Bengals vs. Bills 2013 game preview: How will Buffalo fare without E.J. Manuel?

Rick Stewart

With E.J. Manuel injured, the Bills will turn to Thad Lewis. Will he be able to lead them to a win over Cincinnati?

The Bengals and Bills have both had very different outcomes this season when playing at home compared to on the road. Cincinnati is 3-0 at home with wins against Green Bay and New England, but 0-2 on the road. Both of the Bills' wins have come at home while Buffalo is also 0-2 on the road. With the Bills hosting Cincinnati at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, we'll have to wait and see if the early trend holds true.

If Buffalo is going to hold court at home, it will have to do so without starting quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel suffered a knee injury last week and will miss a few weeks. Instead, the Bills will turn to Thad Lewis who will make his second regular season appearance.

Cincinnati has had its own share of quarterback issues, with third-year starter Andy Dalton struggling to take a step forward. Dalton has thrown just five touchdowns in five games after tossing 27 touchdowns a year ago. With the passing game struggling, scoring points has been a challenge for the Bengals, who are 3-2 despite ranking 25th in the NFL in points scored.

Meet the Bills

Injuries are currently a major issues for Buffalo, with Manuel, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson and Jairus Byrd among the players hampered. Spiller and Jackson both played through injuries last week and have combined to give Buffalo one of the top rushing attacks in the league. Buffalo is averaging 152.6 rushing yards per game, third in the NFL. Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie from Washington State, opened this season as the No. 2 quarterback. He replaced Manuel last week but struggled, and the Bills instead opted to promote Lewis from the practice squad and give him the starting job.

The front seven is the strength of Buffalo's defense, and it's a unit led by Kyle Williams and Mario Williams. Mario Williams has racked up 7.5 sacks already this season. Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch have also been solid along the defensive line. Kiko Alonso has proven to be a playmaker as a rookie and is one of the leading Rookie of the Year candidates thus far. Byrd has yet to play this season, but could make his debut this week and will help the secondary.

Meet the Bengals

It's been an up and down season for Cincinnati thus far. The Bengals lost on a last-second field goal in Week 1 only to win their next two games. The offense was unable to do anything in a 17-6 loss to Cleveland in Week 4. The offense struggled again last week, but a great defensive performance keyed a 13-6 win against New England.

A year after averaging 24.4 points per game, the Bengals are scoring less than 19 points per game this season. That's despite the additions of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Gio Bernard, Cincinnati's first two picks in the NFL Draft. Dalton's completion percentage is improved, and his yards per attempt is almost identical to last season. The Bengals, however, are struggling to get into the end zone and Dalton hasn't thrown a touchdown since Week 3.

A.J. Green's numbers are down across the board, something Cincinnati will likely need to get fixed if it is going to make the playoffs for the third straight season.

Local Takes: Buffalo

Why is Buffalo turning to Lewis instead of Tuel? Doug Marrone explained, and Buffalo Rumblings has the details:

"We had a situation where he played very well in the preseason, and we didn't want to put him on the practice squad and lose a good, young developing quarterback," Marrone said Monday. "Jeff, we're excited about. He's still developing."

That comment doesn't account for the Bills not simply keeping all three quarterbacks on the active roster throughout the season, but anyone that has been paying close attention to Marrone's commentary since as far back as the winter months will tell you that the Bills have been intent on keeping just two quarterbacks all along. For now, they'll stick with three, with Lewis joining Manuel and Tuel on the 53-man squad.

Local Takes: Cincinnati

There has been some angst among the Bengals' fan base due to Dalton's struggles. Cincy Jungle took a poll to see where everyone stands:

With the post, we polled the readers with three simple choices that asked readers where they're at with Dalton.

As of Monday night, the results were:

Give Dalton until his contracts (2014), and then decide (54 percent).
Looking at possible high-round draft picks (43 percent).
What are you talking about, he's flipping great (3 percent).

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Buffalo Rumblings and Cincy Jungle, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@BuffRumblings

@CincyJungle

@mikerodak -- Bills beat writer

@joereedy -- Bengals beat writer

Prediction

The Bengals are favored by oddsmakers and SB Nation's NFL writers agree with Ryan Van Bibber, Jason Chilton and David Fucillo picking Cincinnati.

Odds

The Bengals opened as a 3-point favorite according to OddsShark. Some oddsmakers have Cincinnati favored by as many as nine points, with the absence of Manuel likely playing a factor.

Next Week

Buffalo will go on the road next week for an AFC East contest against Miami. Cincinnati will play back-to-back road games, this time traveling to Detroit to face the Lions.

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