Six games down and we’re on our way to the Divisional Round. What a wild card weekend that was. So many exciting games, games that came down to the final play. It was truly a fun way to kick off the weekend. And you know when the betting gets hot this time of year, you can trust our champion handicappers at bigal.com to get you through next week. How about Vegas Writer with a perfect 4-0-0 run last week in the NFL? AAA Sports came through at 4-1-0 and Jim Feist with a 5-2-0 mark dating back to the week prior. What’s going to happen this week with conference championship spots on the line? Make sure you’re tuned to bigal.com and our Best Bets page to see what our champion handicappers are bringing to the table!
Bengals - Bills preview, analysis and prediction
Bengals: won 24-17 vs. Ravens (wild card round)
Bills: won 34-31 vs. Dolphins (wild card round)
There’s something about narrative that brings us all together, especially in times of playoff football.
We’ve got that on Sunday.
The only way that this could have been concluded is if we got a matchup to make sure this is settled. Although perhaps this ruins the chances for the Cincinnati Bengals to host a divisional matchup, they are going to get the Buffalo Bills one more time for the right to go to the AFC Championship.
Of course, we know what happened regarding these two. The scary, unfortunate situation with Damar Hamlin led to the cancelation of a Week 17 Monday Night game between the two in Cincinnati. The resolution from the NFL was to play the Week 18 game against Baltimore, hope that you won so it didn’t resort to a coin toss, and all would be forgiven.
The Bengals won, then followed that with a win in the wild card round against the Ravens, surviving 24-17 on Sunday night in what was one of the more drunk fourth quarters we’ve ever seen in a playoff game.
Joe Burrow passed for 209 yards and a touchdown on just 23 of 32 passing, and Joe Mixon was held to just 39 yards while Ja’Marr Chase reeled in nine passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. But it was the incredible run-back from Sam Hubbard in the fourth quarter, with the Ravens one yard away from taking the lead, forcing the fumble off quarterback Tyler Huntley and running it back 98 yards to give the Bengals the lead.
“You can't even dream that one up,” Hubbard said. “It's pretty special.”
It’s a play that’s going to be remembered in Bengals lore forever, but a subtle reminder that the Bengals narrowly escaped this one. Yes, the Ravens defense was going to present problems for Burrow and company, as they did. But if Lamar Jackson is healthy, perhaps the Bengals are on the short end of that one. Huntley played too well for a backup quarterback that’s been horrendous since taking over for the injured MVP and the Bengals failed to cover the 8.5 they were laying.
But that’s why the playoffs are fun. Players don’t care about the spread. It’s about just finding a way to win, and the Bengals did just that.
“Hard-fought. That’s how it is in the playoffs, especially when you play a divisional team for a third time," Burrow said. “It’s never going to be easy.”
The same can be said for the Bills because no one expected their wild card game to transpire the way that it did. The Miami Dolphins, down to third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson, had 3 million chances to put the Bills away, but clock ineptitude prevented Miami from pulling off the upset, giving the Bills another home playoff game and one win away from another showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Josh Allen overcame two interceptions to throw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, while Stefon Diggs reeled in a game-high 114 yards on seven receptions. Gabe Davis also chipped in with 113 yards and a touchdown on six grabs.
“One-week seasons, man, that’s it,” Allen said. "All that matters is surviving and advancing. Doesn’t matter how we win, it’s if we win.”
Two of the favorites to win the AFC, including the reigning conference champions, had lackluster wild card weekends, which sets up a fun bit of probability heading into Sunday’s matchup. The Bills open as 4-point favorites with a total of 50. The Ravens game was the first ATS loss the Bengals had suffered since that Halloween loss to Cleveland (-3). The Bills, meanwhile, failed to cover for the third time in five game as 14-point favorites.
“That’s just playoff football for the most part. All the games I’ve played in the playoffs, I don’t even know if we’ve had a blowout,” said Bills receiver Cole Beasley, who caught a touchdown pass. “The thing is you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas. You can’t ever get complacent. You gotta play consistent. We were a little inconsistent tonight. We can’t do that going forward.”
This is such a tough one to call, but it’s going to likely be the best game of the weekend. Both teams tend to do well against the spread following an off game, with the Bengals going 4-0-1 ATS in their last five after giving up more than 350 total yards the last game. The under has also been a fun play for both teams, and I do wonder how that will impact this game in the cold. If it comes down to it, defenses find a way to win. The Bills won’t let this happen twice. Bills 24, Bengals 20
Bengals are 13-3 ATS as an underdog the last two seasons.
Bengals are 63-41 ATS after gaining 99 rushing yards or less in 2 straight games since 1992.
Bengals are 6-0 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 the last two seasons.
Bills are 7-0 ATS after a win by 3 points or less the last 3 seasons.
Bills are 22-9 ATS after scoring, and allowing, 30 points or more last game since 1992.
Bills are 32-16 ATS at home after gaining 400 or more total yards last game since 1992.
Playoff statistical leaders
Passing: Joe Burrow – 209 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Joe Mixon – 39 yards
Receiving: Ja’Marr Chase – 84 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Logan Wilson – 10 tackles
Passing: Josh Allen – 352 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Devin Singletary – 48 yards
Receiving: Stefon Diggs – 114 yards
Defense: Matt Milano – 10 tackles, 2 sacks
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About the Author:
Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.