray: 2 carries, 4 yards, 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Stefon Diggs: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 86 yards, TD
Do we talk enough about Stefon Diggs’ YAC ability? If not we should after he took a short pass from Allen for 34 yards on the Bills’ opening drive. He somehow spun away from a Bengals defender, breaking a tackle, and he was off to the races. Up until late in the fourth quarter, Diggs was having a relatively modest night for his standards. That all changed when Josh Allen threw a perfectly placed ball to Diggs for a 17-yard touchdown followed by finding him again on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to six. On a night where Diggs wasn’t necessarily jumping off the screen all night aside from his aforementioned 34 yard reception, he still managed over 20 PPR points. It was just another quality outing for Diggs, who hasn’t disappointed those who took him in the first-round this year.
Dalton Kincaid: 11 targets, 10 receptions, 81 yards, fumble (lost)
The best thing about Kincaid is that he catches just about every pass thrown his way, which has been quite often the last two weeks. 11 targets tonight along with eight last week is exactly what Bills fans and fantasy managers alike hoped to see once Dawson Knox was placed on IR with a wrist injury. The 2023 first-round pick does a lot of his work in the short and intermediate areas of the field, and has all the makings of a PPR machine. At such a scarce position like Tight End, Kincaid has emerged as a mid-season bright spot despite his untimely fumble in the redzone during an early fourth-quarter drive. Sure it was disappointing that he fumbled, but he’s still a rookie and mistakes are going to happen. Even on that play you could see the chemistry that him and Allen are starting to build after Josh hit him perfectly in stride on a slant route. The more Allen and Kincaid play together, the better connection they will develop, and patient fantasy mangers will benefit. The next step is getting that yards per catch average up a little bit.
Khalil Shakir: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 57 yards
Shakir’s night was highlighted by a 22-yard catch on the opening drive and a 23-yard reception on a bullet from Allen shortly before the end of the first half. Shakir showed some nice big-play potential tonight and it’s easy to see he’s a guy that should be involved a bit more in the offense. As a Dalton Kincaid investor I’ll never complain about him hogging the targets, but there was definitely some meat left on the bone for Shakir tonight after he was able to come away with 55 yards from just two receptions.
Trent Sherfield: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards
Gabe Davis: 2 targets, 0 receptions
Tonight was a perfect example of why I’ll never give anyone a hard time for not starting Gabe Davis. Sure, he had four touchdowns in a playoff game, but for some reason he disappears all too often, and that was the case tonight. In a game where the Bills trailed almost the whole game, Davis’ lack of targets gives further credence to not being able to trust him. It’s also evident that he’s been passed on the pecking order by Dalton Kincaid.
Joe Burrow: 31/44, 348 yards, 2 TD, sack | 5 carries, 4 yards
I think it’s safe to say Joe Burrow is all the way back from his calf injury. Two first quarter throws on the run to Tee Higgins should put that conversation completely to bed. While not quite as absurdly efficient as he was last week against the 49ers, Burrow was still impressive, completing 70% of his passes. He looked like vintage Joe Burrow being in complete control of the offense and methodically moving the ball up and down the field. It was Tee Higgins’ night, but Burrow still found Ja’Marr Chase on a beautiful ball he placed between the corner and safety for 32 yards in the fourth quarter. His connection with Chase is so good that I think they could each throw and catch with their eyes closed. This was the second week in a row where Joe Burrow looked like Joe Burrow, as Cris Collinsworth closed the broadcast with. I could argue he started to look like himself earlier than that, but regardless, tonight emphasized the injury concerns are over and it’s full steam ahead for Burrow and this Bengals team as they head into the second half of the season.
Joe Mixon: 14 carries, 37 yards, TD | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 31 yards
Mixon couldn’t have started the game off better after his name was called on the first two plays from scrimmage. Joe Burrow immediately looked his way for an 8 yard pass, and he followed that up with an explosive 15-yards on a run up the middle. The usage in the passing game is encouraging and helps give him a better floor if that involvement continues, but the touchdown masked his extremely inefficient night on the ground. The smart ones see past the touchdown and understand Mixon isn’t going to get in the endzone every game to bail his fantasy managers out. You can’t complain about 19 touches, but only 68 total yards with those 19 opportunities is underwhelming.
Trayveon Williams: 3 carries, 13 yards
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Tee Higgins: 9 targets, 8 receptions, 110 yards
Tee Higgins hasn’t quite lived up to his draft position so far, but Higgins managers were pleased to see his heavy involvement early on and throughout the game. The Tennessee native has had some lackluster performances in 2023, but he looks to be fully recovered from the rib injury he suffered week 4 and continued the positive momentum he developed last week in San Francisco. In fact, he did a lot more than build on the momentum. He was the Bengals’ clear #1 receiver tonight and made the most of his opportunities, catching eight of his nine targets and averaging almost 14 yards per catch. As he said on a post-game interview with NBC, it was “about time” when he was told he had a season high in receiving yards. Joe Burrow said himself in the same interview he told Higgins before the game that he was coming his way tonight.
Tyler Boyd: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 56 yards
Similar to Higgins, Boyd had his season-high in receiving yards as well. 32 of those came on a reception on the final drive and helped ensure Josh Allen and the Bills didn’t get another opportunity on offense. From a fantasy perspective, nothing changed from Boyd being a difficult guy to trust in lineups.
Ja’Marr Chase: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 41 yards
It was obviously a disappointing game for all those who invested a top two pick in Chase, but every now and then it’s going to be a Tee Higgins day. That happened to be today, but Chase still got eight targets. It was surprising to see only 41 yards come out of those eight targets, but the last player I’d be worried about from a fantasy perspective is Chase. Eight targets is actually tied for the lowest Chase has seen this season, so it’s likely next week his usage gets back towards the 10+ targets he’s averaging.
Tanner Hudson: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 45 yards
Hudson had four catches all season coming into tonight’s game and matched that in one night. His biggest catch may have been on a 3rd & 1 in their own territory when Burrow lobbed a pass to him for 17 yards. It’s hard to find quality Tight Ends as I’m sure we all know, but it’s hard to rely on Hudson becoming a consistent part of the offense.
Drew Sample; 4 targets, 3 receptions, 30 yards, TD
Sample sneaked out of the backfield for a screen pass from Burrow which he took 22 yards to the house in the second quarter. He showed some impressive run-after-the-catch ability, making Bills Safety Taylor miss on his way to pay dirt. Not to be that guy, but the former Washington Huskie had four targets all season before tonight.
Irv Smith: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 26 yard, TD
Unlike his two Tight End counterparts, Smith Jr. at least has been a bit more involved in the offense throughout the year. His 15 targets prior to tonight’s game was comfortably ahead of Hudson and Sample. Smith Jr. caught an 11 yard pass getting the Bengals to the Bills’ 7-yard line before Burrow rewarded him with his first touchdown as a Bengal. Let’s all not get fooled by a flukey touchdown.