The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals met on a Monday night at the Bengals’ Paycor Stadium and what would happen mid-way through the first quarter will not be forgotten. The events surrounding Damar Hamlin and the cardiac arrest he would suffer brought the world together in thoughts, prayers, and charitable donations. Now it’s time for the “rematch” in the NFL playoffs, Divisional round.
The game itself was already a highly anticipated matchup as both teams were vying for the number one seed in the NFL playoffs. I was watching the game at home with my family and from my couch, I could feel the electric atmosphere of the game. It had an undeniable playoff feel to it and would start with a bang, both teams moving the ball effectively on the other. The game would be called with the score 7 – 3, and many believed the Bengals were well on their way to winning the game, while Bills fans pointed out that Buffalo is undefeated this season when down after the first quarter.
Fast forward to today and the NFL playoffs, Hamlin survived the tragic events and is home recovering and spending time at the Bills’ facilities with his teammates. This game is massive and already has that feel of the Bills vs Chiefs from last year’s playoff game.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, they are coming into this game with a banged-up offensive line and likely will be down three of five starters, including both tackles, La’el Collins and Jonas Jennings. Can the Bills take advantage of Cincinnati’s injury situation and get to Joe Burrow? As far as I’m concerned, this is a huge key to the game. There is little debate that the Bengals have the best trio of wide receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. They also have one of the top running backs in the league in Joe Mixon.
Buffalo, they are as healthy coming into the NFL playoffs as they’ve been since Week Two of the season, with everyone not named Von Miller practicing in some capacity. Outside of Micah Hyde, the Bills may have their entire roster at their disposal for this game, including Jamison Crowder, who has not been ruled out for this playoff game.
We all know both offenses can move the ball and put up points but I think the difference in this game will come down to each team’s defense, where the Bills hold a significant advantage. Buffalo is ranked sixth in the league in defense, compared to the Bengals’ 16th overall ranking. Add in the injuries up front for the Bengals, the Bills should be able to generate a pass rush and make just enough plays, to turn the tide in favor of the Bills.
Where the Bengals hold an advantage is unquestionably their receiving corps. Buffalo’s pass defense has been under fire at times this season; however, Tre’davious White is beginning to return to form and Kaiir Elam is poised to take over the CB2 role full-time from Dane Jackson, who at times this season has struggled in coverage. Will Buffalo’s secondary be able to limit the big plays by the Bengals’ receivers?
I have to go back to the Bills’ pass rush to answer that question. I do believe the Bengals make some plays in the passing game, but I think the Bills can limit those plays by keeping Burrow off balance and under pressure.
Cincinnati’s strength of the defense is their run game, where they rank fifth in the league, just one spot behind the Bills’ run defense. Buffalo comes in as the ninth-best pass defense and as I mentioned previously, seems to be coming into its own as of late. The Bengals’ pass defense is 16th and worse yet, are without their number one corner in Chidobe Awuzie. Tre Flowers is on the injury report too and was listed as a non-participant in practice with a hamstring injury.
I believe the injuries will play a big part in this matchup but will still come down to a one score game.
Buffalo advances with a 38 – 30 victory.