Preview and Pick for Bengals at Bills
BetOnline customers did not get a chance to see things all the way through when the Buffalo Bills faced the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2. The cardiac arrest sustained by Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin brought a halt to the proceedings. Now Hamlin is making progress, and that makes both sides feel a lot better. And the Bills and Bengals get to face each other again, this time at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY on Sunday at 3 PM ET.
The winner will move on to the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But here's where the complications begin - if the Bengals win, next week's game will be held at Arrowhead Stadium. If the Bills win, it will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. That was the solution the NFL came up with, since the abbreviated January 2 game precluded the Bills from being able to play for home field advantage throughout the AFC side of the playoff bracket.
As you're aware, Cincinnati made it to the Super Bowl as the AFC representative last season, and both of these squads have scored wins over Kansas City.
And a big reason for that resides in the talent of the respective quarterbacks. Both Joe Burrow and Josh Allen had close calls last week; Allen had to overcome four turnovers as the Bills had to struggle with a Miami team starting a rookie seventh-round draft pick (NOT named Brock Purdy), and Burrow could have been home for this weekend if he hadn't gotten the benefit of a 98-yard fumble return on the part of one of his defenders, as Baltimore QB Tyler Huntley was trying to cross the goal line.
There are some winning streaks at work here; Cincinnati has now won nine games in a row, while Buffalo has won eight straight.
In the AFC playoff betting odds that have been posted on this game by the people at BetOnline, the Bills are favored:
Buffalo Bills -5.5 (-113)
Cincinnati Bengals +5.5 (-107)
Over 48.5 Points -110
Under 48.5 Points -110
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One can argue that Cincinnati has not been facing high-caliber offenses over the second half of the season, and that is why their numbers on that side of the ball are looking better than they might otherwise look. No, these guys aren't as imposing as Buffalo's. Opponents have connected on only 58.8% of their passes, and no stop unit in the NFL has a better percentage than that. And they've allowed just 19.9 points per game. They're not so far below the Bills in that regard.
This could be a battle of red zone opportunities. The Bengals are fifth best in the NFL with a 66% TD percentage when they land inside the 20 yard line. Buffalo is second best in red zone touchdown defense, allowing just 45.3%. Cincy's defense has allowed just 50% touchdowns from the red zone, which is #5 in the NFL. They are not to be underrated.
The numbers on Burrow are impressive. He's had 4475 yards and a ratio of 35 touchdowns to just 12 INT's. In the first eight games of the season, he was sacked 29 times; in the subsequent nine games, he has suffered only 16 sacks. And if he gets some pass protection, he just might be able to do some business against the Bills' secondary with his fantastic trio of Ja'Marr Chase (87 catches, 1046 yards), Tee Higgins (74 for 1029) and Tyler Boyd (58 for 762). But Joe Mixon has run 49 times for 152 yards over the last four games, and that might have to improve.
We're not going to go out on a limb expecting that Allen will be as erratic as he was last week, when he suffered through three interceptions that kept the Dolphins very much in the game. But the fact of the matter is, he's been picked off five times in the last three games, rushing for only 77 yards over that time. What the Bills have going in their favor is a ground game that has averaged over five yards per carry, wide receivers like Stefon Diggs (108 catches), Gabe Davis (17.4 yards per catch), a tight end like Dawson Knox, who is a real factor in the red zone, and the best third down conversion percentage in the NFL (50%).
Lots of positives on both sides, but the Bengals, who have been down this road before, are a viable underdog, with a realistic chance to advance. Therefore,. we're perfectly content to grab the points.
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