GAME PREDICTIONS

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Game Predictions | Bills vs. Bengals | AFC Divisional Round

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The Bills are 5.5 point favorites this week according to Caesars Sportsbook as the team prepares to host the Cincinnati Bengals at Highmark Stadium on Sunday during the AFC Divisional round.

Here's a list of game predictions from NFL analysts.

This is the game of the weekend if you love quarterback play. Joe Burrow vs. Josh Allen. We thought we'd see this game in Week 17, but the game was canceled after Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest. That was the right thing to do, but that's also why this game is in Buffalo. If the Bengals won that game, and they were leading early, this contest would have been in Cincinnati. As it is, it's in Buffalo. Neither team looked great last week against backup quarterbacks and both struggled to advance. I think both will play better here. The Bengals do have offensive line issues, with three starters possibly out, but the Bills didn't exactly rush the passer that well last week against Miami and Burrow gets the ball out quickly. This should be a shootout with both quarterbacks having big days. In the end, I think it's Allen and the Bills who will win it in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Bills 34, Bengals 30

These could be the NFL's two best teams -- with full health. But that's not the status quo. Cincinnati lost 3/5 of its offensive line over the past month, while Buffalo's pass rush hasn't been nearly as fearsome without Von Miller.

Even if the Bills sit in a two-deep safety shell all game like the Ravens did last week in Cincy, they will do so without Micah Hyde. No matter how Buffalo lines up, Joe Burrow needs to take more chances on the outside against the Bills' cornerbacks.

The Bengals' injuries make this a tougher upset to call, but Cincinnati's a more complete team overall. The Bills' lack of receiver depth forces Josh Allen to do too much, and the Bengals -- strong at all three levels of defense -- have played better football over the last two months.

Prediction: Bengals 24, Bills 23

We will choose to believe that narrowly beating Skylar Thompson will serve as a wake-up call for Josh Allen. He'll hit the easy stuff instead of going for the home run swing every time. The truly dumb turnovers will disappear. The Josh Allen who went toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes around this time last year will be the guy we see on Sunday. This is bad news for the Bengals, who have the firepower to keep up but are going to have a _very _hard time stopping Buffalo if they had a hard time stopping Tyler Huntley. A barnburner matchup that will hit the over in the first half and one that the Bills will emerge victorious from.

Prediction: Bills 38, Bengals 30

MDS's take: Both the Bengals and the Bills struggled to beat overmatched opponents last weekend, but I'm expecting a well-played game between them on Sunday. Josh Allen will make one more big play than Joe Burrow in the fourth quarter, and that will be the difference.

MDS's pick: Bills 24, Bengals 20

Florio's take: The Bengals are salty about many things. And that could be enough to fuel a second annual divisional-round road win. But the Bills will get a major lift from a pregame appearance by Damar Hamlin (if that happens), and quarterback Josh Allen will will his way back to the AFC Championship. It would help if someone other than receiver Stefon Diggs steps up, too.

Florio's pick: Bills 31, Bengals 24

The Bills should be playing on emotion in this rematch of the Week 17 game that was canceled after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during the contest. Hamlin reportedly will be in attendance on the Bills' sideline for the first time, and that could give a major morale boost. But the Bills have struggled with turnovers, particularly when quarterback Josh Allen's opportunistic throws ignore easy, clock-controlling short pick-ups.

The Bengals have locked up opponents late thanks largely to defensive adjustments made in-game by the coordinator Lou Anarumo that limit big plays long enough for the Bengals' offense to do damage (and in some cases, defensive linemen have forced turnovers that led to touchdowns).

Cincinnati may need the help putting up points. The offensive line's injury woes continued last week when Jonah Williams went down with a knee injury in the wild-card win over the Ravens. Williams and Alex Cappa, another starter on the line who injured his ankle in Week 18, did not practice Wednesday. Joe Burrow has adapted to the pressure: He's been getting the ball out in an average of 2.49 seconds, the second fastest in the league behind Tom Brady.

Buffalo's defense hasn't been as strong in the last half of the season, especially since losing Von Miller to a knee injury in November, and they've been forced to blitz more than they probably want to. Miami exploited Buffalo's secondary, with the receiver combo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill getting 113 yards on 10 catches. If Skylar Thompson can do that, imagine what Burrow can do with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase spreading the field.

Pick: Bengals +5

The Bengals like to be a passing team, despite having Joe Mixon. The Bills like to be a passing team, despite having a strong traditional rushing attack at times. That means this game comes to down to a classic QB duel between Joe Burrow and Josh Allen.

Burrow has been more on point of late spreading the ball around and not forcing the ball deep when plays aren't there. Allen has been ripping his big arm and also flinging around his big body on scrambles. This game comes down to which QB protects the ball better with two offensive lines that struggle at times.

Burrow will be more effective on short-to-intermediate throws while Allen will hit on a few more home-run balls. Burrow is a little easier to trust with efficiency down to the fourth quarter as he puts his team on the brink of a repeat Super Bowl trip.

Pick: Bengals win 30-27

This will be the best game – and arguably the most-emotional game – of the weekend. Buffalo gets the home-field advantage, and the Bills were 7-1 there this season. Josh Allen leads a high-powered offense with a strong connection with Stefon Diggs, and Buffalo's pass rush should be able to land given the injuries that have ravaged the Cincinnati offensive line.

There are a couple factors that will keep the Bengals in the game. The Bills need to run the ball against a defense led by D.J. Reader, one of the best run stuffers in the game. Buffalo also has committed at least three turnovers in each of its last three turnovers in each of its last three games. Cincinnati has a +7 turnover ratio in its last nine games, and those seem to come at the right time.

The Bills will get sacks, but Joe Burrow will escape a few times, too and make down-field plays with Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase. Joe Mixon also will be a difference maker. This game will not disappoint – and it feels like the last one with the ball wins. Burrow delivers in the clutch to set up a rematch with Kansas City in the AFC championship game.

Pick: Bengals 34, Bills 31

What to watch for: The Bills and Bengals will meet in Orchard Park, New York, after the regular-season meeting between the two teams in Cincinnati was initially postponed and then canceled due to Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffering a cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter. Both teams come into this game riding long win streaks (nine for the Bengals and eight for the Bills), making this the seventh-ever playoff meeting between teams on winning streaks of at least eight games, and the first before the conference championship round. The Bills are 4-0 in home playoff games under coach Sean McDermott, while the Bengals won their two playoff road games in 2021. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Bold prediction: The Bengals will force three turnovers. They have forced 11 turnovers in the postseason in five games dating to last year's wild-card win over the Raiders. With Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen turning over the ball at a high rate, Cincinnati's opportunistic defense will be looking to bait Allen into risky plays. Allen turned the ball over three times in the wild-card round after leading the NFL in turnovers during the regular season (19). Per Elias Sports Bureau, only two players have led the league in turnovers and still reached the conference championship round over the past 45 seasons (Eli Manning in 2007, Jim Kelly in 1992). If Cincinnati can successfully create some turnovers, the Bengals will have a good chance of returning to the AFC title game. -- Ben Baby

Stat to know: Cincinnati receiver Ja'Marr Chase has nine straight games with at least seven receptions, the fifth-longest streak since the 1970 merger (including playoffs). And Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs now has three 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs with the Bills -- the second most in Buffalo history behind Andre Reed's five -- after going for 114 yards in the team's wild-card win.

Betting nugget: Cincinnati is 15-4 against the spread on the road since the start of last season, including 7-2 ATS this season, 7-1 ATS in its past eight games and 4-0 ATS in its past four games on the road. And the Bills are 3-7-1 ATS in their past 11 games.

Moody's pick: Bills 27, Bengals 24

Walder's pick: Bills 31, Bengals 20

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