The Monday Night tilt between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals is the biggest game of the year to date for both of these teams. The playoffs are just a few weeks away and the number seed is still to be determined, with both these teams and the Kansas City Chiefs vying for the coveted one spot.
A Buffalo win against the Bengals means they are just a win away in Week 18 over the New England Patriots from securing the number seed, a playoff bye week, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Bills Key #1: The Big Play
Both of these teams rank in the top 10 in big plays in the passing game, defined as plays over 25 yards. Buffalo has 29 such plays, while the Bengals have completed 28 pass plays over 25 yards.
The difference comes in the run game, while the Bengals’ run defense is by far the better part of their defense, the Bills have 60 big plays in the run game, or rushes over 10 yards, to the Bengals 28.
If Buffalo can get a run game going, getting some of those big plays and limit the big plays in the Bengals pass game, they will be able to control the clock and score points, keeping the pressure on Burrow and their passing game, which plays right into my second key to the game.
Bills Key #2: The Pass Rush
Both these teams have solid defensive lines, and both play very well against the run. Buffalo is fourth in run defense and Cincinnati comes in at seventh; however, the Bills have recorded 39 sacks on the season, 11th best in the league. Cincinnati has recorded only 26 sacks all season and this is where the Bills get the advantage.
The Bengals will be without their left tackle La’el Collins, which is a massive loss for them and one the Bills can and should take advantage. Burrow is good in the pocket but is not a scrambling quarterback, if Buffalo can get to him and keep him uncomfortable, that will go a long way in limiting what Cincinnati can do in the passing game.
On the flip side, if the Bengals can’t generate a pass rush, Allen will have all day to stand in the pocket, pick the open receiver or gash the Bengals defense with his legs. This is an area of the game where the Bills should be able to dominate.
Bills Key #3: Strengths vs Weaknesses
The Bills are fourth in the league in run defense but only 15th in pass defense. Subsequently, passing is what the Bengals at best at, averaging 269.2 yards per game, putting them fifth in the league.
That said, the Bills since Week 13 are allowing an average of only194.75 yards per game passing, which coincides with the return of Tre’Davious White. This matchup with the Bengals will certainly test the secondary of the Bills; however, the loss of tackle Collins from the Bengals cannot be overstated because the Bills pass rush can play a huge role in helping out the secondary with the trio of Ja’Mar Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.