By Conor Perrett
To kickstart Sunday’s action of playoff football, the Bills and Bengals will square off after their Week 17 game was cancelled due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the field.
This rematch is highly anticipated as two of the best quarterbacks in the league, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, prepare for their heavyweight clash.
Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Power Rankings – 2nd
The Bills were meant to have a walk in the park last week against the Dolphins, but turnovers made life a little harder for them than expected. On paper, there may be no other team that has the stars to match up with Buffalo, yet still they sometimes are the ones holding themselves back.
I think the perfect way to describe the Bills is like a knockout heavyweight boxer. Think of Mike Tyson, they are all swing with no jab. Instead of running the ball or taking their time to get down the field, Allen is always looking for the big shot to get the score. It works for them the majority of time, but there can be times when the big hits aren’t landing.
For example, Buffalo’s 27 turnovers in the regular season were the third most in the NFL and four more than any team still standing. While Allen’s 14 interceptions were tied for the third most in the league. When facing a team like the Bengals who live off turnovers, it may be the smarter approach to fight sensibly and wait for the right opening.
Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Power Rankings – 3rd
The Bengals are winners of 13 of their last 15 games and had a 7-3 lead in the first quarter when these two teams originally met. With the second-longest winning streak in the league, QB Burrow has been hot down the stretch, as this offence seems to be peaking at the right time.
These players have gotten through the AFC to make the Superbowl before, but they’ve never had to face up against Buffalo. Their offence and defence may be able to match up with the Bills, but it will always be seen as a little less explosive or have a few less playmakers.
What they can hold to their advantage though is the turnover battle.
This Bengals’ defence always seems to come up with a turnover to impact a game, and in the playoff season that can be the make or break for a game. We saw it last week against the Ravens with a 99-yard fumble return TD, and they did it last year as well. In every AFC playoff game last season, Cincinnati got an interception on the final defensive play and even in defeat, the Bengals created two turnovers in the Super Bowl.
Against a sometime turnover machine in Josh Allen, the Bengals may be able to use that to their advantage.
When I previewed this game back in Week 17, I slightly leaned with the Bills.
While we only got to see half a quarter, the Bengals looked great at the start of that game and moved the ball with ease in their one drive. The difference this round is they will be in Buffalo and there could be a chance of snow.
Like when two great teams meet it can feel like a coin toss. The Bills matchup better on paper, but Burrow has a sense of confidence and swagger that can be hard to doubt.
I love the matchup the Bengals’ have on defence, with the Bills giving it away three times in each of their last three games, while Cincinnati have 11 takeaways in their past four games.
The one thing that worries and gives me doubts about the Bengals is their beaten up offensive line. They were already missing right-tackle La’el Collins, and will now be down at the other tackle spot and guard as well, with Jonah Williams and Alex Cappa being ruled out.
The offensive-line has always been an issue and it getting weaker doesn’t bode well. Part of me feels this Bengals team can do it though and sadly I see the Bills fairy tail story ending this evening.
Bengals 23-20 Bills