The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills played for half a quarter Monday, Jan. 2, before the game was halted due to Damar Hamlin suffering cardiac arrest on the field, which is well-documented. What many might not realize is this playoff game will be the first time they will officially play one another since 2019, as they are set to meet in the NFL divisional round on Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium in Buffalo with potential snow in the forecast.
It has been quite a roll for both teams, as the Bengals have won nine in a row and the Bills eight straight, including playoff games. In fact, the last time either of these teams lost came in the game of the year – as Buffalo lost 33-30 to the Minnesota Vikings on some zany plays and ridiculous catches by Justin Jefferson in the latter moments.
The highlight of this one will clearly be the quarterbacks, as two of the best in the NFL square off in Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow against Buffalo’s Josh Allen (more on them later).
Let’s take a closer look at the lines as of Friday afternoon (provided by Caesars Sportsbook), trends and other pertinent information:
(3) CINCINNATI BENGALS (13-4) at (2) BUFFALO BILLS (14-3)
Time/TV: 2 p.m. Saturday (CBS).
Line: Bills by 5.5.
Previous meeting this season: The game in Week 17 was canceled in the middle of the first quarter. In the last full game played between these teams, Buffalo won, 21-17, on Sept. 22, 2019.
All-time series: Bills lead, 17-15. This will be the third time the teams have met in the playoffs. Cincinnati won, 21-10, in the AFC championship game in January 1989, and they also won, 28-21, in AFC divisional round in January 1982.
Series trends notes: It has been back and forth as of late, with Cincinnati winning four of the past six meetings, but Buffalo won 10 in a row from November 1989 to November 2010 with nine of them coming by double digits. The Bengals had won seven of eight prior to that from September 1981 to January 1989.
Bengals offense: 29th rushing, 6th passing, 8th overall.
Bills defense: 5th rushing, 15th passing, 6th overall.
Bengals defense: 7th rushing, 23rd passing, 16th overall.
Bills offense: 7th rushing, 7th passing, 2nd overall.
- This will be the 25th postseason game for the Bengals in their history, but the sixth in two years. In fact, four of the team’s nine playoff victories have come since Jan. 15, 2022. They are 3-4 in the divisional round and have made it to the Super Bowl three times, losing each time (following the 2022 and 1988 and 1981 seasons).
- The Bengals finished the regular season on an eight-game win streak, which is tied for the longest in team history. They opened 2015 with eight straight victories and had a similar streak during the 1971 season. Counting the postseason, this is the first time they have won nine in a row.
- Joe Burrow is just the seventh player in NFL history to throw as many as 82 touchdown passes in the first 42 games of his career. The first six: Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Of those seven quarterbacks, Burrow has the best completion percentage through the same time span at .682 and the second-lowest number of interceptions (31) behind Mahomes (20).
- This is the 38th postseason game in Bills history and 34th as a member of the NFL, and it will be the eighth since Josh Allen became the team’s quarterback in 2018. They are 6-7 in the divisional round.
- Buffalo is one of two teams (Minnesota Vikings) in NFL history to lose four times without a victory in the Super Bowl. They are the only team to lose four Super Bowls in consecutive seasons (1989 through 1992). They are attempting to make a conference championship game for the eighth time in franchise history.
- The Bills ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, which was their first of such length since 1990. It was the first time in franchise history they finished the season with a streak of that length. They won eight in a row, including the playoffs, in 2020 – six in a row to end the regular season and two in the postseason.
- Although this is just his fifth NFL season, he already is third in team history in passing yardage and touchdown passes behind Jim Kelly (1983 to 1996) and Joe Ferguson (1973 to 1984).
- Like Burrow, Allen is in similar company when you compare his touchdown passes to the start of his career. Through 76 games started, he is just the seventh player in NFL history to throw as many as 138 – behind Marino, Brett Favre, Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Mahomes.
Was there any team more hosed in the final month of the season than the Cincinnati Bengals? Of course, canceling the game against Buffalo in Week 17 was the right thing to do after the Damar Hamlin collapse, but why did the NFL go out of their way to make sure the Bills didn’t get hosed and not do the same for Cincy?
Had the game continued and the Bengals went on to win, this game would be in Cincinnati. Instead, the Bills not only get to play this one at home but potentially get Kansas City at a neutral site next week in the AFC championship game? Makes no sense.
And don’t think the Bengals aren’t going to use that as motivation. In the little bit of game we actually got to see on the night of Jan. 2, Cincy seemed to be the better team. A small sample, for sure, but it told me the Bengals – at the minimum – should be able to compete and keep this one close.
The reality Cincinnati is missing some key pieces of its offensive line keeps me from taking the Bengals outright, but the fact Josh Allen keeps turning the ball over tells me it wouldn’t be a surprise in the least if the Bills' season ended following this one.
By the way, don’t we think this could be one of the games of the year if Joe Burrow is able to escape the pressure and get on target early?
SCORE PREDICTION: Bills 34, Bengals (+5.5) 31.