NFL Playoff: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Preview, Predictions, Betting Picks – Play The Spread

Joe BurrowOne of the most anticipated contests of this year’s playoff cycle pits the Cincinnati Bengals against the Buffalo Bills today (3pm ET Sunday) in a showdown that has been a few emotionally-charged weeks in the making.

So the NFL playoffs are underway and last week showed us that anything is possible when it comes to January. The Jacksonville Jaguars turned a 27-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers into a thrilling victory as the New York Giants upset the second-seeded Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys dominated Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In New York, cold weather didn’t stop the Miami Dolphins from almost pulling off a huge shocker against the Buffalo Bills with Miami’s third string quarterback. Speaking of backup quarterbacks, the Cincinnati Bengals almost had their own near miss against the Baltimore Ravens’ backup, as Mr. Irrelevant proved to be anything but in the San Francisco 49ers’ rout of the Seattle Seahawks.

All the while, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles rested by nature of the bye afforded to them by securing the NFL’s best record in the regular season.

Wildcard weekend lived up to its moniker but now it is time for the divisional round of the playoffs where 16 teams will be whittled down to four. A win this weekend guarantees a trip to either the AFC or NFC Championship. It also means that a team is just two wins away from claiming the ultimate prize.

This week’s matchups are all tantalizing in their own right but one stands above the rest and that is this afternoon’s clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills. The last time these two teams met will always be remembered as the game where Bills’ Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after absorbing a hit from Bengals’ Tee Higgins.

Before that near tragic event, this matchup had marquee written all over it. In one corner were the Bills, the preseason anointed favorites to finally claim the Lombardi Trophy that has four times (in a row nonetheless) eluded them. In the other corner were the Bengals, who overcame an 0-2 season start to solidify themselves as contenders for the championship that just barely slipped from their grasp last year. Both teams have rising star quarterbacks and both are hungry to win their franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl.

We never truly learned in the regular season which one of these teams would get the upper hand heading into January. The matchup ended before it even had a chance to begin. But perhaps that was for the best as no doubt when the two teams take the field this time around, it will be the clash we have been waiting for. It will also be an emotionally-charged affair as the Bills look to continue their run of destiny whereas the Bengals are more than happy to play spoiler to that dream. Both these teams are capable of winning it all but after today, only one will still have that chance, where an AFC Championship against either the Kansas City Chiefs or Jacksonville Jaguars awaits.

One of the biggest stories to watch for will be Cincinnati’s offensive line and how that impacts both the running and passing game. The Bengals have been like the walking wounded of late, losing several key members of their line over the last few weeks including in their wildcard weekend tilt against the Ravens. Offensive line play is an underrated aspect of football but as teams like the Eagles have shown this year, a good line can make all the difference. The Bengals absence of key contributors will certainly make things tougher for Joe Burrow as well as the running game which is already one of the worst in the NFL. The Bengals ranked 29th in both rushing yards per game and rushing yard per play. Those numbers came with the offensive line largely at full strength. Fortunately for the Bengals however, the Bills run defense is right around league average. That at least gives Cincy a chance not to be totally exposed while running the ball.

Another story to keep an eye on is which Bills team we see take the field. Emotions will no doubt be high as the Bills relive what was almost one of the worst days in NFL history and that could mean one of two things. We could get a Bills team that is so consumed by the elements outside the game that their play suffers or we could see a Bills team that puts it all together to keep winning for Hamlin.

The truth of the matter is, we don’t know. Buffalo has been largely inconsistent all season long. At times, they have shown glimpses of being the best and most well-rounded group in football. At others, they have looked hesitant and unprepared, such was the case for stretches of last weekend’s game against Miami. It would have been a disaster for Buffalo had they lost to an ailing Dolphins team that slid into the playoffs on the back of a bad losing streak. That’s almost what happened and in the process, the Dolphins provided other teams, be it the Bengals or anyone else in the AFC or NFC, a blueprint for how to beat Josh Allen and co. Because the Dolphins had their chances and largely lost that game in the end, more than the Bills truly won it.

That all being said, home field advantage matters, especially in the playoffs and the Bills were 7-1 this year when playing in front of Bills Mafia. It is for that reason that the Bills would be our moneyline pick. But we cannot advise a bet on Buffalo to beat the spread as this game should go down to the wire.

So, in a bid to beat the America-serving bookies, these are our betting picks and predictions for this NFL playoff preview:

  • It is very likely a game-winning field goal as the clock expires is what sends the Bills back to the AFC Championship. For that reason, take the Bengals +6pts on the spread @ -115 with Bovada or EveryGame. You could consider the +5.5pts @ -104 with BetOnline.
  • Given the offensive prowess of both these teams as well as the gunslingers at quarterback, we advise taking the over on 49 total points @ -110 with any of Bovada, BetOnline or EveryGame.