In this Aug. 26, 2018, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, left, is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bengals travel to Orchard Park this week for the Bills' home-opener. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Andy Dalton fondly recalls the warm welcome he received a little over a year ago, when the Bengals traveled to Buffalo for a preseason game.
The Cincinnati quarterback drew several ovations after winning over Bills fans' hearts for his last-minute touchdown to beat Baltimore in the 2017 season finale. The Ravens' 31-27 loss propelled Buffalo into the postseason and snapped the team's 17-year playoff drought.
Dalton knows better than to listen for any cheers in facing the Bills (2-0) in Buffalo's home opener Sunday.
''Ha, ha, no,'' Dalton said with a healthy chuckle. ''I'm not expecting the same kind of ovation I got last time.''
Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes has made a point of personally informing Dalton that won't happen.
''It was such a big moment in our franchise's history and everything the fans did for him, which is really cool,'' Hughes said, recalling watching Dalton hit Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass to convert a fourth-and-12 with 49 seconds left against Baltimore. ''But we understand, and I tell him this every time I see him back in Texas, when we get on the football field, it's go-time.''
And Hughes is speaking as Dalton's long-time friend, after the two grew up in Houston and were college teammates at TCU.
Buffalo is on a roll in opening the season with two road wins, both at the Meadowlands, and in position to enjoy its first 3-0 start since 2011.
The Bills defense has allowed just 22 points - not including an interception returned for a touchdown and safety in a 17-16 season-opening win against the Jets.
And their new-look offense under second-year quarterback Josh Allen is finding its rhythm after engineering four 70-plus-yard touchdown drives in a 28-14 win over the Giants last weekend.
The Bengals (0-2) are still trying to find their identity under rookie coach Zac Taylor.
After a tightly contested 21-20 season-opening loss at Seattle, Cincinnati unraveled in giving up 572 yards - the fifth-most in franchise history - in a 41-17 loss to San Francisco.
''The loss is not something we're going to run from,'' Taylor said. ''We got blown out at home. We could say it was frustrating, but we will not allow our guys to hang their heads.''
Though Dalton leads the NFL with 61 completions and is second with 729 yards passing, the Bengals' running attack has stalled.
An injury depleted offensive line has been the biggest issue. Rookie left tackle Jonah Williams tore a labrum in offseason workouts. Backup Cordy Glenn - a former Bill - missed the first two games with a concussion. And third-string tackle Andre Smith hurt his groin against the 49ers but is expected back this week. Cincinnati is last in the league with 59 yards on 33 carries through two games.
Running back Joe Mixon resorted to posting a message on Twitter, apologizing to his fans.
''I promise I will get it right and we will be better,'' wrote Mixon, averaging 1.8 yards per carry.
Taylor was hired from the Rams to replace Marvin Lewis, who was fired after failing to win a playoff game in 16 seasons. The 0-2 start is ominous. It's the 17th time in franchise history that the Bengals have opened 0-2, and have never managed a winning record after such a start.
''We win this week, and the feeling in this building is a lot different,'' Dalton said.
TAP THE BRAKES
The Bills know better than to take a 2-0 start for granted. After starting 3-0 and eventually getting to 5-2 in 2011, Buffalo unraveled in closing the season 6-10. It was no different in 2008, when Buffalo opened 4-0 and finished 7-9.
''I'm just looking at one game right now, honestly,'' coach Sean McDermott said, when reminded Buffalo plays five of its next six at home.
Buffalo tight end Tyler Kroft is in position to make his season debut and against his former team. The Bills offseason free-agent addition has practiced the past three weeks after missing the entire offseason with a broken right foot.
''Another added threat that you're going to have to worry about in the passing game,'' Allen said of Kroft, who spent his first four seasons in Cincinnati.
Aside from applause, Dalton's win over Baltimore led to Bills fans donating more than $450,000 to the quarterback's charitable foundation. He returned a portion of it back with a donation to Buffalo's Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
''It shows the game's bigger than just football,'' Dalton said.
Another $100,000 was donated to Boyd's cause of choice, which went to funding a youth sports league in his hometown of Clairton, Pennsylvania.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard hasn't done much in 2019, with that trend expected to continue in Week 7. The veteran has rushed for just 49 yards off of 23 attempts while racking up a subpar 108 receiving yards on 14 receptions so far this season. Joe Mixon continues to retain a firm grasp as the No. 1 option out of the backfield, so Bernard likely won't produce in all aspects until that changes, even with the team down A.J. Green (ankle) and John Ross (shoulder). For those fantasy managers who have Bernard on their roster for some reason, keep him benched against the Jaguars on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate will remain as the team's No. 2 option for Sunday's matchup against Jacksonville. With A.J. Green (ankle) still not ready to return, Tate will continue to receive a favorable amount of looks from quarterback Andy Dalton in Week 7. The 22-year-old was targeted 11 times against the Ravens in Week 6, and despite Dalton playing behind a horrendous offensive line, expect Boyd to produce something against a Jaguars Defense that no longer has Jalen Ramsey. The upside is there, especially in deeper formats.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has had a disappointing 2019. With just 15 receptions for 108 yards and a score, many were expecting the veteran to regain some traction this season after injuries plagued the team on the offensive end. However, Eifert remains a bust despite remaining healthy this season after spending a massive amount of time on injured reserve throughout the years. The upside is there against the Jaguars, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect much on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd will remain the No. 1 option on Sunday against the Jaguars. With A.J. Green (ankle) still not ready to return, Boyd should continue to get his looks from quarterback Andy Dalton. The 24-year-old has played relatively well, considering that the team has arguably the worst offensive line in football, and without Jalen Ramsey in the mix for Jacksonville after he was traded, the door is open for some solid production from Boyd. The upside is there for those plagued with injuries or looking to get through a bye.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to get on track in Week 7 against the Jaguars. The 23-year-old has been a colossal disappointment this season, rushing for only 252 yards on 74 attempts in addition to 97 yards off of 14 catches, with his only touchdown of the season coming through the air during the Week 3 matchup against Buffalo. With a weak offensive line along with limited options on the receiving end, opposing defenses continue to keep Mixon in check. Don't expect anything different on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will have his hands full against Jacksonville. After throwing for 262 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in Week 5, Dalton took a few steps back against Baltimore by logging a subpar 53.8 completion percentage to go along with an interception. With the Jaguars Defense getting to the quarterback often this season, expect Dalton to feel the pressure on Sunday behind arguably the worst offensive line in the league. Keep the veteran benched on Sunday.
The New York Jets Defense is getting star middle linebacker C.J. Mosley back for a tough Monday night matchup vs the Patriots. Mosley was a monster in the one game he played this season forcing two turnovers and scoring a touchdown in a Week 1 loss to Buffalo. The Jets defense hasn't looked the same without him so adding Mosley to a defense that already has safety Jamal Adams gives the Jets defense sleeper appeal in the second half against a soft schedule. Despite the good news, the Jets defense shouldn't be started this week against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has a rough matchup Monday against a Patriots Defense that allows the fewest fantasy points against to opposing wide receivers. Thomas got five targets last week, so he's been getting more involved in the offense, but is still not seeing the type of target share to warrant consideration in standard-size fantasy leagues. Thomas got five targets last week but is the clear third option behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder and won't carry much fantasy appeal as long as those other two are healthy.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder will face a tough test Monday when the Patriots No. 1 ranked pass defense comes to town. New England allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and shut down Crowder in Week 3 when they held him to only 25 yards on two catches. Third-string quarterback Luke Falk started that game, so Crowder should have more success with Sam Darnold back under center. In two games with Darnold, Crowder has 20 catches for 197 yards, so he has major fantasy upside moving forward, especially as the Jets' schedule gets softer. In Week 7, however, Crowder is only a borderline WR3 who has more appeal in PPR formats.
New York Jets Le'Veon Bell will face a tough matchup Monday night when the Patriots elite defense heads to MetLife Stadium. New England allows the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs so it's a tough matchup for Bell, but he should put up RB2 numbers based on volume. Bell has played 92.2 percent of the team's offensive snaps so far and has the second-most targets on the team. Bell should see his usual 20-25 touches and fantasy owners should start him with confidence he can put up a decent day even if he doesn't score a touchdown.
Free-agent RB Samaje Perine (Bengals) passed through waivers and was re-signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and assigned to their practice squad Friday, Oct. 18.
New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson will look to change his fortunes against the Patriots in a tough matchup Monday. In seven career games against New England, Anderson hasn't scored a touchdown and his 39.5 percent catch rate is by far his lowest mark against any team he's faced more than once. This season, the Patriots are as daunting a matchup as there is in the NFL allowing the fewest fantasy points against to wide receivers. There is always the chance Anderson grabs a long touchdown, like the 92-yard score he had last week, so he has some appeal as a flex in deeper leagues. However, where possible, owners should look to steer clear of Anderson in this matchup.
Washington Redskins WR Wendell Smallwood has the ability to handle RB Chris Thompson's (toe) duties on passing downs against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, according to offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell.
Fantasy Spin: With Thompson sidelined, Smallwood could be headed for the handful of catches and 50-plus total yards typically reserved for Thompson, but he's still just a DFS lottery ticket for fantasy purposes.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will face a tough challenge Monday night against the Patriots, the team that has given up the fewest fantasy points this season to opposing quarterbacks. Darnold, who missed three games with mono, had a strong showing in his return to the field Sunday when he put up 338 yards and two touchdowns. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect that type of performance Monday against arguably the best defense in the NFL, especially with two starters on the offensive line unlikely to play. Darnold is best left on the bench this week, however, the Jets schedule gets very soft after the game vs New England so Darnold is a good bench stash for those matchups.
New Orleans Saints RB Dwayne Washington will be 'invited into the offensive mix' against the Chicago Bears in Week 7 with RB Alvin Kamara (ankle) ruled out, according to Larry Holder of The Athletic.
Fantasy Spin: While Washington will likely see some touches, Latavius Murray is the back to target if you are looking for a replacement for Kamara. However, a matchup with a tough Chicago defense limits Murray to flex consideration.
Oakland Raiders WR Trevor Davis is expected to see an expanded role in the passing attack against the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 because of the injury to WR Tyrell Williams (foot), according to Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Davis caught four passes for 42 yards against Chicago in Week 5 in his second game with Oakland after being acquired from Green Bay. He could be worth a flier in DFS contests when faces off against his former team.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (hamstring) and cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) were limited in practice this week and are questionable for Week 7 against the Bills. Even if Grant plays this weekend, he's nowhere close to being fantasy relevant behind Devante Parker, Preston Williams and Albert Wilson on the depth chart. Grant has only nine catches (19 targets) for 52 scoreless yards in four games this year. Howard is the team's best cornerback, but the Dolphins Defense/special teams is also well off the fantasy radar. If Howard sits, it'll be good news for Bills wideout John Brown.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie tight end Josh Oliver (hamstring) practiced in full the last two days and isn't on the Week 7 injury report against the Bengals. Oliver has yet to play in his rookie season, but this weekend would be good timing for him to make his debut with Geoff Swaim out and James O'Shaughnessy on Injured Reserve. There's no guarantee that Oliver is heavily involved in the offense in his first game, but he's one to watch for those that are desperate at the position.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Nick Foles (collarbone) is expected to return to practice next week. He is currently on the Reserve/Injured list.
Fantasy Spin: Foles probably is a few weeks away from returning to the lineup, so Gardner Minshew will continue to be the starting quarterback for now. Minshew should have a favorable matchup this week and can be a low-end No. 1 quarterback in deeper leagues.