The Buffalo Bills will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Sunday Night Football in a highly-anticipated matchup. Their previous meeting ended in a disappointing fashion for the Bills as the Bengals won their Divisional Round game 27-10 and ended Buffalo's postseason run.
The Bills are underdogs on Sunday, marking the first time in 27 games that they are not favored to win. The Bengals are favored by 1.5 points and Buffalo will be looking to pull off the upset.
Ahead of Sunday night's game, here are the most important stats and trends to follow as Josh Allen and Joe Burrow clash for only the second official time in their careers.
Dominant without the blitz
Sending more than four pass rushers on just 22.9 percent of defensive plays, the Bills defense blitzes at the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL. With a talented group of pass rushers, the Bills average 3.5 sacks per game, the fourth-most in the league, and pressure the opposing quarterback on 38.7 percent of plays.
The Bills are the only team in the NFL with three players with five or more sacks so far this season in Leonard Floyd (6.5), A.J. Epenesa (5) and Ed Oliver (5). Oliver tied his career high for sacks in a single season after bringing down Baker Mayfield last Thursday and Epenesa just needs 1.5 more to tie his personal high.
Facing an offensive line that has allowed an average of 2.4 sacks per game and runs their offense in shotgun over on over 91 percent of plays, the speed of Buffalo's edge rushers could be the difference in the Bills Sunday night game.
Sunday night Stef
Bills WR Stefon Diggs is one of the most complete wide receivers in the league but he takes his game to the next level in primetime settings. Since joining the Bills in 2020, Diggs leads the league in catches (128), receiving yards (1,558) and is tied for TDs (13) in primetime games.
The star WR opposite from him this week is Ja'Marr Chase who is averaging a whopping 124 yards receiving per game over his last three contests. Despite a slow start by the Bengals this season, Chase has remained one of the elite pass catchers in the league.
Chase and Diggs are the only players in the league this season averaging 8+ catches per game with 90+ receiving yards per game and at least four touchdowns.
With eight catches against the Bengals, Diggs would set a franchise record for most receptions through eight games, breaking his own mark (72) set last season.
Efficiency on offense
Led by one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league this season, the Bills offense has been one of the highest scoring in the league. Their 27.8 points per game are the fourth-most in the NFL, although they have averaged 21 points per game over their last three contests.
The Bills hold an average rush EPA (expected points added) of 0.13, third in the NFL and an average pass EPA of 0.09, first in the NFL. With running back James Cook getting comfortable in his new role as the lead back and rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid becoming an integral part of the Bills passing attack, the Bills offense has shown potential to be one of the most potent in the league.
Cook is already on track to nearly double his production as a runner from last season and his 486 rushing yards are the eighth-most in the league. Averaging 4.8 yards per carry, Cook is also one of the most efficient running backs in the league while also proving to be explosive in the passing game. Cook's 10.7 yards per catch are second to only Austin Ekeler among running backs.
Kincaid, who scored his first career touchdown against the Buccaneers, has seen an uptick in usage – especially with tight end Dawson Knox on the injured reserve list after having surgery on his wrist.
Last week, Kincaid was on the field for 84 percent of the Bills offensive snaps. The rookie is the Bills' third-most targeted receiver this season and has been an efficient option with only four of his 34 targets going for incompletions. As a big target often found in the middle of the field, nearly half of Kincaid's 258 receiving yards have come after the catch.
Allen nearing huge milestones
Josh Allen is close to crossing several important milestones for his career. Allen needs one touchdown (run or pass) to get to 200 TDs for his career and five TDs to tie Patrick Mahomes for the most in a player's first six seasons (204).
Allen has a rushing touchdown in five of the Bills' last six games. His next rushing TD will move him into second place in NFL history for most rushing TDs by a QB, surpassing Hall of Famer Steve Young.
Protecting the passer
When the Bills drafted right guard O'Cyrus Torrence, they were praised for finding a first-round caliber player in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Their selection has paid off, as Torrence has adapted quickly to the speed of playing professional football. With a line led by veterans left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse, the Bills offensive line is one of the highest-rated in the NFL.
The Bills are one of just two teams, along with the Dallas Cowboys, to have both a top five left tackle and left guard in quarterback pressure rate allowed.
The Bills O-line has allowed pressure on 31 percent of plays, the sixth lowest in the league. According to an aggregate of rankings from Pro Football Focus, Sports Info Solutions and ESPN, the Bills have the top-rated pass protection in the NFL. Across the first eight games, Allen has been sacked just 12 times, fewer than 25 other quarterbacks in the league.
With more time in the pocket, Allen is on track to have his highest single-season completion percentage at 71.7 percent if he continues to play at this rate. He also holds the second highest dropback success rate in the NFL at 53.9 percent, per Next Gen Stats.
Damar's return to Cincy
While it's not technically a football stat, Damar Hamlin's return to Cincinnati marks an important moment for both him and the teams involved. Regardless of whether or not Hamlin is dressed for Sunday night's game, he is embracing
"It's going to be super electric, it's going to be nothing but love," Hamlin said on this week's VonCast with Bills LB Von Miller.
"The only thing I got to compare it to is going back to our stadium and how much love and reception it is. Going back into there, I'm sure it'll be a bunch of memories — which will make it emotional for me — but I ain't running from it... I'm super excited to see it."
During the week, the Bills (and Hamlin) have had their attention focused on winning.
"I think we need to start fast. I think we need to come out with a chip on our shoulder, like a little edge," Hamlin said. "We always play best when we got that spark behind us."
Other stats to know
- Joe Burrow (6-1) and Josh Allen (8-3) rank as the top two AFC QBs in winning percentage against teams with a winning record since the start of the 2022 season.
- Josh Allen has thrown 22 TDs of at least 10 air yards to both Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis (44 total) since the start of 2021, including the playoffs. Both rank tied for 1st among QB-WR in the league during that span.
- Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase have 21 TDs of 10+ air yards, second among QB-WR duos.