It's been a fairly even series between the Bills and Bengals. Going back to their first meeting in 1968, which Cincinnati won, Buffalo is leading 16-15 although the Bengals have won four of the last five meetings.
Their first eight meetings were streaky. They split their first two meetings but then Cincinnati rattled off three consecutive wins. The Bills countered and won the next three. Then from thereon, the '80s was dominated by the Bengals who won seven of their eight games from 1981 to 1989.
Included in this era were two playoff victories for the Bengals in 1982 and 1989. But it would be all Bills as they won a staggering ten straight games from 1989 to 2010. The Bills were a decent team in the late '90s but the early 2000's featured two mediocre franchises who were both on playoff droughts.
Their recent incarnations are more of the same: both are expected to be losing teams and the series could swing for either team's favour.
Cincinnati Bengals Recent History
Even when they started winning (and they didn't do it much), the Bengals never quite got over their pejorative moniker as the "Bungles". The height of their success came in the '80s when the team went 12-4 and lost in two Super Bowls. Then the '90s all the way to the early 2000's was skippable.
It wasn't until Lewis took over as the coach that the franchise began to turn it around beginning with a playoff appearance in 2005, their first in 15 seasons. But despite several roster changes and a bevy of Pro Bowlers, the Bengals couldn't win a playoff game. They've gone 0-7 under Lewis.
Despite all this, Lewis remains as the coach and the Bengals missed their window as the team slowly regresses each season. Cincinnati could be headed for another period of darkness.
Buffalo Bills Recent History
The Bills are the NFL's equivalent to the MLB's Chicago Cubs. The "loveable losers" are the only sports franchise to lose four straight championship games. But hey, making it to four straight Super Bowls is an impressive feat and this was Buffalo's golden era as the team boasted up to five Hall of Famers.
This dynasty-that-never-was during the early '90s is sandwiched by sporadic playoff appearances and mostly middling seasons. But from 1999 to 2016, the Bills would miss the playoffs frequently finishing with six to eight wins almost every year.
They finally got off the hamster wheel of mediocrity in 2017 but just barely as they were one of the worst teams to qualify for the playoffs with a -52 point differential. And this playoff appearance might just be one in many seasons as the rebuilding Bills appear headed for another drought. Hopefully, it's not 18 years again.
Cincinnati Bengals Outlook
As long as Lewis captains the ship and team owner Mike Brown refuses to hire a real general manager, Cincinnati will be mired with dysfunction. There's something about a franchise that can't win a playoff game despite consecutive seasons winning 10 or more games.
They still have one of the best defences in the division. Their d-line is what keeps this team from falling apart entirely. Atkins is still an elite tackle. Carlos Dunlap (DE) is still reliable. And their linebackers aren't too shabby even if Burfict's antics are starting to take their toll.
Offence is where Cincy is beginning to unravel. The offensive line has gotten worse almost every season. They drafted Billy Price (C) in the first round and traded for Bills' Cordy Glenn despite their medical concerns. For Dalton's sake, they better stay healthy or the Bengals may even get worse.
Buffalo Bills Outlook
The Bills finally returned to the playoffs in almost two decades so they decide to tear apart the offence. To their credit, it was the defence that did the heavy lifting. But the Bills lost at least a third of their starters from last year including their quarterback, second wide receiver, and two-thirds of the offensive line.
Buffalo drafted Allen and underrated guard Wyatt Teller then signed backup quarterback A.J. McCarron from Cincinnati but most of their offseason upgrades come on defence. They added Carolina's Star Lotulelei (DT) and Indianapolis' Vontae Davis (CB) and drafted bluechip linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
LeSean McCoy (RB) remains their best player overall but with a potential suspension thanks to an off-field incident, the Bills could be one of the league's worst offences. At best, Buffalo can finish close to a .500 record and at worst they're drafting first overall in 2019. Sorry, Bills Mafia. But the losses will continue, at least for the short-term.
These teams know each other well especially with McCarron and Glenn playing for the opposite sides. McCarron is pegged as Buffalo's starting quarterback so expect him to play significant minutes but Allen may take over in the second half. The Bengals will use a platoon of Dalton and Matt Barkley.
Both teams have prolific defences, especially down the middle. The Bengals have the edge here, however as their front-seven will make life hard for their former quarterback and will give Allen a rude welcome into the NFL. But it goes both ways as McCarron will know the defence's tendencies and may be able to exploit them.
He'll be hungry to prove he is capable of starting, particularly when a prized prospect is breathing down his neck. The Bills' secondary is also among the AFC's best and should be able to neutralize Dalton enough to even the playing field.
Flying under-the-radar is the Bills' special teams. They ranked among the league's best in punt returns and Steven Hauschka was among the most consistent kickers. It seems minor, but it could be a deciding factor especially when Cincinnati's special teams isn't that great. Buffalo should edge this.