The Cincinnati Bengals, the third seed in the AFC, will face the second-seeded Bills in Buffalo on Sunday in the Divisional Round of the NFL’s 2022 season.
The line movement has much to do with Cincinnati’s injury situation along the offensive line. More on that below.
The weather forecast as of Thursday morning on NFL Weather calls for a temperature of 34 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 26. There is an 11 percent chance of precipitation at game time and increasing to 36 percent later.
NFL Playoff Odds: Bengals vs. Bills Point Spread, Total, Moneyline
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Where the Bengals and Bills Stand Heading Into the Divisional Round
Buffalo (14-3 straight up/8-8-1 against the spread) is on an eight-game winning streak and the only team to be the betting choice in each of its games this season. But until now, the Bills had been a favorite of at least 6.5 points in home games.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati (13-4 SU/12-5 ATS) is on a nine-game winning streak and hasn’t been this big an underdog since last season’s AFC title game in Kansas City when the Bengals won 27-24 as a 7-point dog.
Cincinnati also won as a visiting underdog in last year’s Divisional Round, knocking off top-seeded Tennessee, 19-16. The Titans were a 3.5-point choice. That was one of three wins for road teams in this round last season, only the second time that’s occurred in the Wild Card era that dates to 1978. Conversely, home teams have gone 4-0 in that span and 3-1 on 20 other occasions.
This isn’t the first meeting between the teams this season. In Week 17, they opened play on a Monday night in Cincinnati, but the game was stopped early on and eventually canceled days later after the on-field cardiac arrest suffered by Bills safety Damar Hamlin. He reportedly is recovering nicely.
Last week, both teams squeaked through with close-call victories against backup QBs in the first round of the postseason, with Buffalo topping Miami 34-31 as the heaviest favorite in Wild Card history (14 points) and Cincinnati edging Baltimore 24-17 as a 7.5-point pick thanks largely to a late 98-yard fumble return by DE Sam Hubbard.
A key to the outcome Sunday will be how the Bengals and QB Joe Burrow operate offensively with the likely absence of three starting linemen who were all in the starting lineup only three weeks ago.
Another key is how Bills standout QB Josh Allen does against a Cincinnati squad that finished the season with the league’s top-rated defensive passer rating. After all, no player has thrown more INTs (16) and has as many turnovers (22) as he’s had this season.
Bengals vs. Bills Injuries
The Bengals will be without ORT La’el Collins, a former Dallas Cowboys standout in his first year in Cincinnati (IR, knee). Another offseason acquisition, veteran ORG Alex Cappa, injured an ankle in the season finale and is considered week-to-week. Then last week, OLT Jonah Williams, the 11th overall pick in the 2019 Draft, dislocated a kneecap. He’s also reported to be week-to-week. Neither Cappa nor Williams practiced Wednesday.
And that’s all bad news for RB Joe Mixon, the team’s leading rusher but at only 3.9 yards a carry, and QB Joe Burrow, who was the sixth-most sacked passer in the league in the regular season.
The good news for Cincinnati is that it won’t have to face the Ravens again. In the Bengals’ three meetings against their North rivals this season, Burrow topped out at 217 passing yards and had two of his three worst games of the season based on passer rating.
As for Buffalo, DE Von Miller (knee), who is tied for the team lead with eight sacks during the regular season despite missing the final four games. Another injury concern is CB Dane Jackson (questionable, knee), who leads the team with passes defensed. Starting safety Jordan Poyer also is questionable with a knee injury.
Bengals vs. Bills Analysis & Prediction
Last season, Burrow flourished behind a line that wasn’t much different than his current one, even getting sacked nine times in that playoff win over Tennessee.
What should help against the Bills is that new left tackle Jackson Carman, who had a rough debut last week in a first-team role, said he has benefited greatly from getting first-team reps all week. And surely the Bengals will be more prepared to give him extra help when needed.
Plus, Burrow could well have a big day if the Bills’ ailing DBs can’t play or are a step slow.
As for the Bills, they were less than dominant when facing teams that ranked in the top 10 on the defensive passer rating chart (No. 2 Jets and No. 8 Patriots). Buffalo averaged only 20.5 points on offense and 308 yards a game in four outings. In all other outings, the Bills had a norm of 426 yards on offense.
Somehow, the hunch is head coach Zac Taylor’s Bengals find a way to win on the road again.
Forecast: Bengals 24, Bills 21