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Are 5-0 stripes ripe for upset in 3-2 Buffalo?

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Posted at 2:51 AM, Oct 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-18 02:51:02-04

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills might have to play without their No. 1 quarterback. Their best offensive weapons have nagging injuries. And they have lost two straight home games.

Sounds like a perfect scenario to spring an upset on the undefeated Bengals.

Maybe that's why Bengals coach Marvin Lewis played down his team's hot start last week.

"Five games doesn't do anything for you," Lewis said. "These are young football players who really have a singleness of purpose and nothing outside really matters too much to them. And what do they know? They spend too much time talking on their phones and all that other stuff."

With the Bengals' bye week ahead and a dramatic 27-24 overtime win over Seattle behind them, this is not the time to overlook an injury-depleted opponent with an aggressive Rex Ryan-designed defense.

Two years ago, the 3-2 Bengals went into 2-3 Buffalo in Week 6 and escaped with a 27-24 overtime win.

Here are five things to watch:

WHO'S THE QUARTERBACK: With Tyrod Taylor still hobbled by a knee injury, EJ Manuel is expected to start at quarterback for the Bills, though Ryan hasn't ruled Taylor out. Manuel took the majority of first-team snaps at practice this week. He hasn't started since losing the No. 1 job to Kyle Orton early last season. Manuel poses a running threat, but nothing like Taylor, who set a franchise record for a QB with 76 yards rushing, including a 22-yard touchdown, in a 14-13 win over Tennessee last week.

INJURIES HAVE BILLS BY THE HORNS: Aside from the quarterback question, the Bills running game has been grounded due to injuries to starter LeSean McCoy (left hamstring) and rookie backup Karlos Williams (concussion). But McCoy is expected back after missing two games. The Bills' top receivers, Sammy Watkins (calf) and Percy Harvin (hip), are questionable. Harvin practiced on a limited basis Friday. The defense will be missing starting safety Aaron Williams (neck).

NO OFFENSE: The Bills have had difficulty generating offense since McCoy was sidelined following a 41-14 win at Miami. In its past two games, Buffalo had a total of 27 first downs, 10 three-and-outs and 522 yards offense. As for running the ball, Taylor accounted for 91 of Buffalo's 182 yards rushing the past two weeks.

FAST START: The Bengals have been one of the NFL's best teams at starting off well. They have outscored opponents 73-28 in the first half, allowing them to play while ahead. They trailed at halftime last Sunday for the first time this season.

BY THE SACKFUL: The Bengals finished last in the NFL in sacks last season with only 20, in large part because their line got little push into the backfield. They're much better this year. After dropping Kansas City's Alex Smith five times and Seattle's Russell Wilson four times in the last two games, they're up to 15 sacks already.

"It's not enough," end Wallace Gilberry said. "We feel like we left a lot on the field, but we're getting after it. We just want to make a statement, and that's what we've been doing these last couple weeks."