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.
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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.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol and was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Shepard missed last Thursday's game and will likely be questionable for Week 7 against the Cardinals. He'll have to gain clearance from the protocol later this week in order to have a shot at suiting up, making him a risky fantasy option despite the excellent matchup. Golden Tate and Darius Slayton would be the team's top two receivers if Shepard remains out, although the Cardinals will be getting cornerback Patrick Peterson back from suspension this week. Tight end Evan Engram (knee) is also on track to return after missing last week's game.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is not a great starting option for Week 7. The Eagles hit the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys and their strong pass defense on Sunday Night Football. Agholor managed to catch four of his seven targets in Week 6, but caught only one pass in Weeks 4 and 5. He simply does not possess NFL-level hands and will always battle with drops and fumbles. The Eagles passing game will likely run through Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, leaving Agholor far behind.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins is not a fantasy option in Week 7. The Eagles will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and even if DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is forced to miss another game, Hollins will only play a bit role. Hollins saw seven targets in Week 3, but has seen just five total targets since then. He's playing plenty of snaps in three-wide sets, but just isn't seeing much of the ball going his way. He's droppable in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has not seen a pass thrown his way since Week 3. The hyped rookie saw four targets in Week 2 and three in Week 3, but hasn't seen any since then. He's been mostly working on special teams even without DeSean Jackson (abdomen) available on offense. The Eagles have been rolling with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins in three-wide sets, and that's not likely to change any time soon. Arcega-Whiteside is a dynasty hold for sure, but seems unlikely to develop much redraft value this season.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) were both full participants in practice on Wednesday. Barkley and Engram are both on track to return for a mouthwatering Week 7 matchup against the Cardinals. Barkley's owners have to be ecstatic that he will wind up missing just two games after suffering a mild high right ankle sprain. Barkley and Engram will be high-end fantasy options at their respective positions this weekend. The Cardinals allow the most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. The return of both players should also boost rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' appeal as a QB streamer.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Devin Smith could be back in the starting lineup for a key Week 7 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) both questionable at best for Sunday Night Football, Smith could play the biggest role he's played all season against an Eagles pass defense that barely exists. Smith, as usual, will be a boom-or-bust play in fantasy, but could be a solid DFS value if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson could be elevated to a starting role on Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. With wide receivers Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday's matchup, the Cowboys could be forced to roll with Michael Gallup, Devin Smith, and Wilson in three-wide sets. Wilson appeared out of nowhere onto the Cowboys box score in Week 6, catching five passes for 48 yards. He'll get an easy Eagles secondary to contend with, so Wilson could be a near zero-cost moderate upside value in DFS leagues this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin could have a legitimate role on offense in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles and their porous, generous pass defense. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday night, Austin should see more snaps than usual. He somehow led the Cowboys in receiving last week, catching five passes for 64 yards. He's not a huge-upside play, but could end up as a decent bye week filler if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should have another solid performance in Week 7 despite a tough matchup. DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable at best for Sunday and would likely be limited even if he were able to play, making Jeffery once again the top target in the passing game. The Cowboys defend well against the pass, but the Eagles will have to move the ball and Jeffery will likely be the one to do it. He's been solid this season although he hasn't shown a ton of upside. He's settled in as an every-week WR2.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (thigh) and Randall Cobb (back) will not practice on Wednesday. Offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (back) also aren't practicing. Consider all of them questionable to play on Sunday night in a big divisional showdown against the Eagles. Cooper was in serious pain after the Week 6 loss to the Jets and is in serious danger of sitting out this weekend. With Cobb also banged up and sitting out on Sunday, the Cowboys could be looking at three-wide sets of Michael Gallup, Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson against the Eagles beatable secondary.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup should see an increased role in Week 7 and has a good matchup to exploit. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles and their struggling pass defense. Gallup could be playing as the top receiving option as Amari Cooper (quad) is not a sure thing for Sunday. With Gallup likely running as the top target through the air, he'll be a low-end WR1 if Cooper is out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard could struggle in Week 7. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a battle for first place, and Howard will face off against a tough Dallas run defense. While he has become the head of the Philly backfield, Howard is still a zero in the passing game, limiting his upside to touchdowns. He's right on the RB2/3 border, but his goal line role will always give him some upside in any matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders is not an exciting choice for a Week 7 fantasy lineup. Sanders is playing passing downs behind early-down lead back Jordan Howard and isn't doing much in the red zone, severely limiting his upside. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on a strong Cowboys Defense and could have some trouble moving the ball. Sanders shapes up as an unexciting RB3 with not too much upside for the Sunday Night Football contest.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced on Wednesday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start over Josh Rosen in Week 7 against the Bills. Rosen failed against the Redskins in Week 6 and was benched in favor of the veteran late in the game. Fitzpatrick has had his ups and downs this year. He likely gives Miami a better chance to win in the short term, but he'll be an unappealing QB2 in a terrifying matchup against Buffalo's strong defense on the road this Sunday.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) will practice in full on Wednesday. It looks like Singletary will return to action in Week 7 against the Dolphins after resting up during the bye week. The 22-year-old rookie has just 10 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown in two games this year and hasn't played since Sept. 15. Even if he's active in a great matchup with Miami, Singletary will be a low-end RB3/flex that should continue to play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore in the backfield.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will face a difficult challenge in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a winner-takes-first-place-for-now battle on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles Defense has essentially been non-existent against the pass but has actually been very strong against the run. Elliott should still put up numbers, especially since he can play a role in the passing game if necessary, but his upside could be a little limited. He's absolutely an RB1 as always, but he's more top-five than top-two for this week.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg), who suffered a gruesome leg injury in November of last year, said he wound up having 17 surgeries on his right leg. Smith developed an infection following an operation to fix the broken fibula and tibia he suffered against the Texans. The 35-year-old recently resumed throwing and hopes to return to the field again eventually, but it's a long shot that he'll be back in 2019. The fact that Smith has made it this far is even a minor miracle, and there's no guarantee he'll play another down in the NFL again. The 'Skins will move forward with Case Keenum under center for another week after getting their first win against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard won't likely have too big of a role in Week 7. The Cowboys will welcome the Eagles into town for Sunday Night Football, and starter Ezekiel Elliott will almost certainly see a monster workload in what should be a close game. Pollard remains a handcuff with league-winning upside, but his own value is completely game flow dependent and too difficult to predict.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is set up well for a strong performance on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles in what should be one of the better games of the week. The Eagles Defense has been awful at limiting opposing quarterbacks, so Prescott has a chance to go off this week to make up for the losses that are starting to pile up. He may be without his top receiver though, as Amari Cooper is recovering from a thigh bruise that forced him to make an early exit in the loss against the Jets. Still, Prescott is a solid mid-range QB1 for the first-place matchup against the Eagles.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) said he is doing well and is "on track," but he will not practice on Wednesday. Jackson will instead run on a side field on Wednesday. The Eagles are optimistic that D-Jax can return on Sunday night against the Cowboys in Week 7, but it's not a certainty. The Eagles desperately need the return of their deep threat, and quarterback Carson Wentz's fantasy stock would receive a big boost if Jackson returns. As of now, though, he's a risky fantasy option this weekend with the game being on Sunday night. If Jackson misses another game, it'll be Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins remaining in three-wide sets.