The Buffalo Bills are welcomed off of their mini-bye by the Cincinnati Bengals, who play host to New York’s only NFL team on Sunday Night Football. This game opened last week with the Bills as a 1.5-point favorite, but after the Bengals had their way with the 49ers on Sunday, the line has swung to Cincinnati being favored by three points. A 4.5-point swing without any significant injuries is a massive amount. It shows the power of playing well in primetime, something both teams get an opportunity to do with the stand-alone Sunday night game. Without further ado, here are my top five storylines to watch as the Bills travel a few hours southwest to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a Sunday Night matchup.
I don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining this one. The Bills 2022 season ended at the hands of the Bengals at home in the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. The game wasn’t relatively close, 27-10 in favor of the visitors. The game ended a crazy couple of months for the Bills, who dealt with insane travel issues and Damar Hamlin’s life-threatening injury.
Sticking with Damar Hamlin. Whether he is active or not, this will be a monumental moment for him as the Bills face the Bengals, the team he was playing against when he nearly lost his life. Yes, the two teams met in the playoffs since he was resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati, but this is the first time he could see playing time should he be active. Either way, expect Hamlin to be on the sideline and a talking point for the broadcast.
Would the Real (Bills/Bengals) Please Stand Up
The Bills throttled the Dolphins a few weeks ago and became the favorites of the football world once again. Since then, they’ve gone 2-2 with a loss to the putrid Patriots and a struggle against the Giants. Despite being 5-3 on the year, the Bills have the league’s best point differential, so when it works… IT WORKS! On the other sideline, the Bengals are 4-3 and sport a -13 point differential. Things looked much better for Cincinnati in their last win, a 31-17 beating of the 49ers. The team that wins this game will continue its trend towards one of the best in the AFC. The loser will be fighting an uphill battle for playoff seeding.
Let’s stick with the playoff talk. As I mentioned above, the Bills and Bengals played in last year’s playoffs and could very well meet again in these playoffs, with both teams entering Sunday within a game in the loss column of first play Kansas City. The Bills and Bengals have been top four seeds in the last two playoff brackets and could once again find themselves battling for a chance to advance toward the Lombardi Trophy.
Gun Slinger Showdown
Joe Burrow’s stats are down this season, thanks, in large part, to a calf that cost him a lot of the preseason and hindered his play early in the season. Josh Allen has been fighting a shoulder for the vast majority of the season, but he is still at or near the top in most QB statistical categories. The numbers won’t mean much coming out of Sunday, as the winner will be moved up in the QB battle graphics while the loser is slotted down. REMINDER: wins are not a QB stat. Even with this reminder, the winning team’s fans will use the outcome as a way to bolster their guy.