Divisional Round Showdown: Bengals vs. Bills

by Ahaan Rungta · Betting & Props

This is a Divisional Round Showdown: Bengals vs Bills! One of the most anticipated AFC matchups of the season was cut short just a few weeks ago when Damar Hamlin‘s on-field collapse stunned the hearts of millions. As a result, his health became the utmost priority. The Bengals and Bills will start afresh in an elimination game today in what could turn out to be a playoff game for the ages, given the offensive and defensive talent on the menu. Here are our picks, key matchups, and fantasy studs and duds for Bengals vs. Bills in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Key Injuries

Cincinnati Bengals

  • CB Tre Flowers (DOUBTFUL)
  • G Alex Cappa (OUT)
  • OT Jonah Williams (OUT)

Starting right tackle La’el Collins and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie also continue to remain on the injured reserve and unable to compete.

Buffalo Bills

  • DT DaQuan Jones (QUESTIONABLE)
  • DT Jordan Phillips (QUESTIONABLE)

Several defensive starters continue to miss more time as well—defensive end Von Miller, safety Micah Hyde, and of course safety Damar Hamlin remain on the injured reserve.

Betting Lines and Trends

  • Best ATS line on Cincinnati Bengals: +6 at Caesars (-110)
  • The best ATS line on Buffalo Bills: -5.5 at DraftKings (-115)
  • Best total line on OVER: 48.5 at FanDuel (-115)
  • The best total line on UNDER: 49 at BetMGM (-110)

Game Notes

  • Joe Burrow is 13-2 ATS as an underdog of at least 3 points.
  • Since last season, Cincinnati is 8-1-0 ATS as a road underdog (best cover rate in the NFL, barring Kansas City’s 1-0) and 17-8-0 ATS following a win (second-best cover rate in the NFL).
  • Buffalo is 6-1 with referee Carl Cheffers in the game like he is today, including 2-0 straight up and 2-0 ATS this season. Cheffers also leads in the NFL in penalties per game.

Matchups: Team Statistics

Below, we list the NFL ranks for each team in their defensive units and offensive lines to identify where the strengths and weaknesses are to utilize for potential micro-advantages. The DVOA ranks come via Football Outsiders. The win rate metric is via ESPN, using player tracking from NFL Next Gen Stats.

The most outlandish statistical standout we want to target is the Bengals’ pass blocking against the Bills’ pass rush. Despite dealing with injuries all season long, Buffalo still ranks No. 12 on the season in quarterback pressure rate. Meanwhile, an already troubled Bengals offensive line continues to lose men. Cappa and Williams are now ruled out of the Divisional Round.

The aim is to utilize this mismatch by delving into season-long trends of Joe Burrow under pressure. For this, we used play-by-play data from PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis Plus tool to pull Burrow’s statistics on snaps where he was pressured since Cincinnati’s bye where Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have played together (i.e., Week 13 and Week 15 to present). Under those circumstances, Burrow faced 18 snaps under pressure. The results in that five-game sample were as follows: 7 sacks and 2-11 passing (18.2-percent) with two interceptions.
Of those 11 passes, four were throwaways (no identified target). The other throws were distributed as follows:

  • WR Ja’Marr Chase: 4 (1 in the red zone)
  • RB Joe Mixon: 1 (0 in the red zone)
  • WR Tee Higgins: 1 (0 in the red zone)
  • TE Hayden Hurst: 1 (0 in the red zone)

The takeaways are simple. Burrow should be worried about the pressure he will likely see, and Ja’Marr Chase should be the primary target once again.

Fantasy Outlook

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Ja’Marr Chase remains a certified alpha. Since Week 5, he has averaged 11.7 targets per game and has at least one red zone target in every single game.
  • Joe Mixon is not efficient and should struggle against the top-ten run defense of the Buffalo Bills, but his volume has kept him fantasy-relevant and that could be the case again. On the season, Mixon has posted a 73.7-percent opportunity share (No. 7 among running backs), 46 red zone touches (No. 6), 60 receptions (No. 5), and 17.3 expected fantasy points per game (No. 5). Mixon as Sunday chalk makes sense due to the touchdown upside.
  • Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Hayden Hurst all get suspect matchups and are therefore risky plays.

Buffalo Bills

  • Even when Josh Allen blunders, he is an elite-ceiling fantasy option due to the touchdown upside and ability to produce running the football. He has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in five straight weeks of playing a full game. He led the NFL in air yards this season.
  • Stefon Diggs‘ volume has been inconsistent, but in the Bills’ playoff game last week, he posted 114 receiving yards and nearly set a season-high in air yards (162). He draws the inconsistent cornerback Eli Apple in this matchup.
  • Dawson Knox draws a fascinating matchup. Since coming off a bye in Week 11, the Bengals have allowed the most targets (72), No. 3-most receptions (48), and No. 2-most receiving yards per game (73.4) to tight ends but have only given one tight end touchdown in that seven-game span. Given the scope of the tight-end slate on Sunday, Knox is an intriguing play.

Betting Leans: Game Spread & Total

Spread Lean: Bills -5.5. The injuries to the offensive line for the Bengals will be just too much to overcome for the talented arm of Joe Burrow. Combine that with an inability to restrict big-time plays by Buffalo wideouts paired with the superior arm talent of Josh Allen and spotting them less than a full score seems like disrespect for the better team. If Allen can turn the ball over fewer than three times, Buffalo should be headed to the AFC Championship Game.

Total Lean: Under 49. Both teams have been profitable to unders this season. The Bengals at 9-7-1 to the under, and the Bills at 10-7-0 to the under. Combine that with the chance of freezing rain or one inch of snow and we have ourselves a good ol’ ugly-offense-fest. Unders went 2-0 on Saturday and that trend will likely continue a week after overs when 3-1 (with the one under being in Tampa Bay when the line missed by one point after four missed Brett Maher extra points).

Sportsbook Player Prop

Player Prop (1u): Dawson Knox OVER 36.5 receiving yards (-113, FanDuel)

As mentioned above, Knox gets a good matchup for producing yards against the Bengals. In his one previous matchup against the Bengals, he posted three receptions on four targets for 67 yards and a touchdown. He could produce a very similar stat line again despite the weather concerns. Josh Allen is in an elite class of quarterbacks that can get a passing attempt line of 35.5 even in a wintery mix in the skies. That means Knox should get opportunities against one of the coldest tight-end defenses in the NFL right now.

Not only has Knox scored in five straight games, but he has also posted at least 44 air yards in four of those games. He’s also seen 37 receiving yards in three of those games. On the season, he has cleared this line in six of the nine games where Allen has attempted at least 33 passes.

Pick ‘Ems & Parlays

Underdog Pick ‘Em Slip (0.25u)

Head over to Underdog Fantasy to tail this two-leg correlated same-game parlay (+200).

The thesis on this is pretty simple. We are going after props that pose pick ‘em value relative to sportsbooks under one game script. For this slip, I am buying a lack of offense on this wintery night in Buffalo, as highlighted on The Juice when we discussed taking the under on the total points in this game.

Factors to Consider

  • This prop is juiced up to -135 on sportsbooks, and rightfully so. As discussed above, Burrow should see pressure early and often. When he has been under pressure recently, he has been turnover-prone. Burrow’s passing attempt line on the books is juiced to the over at a whopping 39.5. This season, Burrow has thrown at least one interception in seven of his 13 games when throwing attempting at least 33 passes. Additionally, seven of the 12 quarterbacks to attempt at least 29 passes in a game against Buffalo this season have thrown an interception.
  • James Cook‘s line is one yard lower on sportsbooks. Therefore, we are getting a small discount. Josh Allen‘s pass attempt line in this game is juiced to the over at 35.5. This seems fair for the close matchup this will likely be. Cook’s role started coming into existence after Buffalo’s Week 7 bye. Since then, there have been six games where Allen has attempted at least 31 passes.
  • Cook’s stats: four carries for 15 yards, five carries for 22 yards, two carries for four yards, 14 carries for 64 yards (second-quarter blowout), five carries for 34 yards, and nine carries for 45 yards. Overs on this line have gone 2-0 against New England in that span and 0-4 against all other teams. His under 8.5 rushing attempts line is also viable, but I prefer the yards slightly due to how solid the Bengals’ run defense has been recently. Since coming off a bye in Week 11, only four teams have given up a lower yards per carry number to running backs than the Bengals.

Sportsbook Longshot (0.25u): FanDuel No-Sweat Same-Game Parlay Promo

If you haven’t already joined services like FanDuel Sportsbook if available in your state, waste no time and head over to the #promo-codes channel of the PlayerProfiler Discord to get linked up. Throughout the playoffs, books like FanDuel will be running promotions that you can take advantage of to get an edge.

For example, you can partake in the No-Sweat Same Game Parlay promotion where you can create same-game parlays for games today and get your money back in free bets if your play loses. I’ll be throwing a 0.25-unit freeroll sprinkle on this five-leg play (+531).

  • Bills Moneyline
  • Ja’Marr Chase 50+ receiving yards
  • Dawson Knox 25+ receiving yards
  • Tyler Boyd 25+ receiving yards
  • Joe Mixon 40+ rushing yards

If you are betting on the NFL playoffs and/or tailing our plays, we recommend continuing to practice intelligent unit management and only playing what your bankroll can handle. Given our unit assignments above, we will profit on our plays as long as our primary builder (Knox 37+ receiving yards) hits, but we could win bigger if one of our other entries also cashes. Either way, enjoy what should be another fantastic contest in Buffalo!

Score Prediction: Bengals 17, Bills 23