TONY’S TAKE – A PREVIEW OF BILLS-BENGALS
by Tony Fiorello
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott looks on from the sideline prior to an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Welcome to Week Nine of the 2023 NFL season. Here at Buffalo Sports Page we will attempt to inform and educate our readers about the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming opponent and what each team might do to emerge victorious.
The Bills’ ninth game of 2023 will take place at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio as they face the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s what you should know:
CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 23: Joe Mixon #28, Ja'Marr Chase #1, and Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals meet in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Paycor Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
BENGALS’ OFFENSE CONTINUING THEIR SUCCESS IN 2023
The Cincinnati Bengals’ head honcho is former Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. Naturally, Taylor employs a version of his former colleague Sean McVay’s offensive playbook which emphasizes a running game built around zone-blocking (especially to the outside on “stretch” plays) and passes that are created off the threat of play-action. It’s a West Coast-style of offense that can create a lot of big plays down the field from craftily designed routes that work off one another, and the skill position players often line up in reduced splits to the line of scrimmage to become both extra blockers on handoffs and to have more room to run routes on the field. Taylor also loves to make use of run-pass options, or RPOs.
At the helm of this attack is former first overall draft choice Joe Burrow. Burrow not only possesses a strong arm and high football I.Q., but also has a strong sense of rhythm and timing for a young quarterback, is consistently accurate and moves well within the pocket. He’s aggressive when attacking one on one matchups outside the numbers and executes well out of empty sets – allowing him to become the first quarterback ever to be selected first overall in the NFL Draft and start in a Super Bowl within two years.
Those movement skills came in handy in his first two pro seasons as Burrow operated behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Despite the left side of Cincinnati’s line being serviceable (and held down by Jonah Williams and Quinton Spain), Trey Hopkins, Hakeem Andeniji and Isaiah Prince were not – thus putting Burrow under duress, taking a lot of sacks and sometimes anticipating pressure when there wasn’t any – leading to hurried throws and interceptions.
Over the last two years the Bengals have addressed those issues by replacing Spain, Hopkins, Andeniji and Prince in their starting lineup with Cordell Volson and free agent signings Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and Orlando Brown Jr. Those additions bolstered the Bengals – while they got off to a rocky start in 2022 by surrendering three sacks or more in five of Cincinnati’s first eight games, they gave up just 22 sacks in their last 11 outings including playoffs. So far through seven games this year they have allowed 17 sacks through seven contests – a respectable number.
While pass protection has long been an issue for the Bengals, their run blocking isn’t all that bad, and Joe Mixon – one of pro football’s better running backs when healthy – takes advantage of it. His solid vision and good cutback ability have meshed well with Taylor’s scheme and in 2022 Mixon set career highs in all receiving categories one year after posting the best rushing numbers of his time in the pros.
Burrow has plenty of weapons at his disposal in the passing game. Ja’Marr Chase, his former college teammate at LSU, finished 2021 with the second-most receiving yards and touchdowns ever by a first-year player and has done most of his damage as the boundary ‘X’ receiver on three-by-one trips formations and slant patterns on slant-flat combinations. Tee Higgins is a red zone target and excels on vertical routes and shifty slot receiver Tyler Boyd is a nifty option on short patterns.
Chase, Higgins and Boyd are so prolific, in fact, that last year they were one of just two trios in the NFL (along with Jacksonville’s Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones and Evan Engram) to each rank in the top-25 in receiving yards and are a major reason why the Bengals are typically one of the league leaders in yards after the catch. Irv Smith Jr. is their tight end.
Over the last two years Cincinnati has resided among the NFL’s top-ten teams in most offensive categories, but not so through eight games in 2023. Entering Week Nine they are 23rd or lower in almost everything, but those numbers are misleading because Burrow was attempting to play through a calf injury. Now healthy, the Bengals have scored at least 30 points in two of their last three games, have improved tremendously in total yards and passing yards and have had the fifth-best offensive output in the red zone in that time span.
Additionally, a year ago the Bengals became the first team to win 25 or more games in a two-season span after losing more than 25 in the previous two seasons and have won five playoff games in the last two seasons after emerging victorious in five playoff contests in the previous 53 years combined.
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 15: Seattle Seahawks Tackle Charles Cross (67) blocks Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Trey Hendrickson (91) during the NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals on October 15, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CINCINNATI’S DEFENSE IS OVERLOOKED
Cincinnati’s defense is mainly zone-based while using split safety coverages (such as Cover Two, Four and Six) and coordinator Lou Anarumo is their play-caller. Although they may not be among the league leaders in many statistical categories, they are good situationally, adapt well to their opponents, are fundamentally sound and well-coached. Additionally they are good at disguising their coverages and have multiple front packages, blitz concepts and coverages.
Trey Hendrickson, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, lived up to his free agent contract with a career-high 14 sacks in 2021 (he had eight a year ago while battling through a broken wrist and has already tied 2022’s output) and his cohorts on the Bengals’ defensive line include Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill. These four execute a lot of creative pass rush concepts along the line of scrimmage, including stunts, twists and shifting from four to three man-rush looks before the snap. The unsung Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt are their starters at linebacker.
The Bengals have a pair of outside cornerbacks who are solid in zone defenses like Chidobe Awuzie and Cam Taylor-Britt. Slot corner Mike Hilton isn’t just one of the game’s best nickelbacks – he’s also an elite blitzer off the edge, and their safeties are former first-round pick Dax Hill (who they like to match up against tight ends with) and ex-Ram Nick Scott – the two are replacing the underrated duo of Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, who each left in free agency.
Anarumo’s charges in 2022 were sixth in points allowed, seventh against the run, 16th in total yards given up and 18th in interceptions but just 23rd against the pass and 29th in sacks in the regular season. It’s more of the same this year, as they are 21st or worse in most categories but are 10th in red zone defense, third in interceptions and are tied for fourth in takeaways. They rarely blitz, ending last season 22nd in that category but are among the NFL’s better outfits in applying pressure on opposing signal callers.
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Taron Johnson #7 of the Buffalo Bills tackles Chase Edmonds #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter of the game at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
BUFFALO’S DEFENSE ELITE, BUT UNDERGOING CHANGES IN 2023
For the majority of head coach Sean McDermott’s time in Buffalo, the Bills’ defense – led by longtime stalwarts such as Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Matt Milano and Ed Oliver – has been one of the league’s best in the regular season. Points allowed (second in the NFL in that category in 2022), total yards per game allowed (sixth), rushing yards surrendered (fifth), takeaways (tied for fourth), interceptions (tied for fourth) and red zone defense (second) have generally been the categories that the Bills have excelled at (last year’s 15th ranking against the pass not withstanding).
Buffalo, however, was inconsistent in two areas – creating a consistent pass rush and, from time to time, stopping the run. These issues are mainly caused by poor tackling (a year ago their missed and broken tackle percentage were among the highest in the NFL), a lack of gap integrity and a lack of versatility along the defensive line. This problem came up again this year against the Jets in Week One, where the Bills allowed 172 yards on the ground but a week later they held Josh Jacobs – last year’s rushing champion – to -2 yards on nine carries, the first time a reigning rushing champion was held to negative yards in a game according to ESPN.
To address this over the years, McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier (who has taken this season off, leaving McDermott to call the defensive plays) have brought in more talent. Out went names like Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Star Lotulelei, Carlos “Boogie” Basham and Harrison Phillips, and in came talented and versatile linemen like Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa (who earlier this season became the first Bills defensive lineman to return an interception for a touchdown since Aaron Schobel in 2009), Da’Quan Jones and Tim Settle, and the return of former Bills like Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson were also welcomed additions. This season Buffalo has signed veterans such as Leonard Floyd, Kaylon “Poona” Ford and Linval Joseph to help out, and they’ve fit like a glove – especially Floyd, whose length and athleticism were needed on the edge. They’ll be needed even more after Jones, perhaps their best run-stuffing lineman, tore a pectoral muscle against Jacksonville and Oliver has dealt with a toe problem.
Beyond improving against the run, the Bills had also lacked an elite pass rusher off the edge who could command double teams on a consistent basis since Mario Williams was employed nearly 10 years ago. With this in mind, in 2022 general manager Brandon Beane signed future Hall of Famer Von Miller – who is still one of the NFL’s best sack artists at age 34. But Miller suffered a torn ACL after putting up eight sacks in 12 games and missed the first four games of this season while recovering on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He’s back now and on a snap count as he shakes off the rust, but his return is good news regardless. With Miller the Bills were fourth in the NFL in pressure rate with four or less pass rushers in 2022, without him they were 27th in that category – however their pressure rate has been among the best in the league thus far even without Miller.
Schematically the Bills’ defense mostly relies on basic zone coverages after the snap (they’re usually among the top units in the NFL in usage of Cover Two, Four and Six) but before the snap it is complex – safety rotations to disguise their intentions keep opposing quarterbacks guessing and selective pressure looks at the line of scrimmage and coverage exchanges are the team’s calling cards.
Those blitz looks usually happen in the A-gaps with the smaller, but smart, speedy and athletic Milano and Terrell Bernard (replacing the departed Tremaine Edmunds) to confuse opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks, but they rarely send five or more pass rushers – their favorite blitz tactic besides A-gappers are four-man zone exchanges. Bernard has stepped up to the challenge so far, leading Buffalo in tackles and recording two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery against Washington – becoming the first NFL player to do so in one game since Brian Urlacher in 2007. Milano, however, is out for the foreseeable future after suffering a broken leg and a knee injury against the Jaguars, so backups A.J. Klein, Tyrel Dodson and rookie Dorian Williams will need to pick up the slack. So far they’ve struggled to defend the run well because of a lack of experience and not diagnosing those plays at the line of scrimmage.
The Bills mainly utilize nickel personnel, as evidenced by Buffalo using five defensive backs between 90 and 100 percent of their snaps since 2020. They did use nine snaps of dime against Kansas City in Week Seven last year – a matchup that saw them rely on three-man rushes and Milano utilizing a spy technique on Patrick Mahomes, and that setup returned against Tampa Bay in Week Eight with three safeties (on 38 percent of their snaps) to help offset the loss of Milano in pass coverage. Generally it features Hyde and ex-Ram Taylor Rapp on the backend and Poyer near the line of scrimmage.
White, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, was back to full form after tearing his ACL against the New Orleans Saints two years ago but is injured again – this time after rupturing his Achilles tendon against Miami in Week Four. Opposite him at the other boundary corner spot were second-year man Christian Benford, Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam (who has underwhelmed so far as a pro).
Slot corner Taron Johnson remains elite, but with White’s upper-echelon ability to play both man and zone coverage gone, will McDermott lean on more zone from Jackson, Elam, Benford, Johnson, Josh Norman and newly-acquired Rasul Douglas than they ever have? It would make sense, especially given that Douglas and Norman are primarily zone corners. Douglas, an ex-Green Bay Packer and Philadelphia Eagle, has great size and length, is versatile and a gambler – he can take chances because he understands route combinations very well.
Hyde and Poyer have reunited to form perhaps the league’s best duo on the back end after being in and out of the lineup with various injuries throughout 2022, and the rangy and physical but inconsistent Damar Hamlin has also returned to full health after suffering a cardiac arrest episode against Cincinnati in Week 16.
Special teams were also solid for the Bills in 2022, having been 13th in punt return average and sixth in kick return average (which was boosted by Nyheim Hines’ two kick returns for scores in Week 18, the first player in Bills history to return two kicks for scores in one game and the first kick return for a touchdown by a Bill in three years) and were 18th and third in covering punts and kicks, respectively. Hines, however, was lost for the season after a knee injury was sustained during the summer and the team allowed a punt return for a touchdown in overtime in Week One – the first time an NFL game ended on a punt return score since 2011.
Through eight weeks Buffalo is third in points allowed, 13th in total yards allowed, 10th against the pass, 22nd versus the run, tied for second in sacks despite blitzing among the least of any NFL team and tied for third in takeaways. Their nine sacks and four picks against Washington allowed them to be the first team to put up those numbers in a game since the 1985 Dallas Cowboys.
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills gives assignments during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
BILLS’ OFFENSE AN UPPER-ECHELON UNIT, BUT ALSO GETTING A FACELIFT
Led by quarterback Josh Allen and a cadre of gifted pass-catchers, since 2020 the Bills have boasted one of the NFL’s elite offenses for the first time since the K-Gun was running roughshod over the league 30 years ago. Allen’s improved processing skills, ball placement, patience within the pocket and touch on passes have allowed Buffalo to become one of the most feared attacks in pro football (he was second in passing and total touchdowns and seventh in yards in 2022.)
His core of targets is deep and talented. Stefon Diggs is an exceptional route runner who excels in making contested catches and operates well out of bunch and stack formations. His presence along with the physical Gabriel Davis has balanced out Buffalo’s wide receiver
corps. But one element – speed – was lacking a year ago, so the Bills addressed this by letting veterans Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie and John Brown walk and brought in burners like Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty and Andy Isabella to go along with second-year man Khalil Shakir. Tight end Dawson Knox (out after wrist surgery) is now joined by rookie first-round pick Dalton Kincaid from Utah, and their diverse skillsets should allow coordinator Ken Dorsey to throw curveballs at opponents with multiple tight end sets.
The Bills’ offensive line is composed of Dion Dawkins, former Dallas Cowboy Connor McGovern, Mitch Morse, rookie O’Cyrus Torrence and Spencer Brown. This crew along with fullback Reggie Gilliam, while not elite, has mainly executed outside zone runs along with zone-reads, pin-and-pull concepts, traps, counters, split inside zone and sprint draw plays sprinkled in for running back James Cook. Cook has taken on more of a featured role as former teammate Devin Singletary left for Houston and is now backed up by physical ex-Patriot Damien Harris (out with a concussion and sprained neck) and veteran Latavius Murray, who has rushed for a touchdown with six NFL teams – tied with Adrian Peterson for the most all-time. Former Jaguar and Buccaneer Leonard Fournette, a bruising type, was also signed to the team’s practice squad and can also catch out of the backfield.
The starting front five, while not bad, has been iffy in providing push in the running game and in pass protection over the last couple of years. Most of the team’s rushing production came from Allen’s legs and few came from their backs – the Bills’ rushing attempts per game in 2022, 18.2, was last in the NFL but that number has increased this year. Also, in Week One against New York Buffalo surrendered five sacks, tied for the fifth-most in Allen’s career, but has been taken down just seven times in the last seven weeks.
Buffalo’s passing offense is a Patriots-style system built upon concepts involving option and crossing routes from the slot, downfield routes from the outside, run-pass options (especially in the red zone), designed quarterback runs to take advantage of Allen’s mobility, deep dropbacks and alignments that create favorable matchups and some trick plays with jet/orbit motion and sweeps. They also use plenty of pre-snap motion and shifts – in the past it was mostly out of “11” personnel groupings (one back, one tight end and three wide receivers) and “10” personnel (one back, no tight ends, four receivers) – and will also go no-huddle from time to time to limit the opposition’s defensive calls.
The Bills’ multi-receiver sets were traditionally their offensive calling card. In 2020 they used four wide receivers or more 155 times – the second-most in the NFL at the time – and they utilized someone in motion on 43 percent of their offensive snaps, a huge increase from their 25 percent rate in 2019. Former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll – now the head coach of the New York Giants – also called for a passing play on 64 percent of their first downs, according to ESPN Stats and Information – no team with a winning record in the last 20 years did it more than Buffalo – and that rate continued in 2021 and ’22 with “11” personnel used on nearly three-quarters of their plays.
However, Buffalo’s usage of “12” personnel (one back, two tight ends) has gone up with the employment of Knox and Kincaid. They were last in the NFL in usage of that grouping a year ago (three percent – it has gone down again after injuries to Knox and Kincaid throughout the year), and their amount of play-action passes has increased after they dropped from being a top-four team in those concepts used in 2020 and ’21 to 25th a year ago – especially while under center, which has helped the Bills be the most efficient play-action team in football. It’s also given Diggs time to set up double moves, masks any pass protection weaknesses and improved their timing, rhythm and efficiency.
Yet for everything the Bills did right on offense last year (first in third down conversion percentage, second in points scored and in total yards per game, fifth in passing, seventh in rushing and ninth in red zone percentage), two flaws remained – they were one the league’s sloppiest teams with 27 turnovers and the team’s ability to create sustained offense slipped during the stretch run of the season. Allen had 14 interceptions and 13 fumbles in the regular season and had three turnovers in the wild card playoff round versus the Dolphins (mainly due to perceiving pressure that wasn’t there, playing too fast and a lack of speed at wideout) and turned the ball over four times against New York in Week One, but has cut down on that number since (he has just 10 turnovers through eight games).
In 2022 the Bills won eight in a row (including playoffs, their longest streak since eight in 1990) and included winning six straight non-Sunday games – the first team to have done so since the 1962 Boston Patriots. Additionally Buffalo lost just three games by a total of eight points and tied the franchise mark for wins in a season with 13 (along with the 1990, ’91 and 2020 teams).
Through eight weeks the Bills are fourth in scoring, fifth in total yards, 14th in rushing and fourth in passing. They’re also among the best in third down rate and near the top in red zone efficiency and point differential, yet they also started slowly over a three-game stretch while scoring just 13 total points in the first half (third-worst in the NFL in that time frame and Allen was blitzed at a high rate in each game). Against Tampa that remedy was fixed by building a lead after the first quarter for the first time since Week Four, but in their last four weeks they’ve averaged just 20.8 points per game.
Punter Sam Martin and kicker Tyler Bass have also been their usual excellent selves, especially Martin as of late. While McDermott elected to punt four times in fourth-and-one situations a week ago (according to OptaSTATS, no other NFL team in the last 30 years got within a yard of or past midfield on each of their last four drives of a game and punted all four times), Martin answered the call by pinning the Bucs inside their own 10-yard line three times.
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Dalton Kincaid #86 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates with teammate Stefon Diggs #14 after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter of the game at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
STATS AND MUSINGS
· Allen has compiled 37 career regular season games with a passer rating of 100 or better and has reached that mark in 20 of his last 30 outings. In those games Buffalo’s record is 34-3, and he had a perfect quarterback rating against Miami in Week Four – Doug Flutie was the only other Bills passer to accomplish that feat in one game.
· Only Steve Young has had more career regular season games (eight) with 300 or more passing yards and 50 or more rushing yards than Allen (seven). He’s second all-time in games with a passing and rushing score (37) – behind just Cam Newton (64).
· Buffalo’s franchise quarterback has eight career games with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score – only Drew Brees and Tom Brady (nine) have more all-time. He also became the first signal-caller to throw for 250 yards, run for 50, toss three touchdowns, run for one, complete 80 percent of his throws and win a game in league history against the Rams in Week One last year. His completion percentage against Miami in Week Four was 84, the highest in team history.
· Allen is tied for second all-time in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with Steve Young – only Newton has more (75). He’s also 21-5 in his career when coming off a loss.
· Buffalo’s quarterback has defeated every team in the NFL at least once except two – Arizona and Philadelphia. Allen’s also become the only signal caller with 4,000 passing yards and 750 rushing yards in a season twice (he’s the only one to do so once).
· Diggs and Allen have connected for a touchdown 35 times, second on the Bills’ all-time list (Kelly and Andre Reed have 65). Diggs also tied Bill Brooks’ team record for touchdowns in a season in 2022 (11), is tied with Elbert Dubenion for fourth in franchise history in scores, has moved into fourth in team history in receptions and has surpassed Frank Lewis for fifth in team annals in yards. He and Stevie Johnson are the only Bills with three straight 1,000 yard seasons.
· Speaking of Diggs, he became the sixth player ever with 100 receptions and 1,200 receiving yards in three straight seasons – joining Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Herman Moore, Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas. He’s also the first to do so in each of his first three years with one team and has three 100-yard receiving games with the Bills in the playoffs, joining Reed (five).
· Secondary target notes – last year Knox moved past Jay Riemersma for second in team annals with 21 receiving scores by a tight end. He’s behind only Pete Metzelaars (25) and became the fifth Bill with five or more receiving scores in the playoffs all-time while also catching a touchdown in five straight games (only Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski have had longer streaks among tight ends). Meanwhile, Davis has the second-most receiving touchdowns in team playoff history (six), tying James Lofton. Reed had nine.
· Since 2017 the Bills are 51-7 when leading at halftime and Week Six versus the Giants was the first game in which they were held scoreless through three quarters and won since December 1993 against Philadelphia (it was first time it had happened at home since 1987 – also against the Giants).
· Miller is the first defensive player in league history to sign two contracts worth at least $100 million. He is also vying to be the second player to win a Super Bowl with three different teams (Matt Millen was the first), has moved past Robert Mathis for 19th on the all-time sack list and is two quarterback takedowns away from tying Dwight Freeney for 18th.
· Buffalo’s point differential was plus-169 in 2022 – the second-best in the NFL and second-best in franchise history (2021) – and recorded 5,000 yards of offense for the third time in team history, joining the 1991 and 1975 teams.
· The Bills have compiled a road winning percentage of .685 (24-11) since 2019. Conversely, Buffalo is 24-6 at home since 2020 and is 12-1 at home in December and beyond in their last 13 games.
· The Bills rushed for 100 yards in every game but one last year. They clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight year, which tied the second-longest streak in franchise history (1963-66, six years from 1988-93 is the longest) and was the fifth time McDermott clinched a playoff berth, trailing just Marv Levy (eight) for the most. Buffalo also won a third straight AFC East title, which is their longest streak since 1988-91.
· McDermott’s record against the AFC East since 2017 is 24-15 – a winning percentage of .615. He also became the 11th coach all-time to make the playoffs five times in his first six years – joining Andy Reid (PHI), John Harbaugh (BAL), John Madden (OAK), Mike Holmgren (GB), John Robinson (LAR), Paul Brown (CLE), Dennis Green (MIN), Chuck Knox (LAR), George Seifert (49ers) and Bill Cowher (PIT).
· Buffalo hasn’t won a road playoff game since the 1992 AFC title game in Miami – they’re 0-7 since.
· Buffalo’s regular season record over the last three years with Allen is 42-15, and he’s 57-28 all-time as a Bill.
· Since 2020 the Bills’ record coming off a loss is 12-3.
· McDermott is the third coach in Bills history to appear in 100 games with the franchise along with Levy and Lou Saban.
· Since 2020 Buffalo has the best home record in the NFL – 28-7 including playoffs.
· Allen’s career record in primetime is 14-4 and he and McDermott are 5-0 on Sunday Night Football. They’re also 6-1 on Thursdays.
· Buffalo leads the all-time series 17-16 against Cincinnati. This will be the Bills’ first game at the Bengals since Hamlin’s cardiac arrest in January and a rematch from last season’s 27-10 defeat at the hands of Cincinnati in the Divisional playoff round.
· It’s also the first time Buffalo is an underdog going into a game since December 26, 2021 in New England – a span of 27 contests – and the first time each team will face off on Sunday Night Football since October 1991 (the Bills won that outing 35-16).