Cincinnati Bengals vs Buffalo Bills (1/22 @ 3:00 PM EST)
Spread: Bills -5
Money Line: Bengals +192 / Bills -220
Overview and Betting Info
The Cincinnati Bengals will head to the great north to take on the Buffalo Bills (13-3) in this weekend’s AFC Divisional Round. These two played only briefly this year, as the game would be canceled early on due to the Damar Hamlin injury. The Bills are the second seed as the AFC East champs, while the Bengals are the third seed after winning the AFC North.
The Bengals are 12-5 against the spread this season and have covered seven of their nine road games. They’ve gone over the total seven times, including in three of their last four.
The Bills are 8-8-1 versus the spread this season but have covered just four of their last ten. They have gone over the total seven times and have done so in each of their last four games.
This season, the Bengals’ offense was top ten in the NFL, averaging 360.5 yards and 26.1 points per game. They are led by Joe Burrow, who has thrown for 4,475 yards (5th in NFL) and 35 touchdowns (3rd) this season. He’s been incredible again, but he was contained for the last two weeks by the Ravens. After entering last week’s Wild Card game as a big favorite, Burrow was sacked four times and managed just 209 yards. The sacks are a concern to watch, as the Bengals offensive line struggled severely to protect Burrow in the first half of the season but locked down in the second. The four sacks were Burrow’s most since Halloween.
The Bengals’ receiving corps is one of the best in the AFC with Ja’Marr Chase (1,046 yards, 9 TD) and Tee Higgins (1,029 yards, 7 TD). Both have missed time with injury this season, making their season stats even more impressive. Higgins was quiet with 37 yards in their Wild Card game, but Chase was fantastic with 84 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Chase has now scored in four of their last five games. They are joined by Tyler Boyd (762 yards, 5 TD) and Hayden Hurst (414 yards, 2 TD). Boyd is a speedster that can make big plays when Higgins and Chase are covered, while Hurst is their reliable tight end and was their second-leading receiver last week.
The Cincinnati backfield was again led by Joe Mixon, who rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns. The veteran also has 441 yards and two more touchdowns through the air. He’s had a down season, thanks partly to the play of their offensive line, but he’s been incredibly ineffective over their last four games (3.1 YPC). Last week against the Ravens, Mixon had a combined 56 yards and zero touchdowns. He is joined by Samaje Perine (394 yards, 2 TD), who has been effective in limited time this season. Perine is always a threat through the air in the red zone, too, as he has 287 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
The defense has been average for most of the season, allowing 335.7 yards and 20.1 points per game. They have been much better over their last five games, giving up just 16.8 points per game during that span. Their defensive front is led by Trey Hendrickson (8 sacks, 6 TFL) and Sam Hubbard (6.5 sacks, 11 TFL). Hendrickson missed their Wild Card game but is expected to be ready for Sunday. The two are supported by linebacker Logan Wilson (123 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT) to round out a strong front. Their secondary is led by a pair of safeties in Jessie Bates III (8 PD, 4 INT) and Vonn Bell (8 PD, 4 INT). Linebacker Germain Pratt also plays an essential role in the unit, as he has ten pass deflections and two interceptions. The secondary has been the Bengals’ Achilles heel, making their play crucial in getting a win this weekend.
The Bills’ offense was second in the NFL this season with 397.6 yards and 28.4 points per game. They’ve been on fire to close the season, scoring 32+ points in their last four games. They are led by another great season from Josh Allen, who threw for 4,283 yards and 35 touchdowns (t-2nd). The quarterback had another great season on the ground, with 762 yards and seven touchdowns using his legs. Allen threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns last week against Miami. However, he was sacked seven times and only completed 59% of his passes while throwing two interceptions. That makes five interceptions over his last three games. His offensive prowess can compensate for the accuracy issues, but giving the Bengals field position could cost them this game.
The Bills’ receiving corps is led by Stefon Diggs (1,429 yards, 11 TD), who has been electric over their last two games. After a minor slump that lasted six games, Diggs now has 218 yards and a touchdown over his previous two. The receiver is joined by Gabe Davis (836 yards, 7 TD) and tight end Dawson Knox (517, 6 TD). Davis was great last week with 113 yards and a touchdown, while Knox scored a touchdown for the fifth consecutive week. The Bengals’ secondary is weak, so these pass-catchers should see plenty of opportunity.
Devin Singletary has led the Bills’ rushing attack and has 819 yards and five touchdowns. He’s not the explosive playmaker Allen and Diggs are, but he’s averaging 4.6 YPC on the year and averaged 4.8 last week. His carries are limited thanks to Allen’s rushing ability and the play of James Cook (507 yards, 2 TD). Cook found the endzone last week and saw two more carries than Singletary, so we’ll be looking to see if that trend continues this weekend. No matter which of the three is carrying the ball, they should find room against the Bengals’ defense on Sunday.
The Buffalo defense has been fantastic this season, allowing 319.1 yards and 17.9 points (2nd in NFL) per game. They struggled last week against a Dolphins team on their third quarterback and allowed over 24 points per game over their previous four games. Their front is led by Greg Rousseau (8 sacks, 10 TFLs) and Matt Milano (1.5 sacks, 12 TFL, 11 PD, 3 INT). Milano, in particular, was incredible last week as he registered 10 tackles and two sacks. We’ll be watching to see if AJ Epenesa (6.5 sacks, 7 TFL) can suit up, as the big man had a four-game sack streak before picking up an injury on Christmas Eve. He has not played since but may be getting closer to a return. The Bills’ secondary is led by Jordan Poyer (8 PD, 4 INT) and Dane Jackson (12 PD, 2 INT). The unit isn’t deep, and Jackson is in danger of missing this week with a knee injury. Check on Epenesa and Jackson’s status before placing your bets this weekend.
Free Pick: Over 48
Perhaps the Bills overlooked the Dolphins last week, but we’re betting that wasn’t the case. The Dolphins’ offensive numbers and game plan is very similar to the Bengals, and they scored over 30 points in their last two games with the Bills. The Bills contained the Miami offense pretty well, with Skylar Thompson at quarterback last week, but turnovers allowed Miami to score 31 points. Turnovers have been an issue for the Bills, especially Allen, to finish the season. That won’t be helped if the offensive line struggles as they did last week, forcing Allen to make throws under pressure.
On the other side of the ball, we have concerns about injuries to Buffalo’s pass rush. 20 of Burrow’s 41 sacks came in their four losses, signaling the importance of getting pressure on him. They won’t be able to generate that kind of rush, allowing Chase and Higgins to find room open all over the fields. You can bet that neither will drop the passes that Waddle did last week. Without those drops, we’re likely talking about the Dolphins vs. Bengals this weekend.
Add this to the fact that the teams have combined to go over the total in seven of their last eight games, and the pick is easy to make.
We see a close game that will be similar to what we saw in Buffalo’s last game, so we’re rolling with the over.