This is the game everyone’s been waiting to see, as the Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Buffalo Bills in Highmark Stadium for an intriguing showdown in the AFC Divisional Round.
The Bills are heavy favorites, sitting at -5.5 and -250 on the moneyline at the NFL odds boards, but the Bengals are just as hot as the Bills heading into this game. The Bills struggled with the Dolphins and were trailing in the third quarter to a team starting Skylar Thompson.
Meanwhile, the Bengals escaped the Ravens in their divisional rivalry matchup using their backup quarterback.
Neither team looked excellent last weekend, but when these two teams played earlier this season for a short while, the Bengals’ offense looked significantly dialed in against Buffalo. Of course, none of that counted after Damar Hamlin’s situation. But the Bengals were moving and grooving offensively in that game.
Here’s why the Bengals could stun a lot of bettors on Sunday.
Sunday, January 22, 2023 – 03:00 PM EST at Highmark Stadium
The Bills’ Defense Isn’t Great
The Bills just escaped the Dolphins, 34-31. Some of those points came from Josh Allen’s mistakes.
The defense for the Bills performed fine against the Dolphins, but the Bengals are a different animal offensively. Joe Burrow threw 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season, totaling nearly 4500 yards passing.
He’s got weapons all over the field, including Ja’Marr Chase, who added 87 catches for 1046 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing a month due to injury. Anyway, the Bills have a solid secondary and pass rush. The defense isn’t outstanding against the run, and they’ve missed plenty of tackles throughout the season.
If Burrow can make quick, decisive decisions against the Bills, the sacks will be limited, and the plays down the field will increase. The offensive line for the Bengals is banged up, but if the Bengals can commit to the run a little bit, the offense will explode in the passing game.
Josh Allen’s Mistakes
Josh Allen gets a ton of well-deserved hype. He makes incredible plays with his arm and legs.
He’s made Stefon Diggs one of the best receivers in the game and threw 35 touchdowns with 14 interceptions this season, throwing for 4283 yards to go along with his 762 rushing yards, including seven more touchdowns on the ground.
Allen is an elite quarterback. Don’t get us wrong. But he’s facing a Bengals defense that outperformed the Bills on defense this year.
The Bengals Have the Upper Hand
The Bengals have Eli Apple. We know. He talks a lot and rarely backs it up. That’s why most people are against the Bengals’ defense. But Apple talks a ton, yet he’s always in the playoffs as one of the lead corners.
The Cincinnati secondary played better than the Bills this year. The pass rush isn’t as good, but the tackling was way better, and the run defense has more potential than Buffalo’s.
Neither team is going to run the ball at a high pace. Josh Allen will scramble and get his rushing yards, but the rest of the team likely won’t see many rushing yards in this game.
Both teams have a better offensive line when rushing the football. Both teams aren’t even that great in pass protection. But the Bengals have more weapons at receiver and have the better quarterback when it comes to throwing the football and making decisions.
The Final Verdict
This game could come down to the wire. That was the expectation less than a month ago when these two teams met in Cincinnati, but in that game, the Bengals looked more prepared to start the game and the offense was simply cruising.
The game-time weather is about 33 degrees, which isn’t that cold. Both teams could handle the cold anyway. But the weather is good enough for the Bengals to throw the ball and excel in the passing game.
The Bills have scored more points and have allowed fewer points this season. But the Bengals are still the better team in both categories when you look at the analytics portion.
They have the better quarterback and more weapons in the passing game, and while the run game is weaker for the Bengals, that’s only because of Josh Allen’s legs.
On defense, the Bengals can stop the run better and tackle better. The pass rush might be less effective, but the secondary is better for the Bengals.
We’re backing the Bengals at +206. Did we forget that Cincinnati made the Super Bowl last year?
NFL Pick: Bengals ML (+206) at SugarHouse