Bengals vs. Bills: Top 5 Storylines to watch in the Divisional Round

01/18/2023
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For the third straight year, the Buffalo Bills are in the AFC Divisional Round – one of just two AFC teams to do so, joining Kansas City – after a closer-than-the-experts-thought 34-31 win against division rival Miami in the AFC Wild Card round. The win, coupled with Cincinnati knocking off the Ravens, finally gives us the matchup of the Bills vs. Bengals. This one will be played in Orchard Park on Sunday at 3:00. Before I drop all the good info in this intro, let’s shift our focus to my five storylines to keep an eye on as we get closer to the elite eight of the NFL this season.

Finally

If you’re taking the time to check out Cover 1 and click on this article, I feel confident in the fact you’re aware the Bills and Bengals were supposed to play on Monday Night Football in Week 17. Unfortunately, we had a massive scare in Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field, and we’ve witnessed his amazing recovery after receiving CPR and spending a week in a Cincinnati hospital. A lot happened during that week plus; that game was declared a “no contest” by the NFL, and we were all told to pretend the game never even started. Both teams took care of business in their Week 18 matchups to win their respective divisions and lock down the #2 (Buffalo) and #3 (Cincinnati) seeds despite some debate on how that was figured out. Both teams also won on their home turf in the Wild Card round, setting up this showdown. So, after weeks of debate and frankly disgusting discord at times on social media, we will get to see these two teams play a full game Sunday at 3:00 with the right to go to the AFC Championship on the line.

Offensive (Looking) Line

We have spent a lot of time talking about all the injuries the Bills have dealt with this season, and rightfully so, but the Bengals have had disaster strike when it comes to their offensive line. Over the last few weeks, they lost starters in RT La’el Collins to an ACL, RG Alex Cappa to an ankle, and LT Jonah Williams with a dislocated knee cap. I’ll do the math for you, that’s three starting offensive linemen out for Cincinnati heading into Buffalo this weekend. It’s a bummer we won’t see Von Miller take advantage of this group, but there is no excuse for Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, Shaq Lawson, and company not to get after Joe Burrow in this game.

Allen vs. Burrow

No matter how you cut it, these are two of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL right now. I will hear no argument against it. Both of the QBs finished the regular season in the top three in MVP odds. They’re both in the top six in basically all counting stats, and the analytics community also has them at or near the top in most categories. The duo is also only 26 years old, so hopefully, this is just the start of a long and entertaining rivalry.

DBs vs WRs

If you read my Bills vs. Bengals storylines for Week 17 this will look very familiar because it remains a huge piece to the puzzle. The Bills’ secondary is starting to look like we had all hoped, with Tre White playing at a high level, rookie Kaiir Elam earning snaps, and Jordan Poyer looking like an All-Pro again. All that is missing is Micah Hyde returning from injury and Damar Hamlin leading the charge. The dudes who will be on the field for Buffalo have a daunting test in front of them in slowing down the combo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who rank seventh and 25th respectively in yards per game. The Bengals’ duo has also hauled in 16 touchdowns on the season. The winner of this battle could decide who advances to the AFC title tilt.

We’re Going Streaking

The Bills and Bengals enter Sunday as the two hottest teams in the AFC. Buffalo comes in riding an eight-game winning streak, while Cincinnati has ripped off nine in a row. Four of the Bills’ wins have come at home, and the Bengals have taken down four opponents on the road during their winning spree. Buffalo is currently a five-point favorite, according to our friends over at BetUS.com. The implied score for this one is roughly 27 to 22 with a Bills win. If this game plays out the way we all think it will – lots of explosive offensive plays – we, the fans, are the real winners.

Bonus: Do we hate Cincinnati now? It wasn’t too long ago that the Bengals were the ones who helped the Bills drown the drought and sneak their way into the playoffs. With the awkward way some in their fanbase have handled the NFL’s decision-making process of the canceled game and the lashing out at Bills Mafia, has that love been tarnished?

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