After last night’s games we are setup for a drama filled final week of the season with playoff spots and seeding still to be decided. The Eagles lost again without Jalen Hurts meaning that three teams can still take the top seed in the NFC and wins for the Packers and Lions sets up a cracking final game that could potentially be a win and in for either team. The AFC South decider between the Jaguars and Titans has already been moved to Saturday which is a bit cheeky considering the Titans played Thursday and rested a lot of their starters with the Jaguars only being given five days to prepare.
Tonight’s game is between a couple of teams already assured of a position in the playoffs but still with plenty to play for.
Buffalo Bills -2.5 @ Cincinnati Bengals: 50.5
The Bills (six wins) and Bengals (seven wins) have the two longest active winning streaks in the AFC and both will be desperate to keep that going tonight. Buffalo currently hold the number one seed but a loss to the Bengals would mean that the Chiefs overtake them for the bye week. The Bengals themselves could still sneak the top seed with two wins to close out the season and a Chiefs loss to the Raiders on Saturday.
Given how strong the top of the AFC looks, no one is going to want play any of their postseason games on the road, so there is no danger of either of these teams, or the Chiefs for that matter, taking their feet off the gas over the next week.
Josh Allen is 3-0 at home in the playoffs but 0-3 on the road and so the Bills will be as desperate as anyone to win their remaining two games and hold on to the number one seed. They haven’t been their normal destructive selves in recent weeks but six wins from six has them at a 12-3 record and the three losses were by a combined total of eight points, it’s hard to argue that they are Super Bowl favourites. In this win streak Allen has perhaps been a little more conservative but as a result, has not turned the ball over as much. He has only gone over 255 passing yards in a game once in these six games but has also only thrown three interceptions, compared to going over 255 yards six times and throwing 10 interceptions in the opening nine games. His passing yardage line tonight is 258.5 and I’d lean the under there given the recent trend. But I’ll take the over on Allen’s 45.5 rushing yard line, he’s averaging almost 50 yards a game and tends to run more in close games and that should be the case tonight (Allen o45.5 rushing yards).
Hand in hand with Allen, Stefon Diggs has also been quieter of late and hasn’t had a 100 yard game since Week 10 after having six up to that point. He has also been held without a touchdown for each of the last three games, which is tied for his longest scoreless run as a Bill. The Bengals defense is solid but I think the Bills try to get Diggs heavily involved in this one to end that streak, he’s around evens to score and 5/1 to get a brace. Dawson Knox, Gabe Davis and Isaiah McKenzie all have the odd good week but with Cole Beasley added back into the mix they might be slightly harder to trust. I’d be more confident of Knox going over his 38.5 yard line than the others (Davis 46.5 and McKenzie 24.5).
Devin Singletary and James Cook combined for over 200 rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns last week against the Bears. I still think Singletary will be the guy they trust in big games such as tonight but I will be avoiding both against a solid Bengals run defense.
Seven wins in a row have the Bengals and their fans feeling very differently about the playoff prospects than they would have been a couple of months ago. They either need a win tonight or next week against the Ravens to secure the AFC North but will be fighting for both games regardless to avoid having to repeat last seasons feat of winning multiple road games in the playoffs.
Joe Burrow has been red hot during their winning streak and his 34 passing touchdowns this season is second only to Patrick Mahomes. Given that the Bengals have struggled running the ball and that the Bills have a stingy run defense, it is likely to all be on Burrow and his receivers shoulders again tonight. He is averaging 306.2 yards at home and I like him to go over his line of 286.5 tonight (Burrow o286.5 passing yards).
Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd is about as good as it gets as a trio of wide receivers and they will have the boost of tight end Hayden Hurst returning from injury tonight after missing the last three games. Burrow has targeted Chase 47 times in the four games since his return from injury and he should be in line for similar usage tonight, as expected he has a high line of 81.5 yards. Higgins is down at 69.5 and Boyd 34.5. I prefer the line for Higgins over the other two but think I would rather back them to score a touchdown, Chase is evens with Higgins 7/4 and Boyd 10/3.
Joe Mixon is still the Bengals RB1 and despite Samaje Perine earning more of a role in recent weeks, Mixon has been heavily involved in the passing game – with 15 targets over the last two weeks. Over 4.5 receptions for Mixon is plus money with Bet 365 (27/20).
This is essentially an early playoff game and will give us a great indication as to how these teams can expect to fair in the playoffs. A road win for the Bills will almost certainly mean they won’t need to travel much over the next month but I have a feeling that the Bengals get it done again against elite opposition. They are 5-0 against AFC teams outside of their division and I think they complete the sweep of the AFC East.