Game Overview ::
By Mike Johnson >>
- A highly anticipated rematch of the Week 17 game that was unexpectedly cut short due to Damar Hamlin’s scary medical situation.
- These teams are both in the top 3 of the NFL in pass rate over expectation (PROE) and top 10 in situation-neutral pace of play.
- The Bills have scored 30+ points in four straight games, while the Bengals have surpassed 30 points only once since Week 12.
- The explosiveness of both offenses gives this game the potential for things to snowball into a wild back-and-forth affair.
How Cincinnati Will Try To Win ::
The Bengals offense gets most of the attention, but it is their defense that has been especially key in their second-half surge this season. The offense has only scored 30+ points once since Week 12 (although they have scored 20+ in every game since Week 9), while the defense has held five of their last seven opponents to fewer than 20 points. However, part of that defensive success should be attributed to the competition they have faced during their recent stretch. During their nine-game winning streak, the Bengals have faced the following quarterbacks::
- Tyler Huntley
- Anthony Brown
- Mac Jones
- Tom Brady (scored 23 points)
- Deshaun Watson
- Patrick Mahomes (scored 24 points)
- Ryan Tannehill
- Kenny Pickett (scored 30 points)
- PJ Walker
That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of quarterbacks and Josh Allen and the Bills, at home, should provide a different level of test for them. This should also have an impact on the Bengals offense, as they are often dependent on their opponent to push them in their aggressiveness and approach.
Cincinnati has the ability to be a balanced unit, ranking top-10 in both rushing and passing DVOA. However, they rank 29th in the league in yards per carry and are facing a high-end Buffalo run defense that ranks 3rd in run defense DVOA. While the Bills pass defense is very good in its own right, mounting injuries in their secondary this year have left them more vulnerable than some will realize. Last week they were pushed to the brim by Skylar Thompson and the Dolphins, who could very well have pulled off the upset if not for some untimely drops from their receiving corps. Considering the opportunities the Dolphins were able to create for themselves with a sub-replacement level quarterback and a narrow distribution of explosive options in their receiving game, it stands to reason that the Bengals have the opportunity to unleash their passing game in this matchup. The Bengals rank 2nd in the NFL in pass rate over expectation and will know they need to put up points to have a chance against the Bills, so I would expect this to be the most aggressive game plan we have seen from Cincinnati in quite a few weeks as far as pass rate and tempo are concerned. In the shortened Week 17 matchup between these teams, Joe Burrow completed his first four passes for 52 yards with all of those targets coming in the middle of the field to slot receiver Tyler Boyd, tight end Hayden Hurst, and an intermediate route to Tee Higgins. This approach makes sense against the high amount of shell coverages that Buffalo tends to play and the heavy attention they will give to Ja’Marr Chase entering this game. The Bills defense blitzes at the lowest rate of any remaining playoff team, meaning that designed screen passes will not be effective or necessary and Joe Burrow should have plenty of time to throw, with an emphasis on the intermediate areas of the field early in the game and slowly working in some deep shots as the Bills are forced to adjust. We can also expect some schemed looks to Ja’Marr Chase in the quick passing game to give him a chance to make plays after the catch.