The tail of two halves is how you could summarize the Bengal’s win over the Patriots last week. Up at halftime, 22-0, the Bengals allowed the Patriots to make a comeback, making it a real nailbiter. The Stripes pulled out the win 22-18 thanks to a Patriots fumble in the red zone. However, this win was not without a casualty; starting right tackle La’el Collins suffered a season-ending ACL tear leaving the Bengals to search for a solution.
The (12-3) Buffalo Bills come to the Jungle to take on the (11-4) Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow. Both teams are still fighting for the one seed. The Bills need to win outright, but the Bengals need to win and have the chiefs lose a game for the Bengals to take the one seed.
Why is this so important? Whoever gets the one seed gets the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a bye the first week.
The Bills are coming into this game on a six-win streak, and the Bengals are on a seven-win streak creating one of the most historic Monday Night football matchups to date. Add-in, this will be the first time elite quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Josh Allen have competed against each other, leaving Bengal and Buffalo fans to a much-anticipated game. Check out the top football betting strategies.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Keeping Burrow upright will be the top priority, and the biggest threat to this will be Buffalo’s leading pass rusher, Greg Rousseau. In his second year, Rousseau uses heavy hands and long arms to create a solid bull rush, but who will be tasked with containing Rousseau?
With Collins out for the season, the Bengals are faced with filling his place. The Stripes have some options for Rousseau. They could go with Hakeem Adeniji, who finished out last week, but more than likely, they will go with Isaiah Prince, who practiced with the starters at right tackle this week. Prince is a bigger tackle who started all last season, plus he started in the Super Bowl, so he has the experience to face Rousseau.
This Bill’s defensive line is one of the best the Bengals have faced all season. They will have their hands full with Shaq Lawson and A.J. Espenesa; however, the rest of the Bengals line has been playing lights out, allowing Burrow to throw for 575 yards over the last week.
Opening up a running game could give Burrow more options off the play-action. Bengal’s running back Joe Mixon has made some key runs in the last few weeks and will be called upon again to keep the chains moving.
The Bills are fourth in the league in run defense, so moving the ball will not be easy, considering that Bill’s Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips have been filling in the gaps while making it hard to run.
Then there are Buffalo’s star linebackers to contend with in the middle. When asked about concerns regarding Buffalo’s linebackers shrinking the middle of the field, Mixon praised Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano but added, “they’re not the Baltimore Ravens.”
Look for running back Samaje Perine to be used more out of the backfield to pick up the slack. His north/south running style could cause problems for the Bills.
The other bright spot for the Bengals is that tight end Hayden Hurst should be back for this game, and Burrow likes to go to him on third downs. Hurst has recorded 400 receiving yards on 48 receptions, with two touchdowns through 12 games, adding another weapon for Burrow.
It is no secret that Burrow loves to air out the ball, averaging 269.2 yards per game, putting them fifth in the league. With Bengal’s top-notch receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, they will undoubtedly test the Bills secondary.
One key matchup to keep an eye on will be Chase versus Bills cornerback Tre’ Devious White. I am sure White will get help trying to contain Chase, but I have yet to see a secondary that can keep Chase from impacting a game. The Bill’s secondary of Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, and Taron Johnson will experience how fast Burrow gets the ball out at 2.48 seconds per drop back, which presents even more problems.
The Bengals are preparing as if Buffalo All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer will play. Poyer, who missed the first two practices with a knee injury, participated in Saturday’s practice, according to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg. His situation is certainly something to monitor.
Bill’s quarterback, Allen, can hurt you as much with his feet as he can with his arm. It will be necessary for the Stripes to have a spy on Allen to keep it from picking up yards with his legs. The Bengals may use Allen’s former teammate from college, linebacker Logan Wilson who both played for the University of Wyoming. Wilson is looking forward to the challenge of tackling his former teammate.
Bengal’s defensive end Sam Hubbard missed last week’s win over the Patriots with a calf injury. He was back at practice this week and maybe a game-time decision if he plays. The stripes could use him to help contain Allen while adding pressure. Check out the top football odds.
Like Burrow, Allen, too, has weapons allowing him to score on teams quickly. His receivers, Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis are outstanding. Diggs is having another sensational season. He has 1,325 yards through the air with ten touchdowns.
The Bills will test this Bengal’s secondary of veteran Eli Apple and rookie Cam Taylor-Britt. Both cornerbacks have been playing lights out. Add in an outstanding safety duo in Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, and this secondary is relentless. With the help of nickel cornerback Mike Hilton, this group does not give up much.
This secondary has been responsible for the Bengals leading the NFL in the lowest completion percentage allowed (60.2%), so this will not be a walk in the park for the Bills.
No doubt, Allen likes to throw the ball but establishing the run could be a priority. Last week Buffalo ran for 254 yards on the Bears. Their lead running back, Devin Singletary, had 106 yards, while their rookie running back, James Cook, added another 99 yards.
The Bengals are very good against the run, seventh-best in the league. They contained top backs like Titan’s Derrick Henry to 38 yards and the Brown’s Nick Chubb to 34 yards.
I said it last week and will repeat it this week; D.J. Reader should be a Pro-Bolwer. He is a massive presence in the middle and a run-stopper. Reader fills up gaps along with B.J.Hill making it extremely difficult for running backs. Add All-Pro defensive end, Trey Hendrickson, putting pressure off the edge, and linebacker Germaine Pratt who flows to the ball, and it will be a long day for the Bills running game.
As good as Burrow and Allen are at quarterback, this may turn into a defensive battle in which field position and field goals may determine the game. Last week Bengal’s kicker Evan McPherson missed some kicks but fear not, he has always come through in big moments.
This game is so evenly matched on paper that the smallest mistakes could be the difference maker. If the offensive line can protect Burrow, and their defense contains the big plays of Allen, then I am picking the Bengals to pull off the win.
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