Monday Night Football Preview: Bills, Bengals collide with plenty of AFC Playoff Implications hanging in the balance

Dec 4, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Night Football Preview: Bills, Bengals collide with plenty of AFC Playoff Implications hanging in the balance

Buffalo Bills (12-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. CT/ESPN

The final Monday Night Football matchup of the 2022 season is arguably the most anticipated yet, a heavyweight fight between legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Buffalo Bills are the top dog in the AFC heading into Monday night’s clash with the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, but they will need to win to retain that spot after Kansas City’s New Year’s Day triumph. 

The Chiefs would be just a win over Las Vegas next week away from the No. 1 seed in the AFC if the Bengals win, while Buffalo would be a win away should they pick up the victory at Paycor Stadium. The Bengals have a path to the No. 1 seed as well – but it would require several different things to break their way. First, Cincinnati would need to defeat both Buffalo this week and Baltimore next week. Then, the Bengals would need Kansas City to lose at Las Vegas as huge favorites. 

Cincinnati still has plenty to play for – after Baltimore’s loss on Sunday Night Football, a win by the Bengals Monday night would earn them their second consecutive AFC North title. The Bengals will be without starting offensive tackle La’el Collins but get back tight end Hayden Hurst for Monday night’s game. Cincinnati has won seven in a row since starting the season 4-4 and hasn’t lost a home game since Week 1’s overtime loss to Pittsburgh. 

Monday night’s showdown matches up two of the NFL’s top six scoring offenses, and more specifically, two of the NFL’s top seven passing offenses. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen have quickly become two of the biggest stars at quarterback in the NFL for good reason. Burrow is second to just Patrick Mahomes this season in passing yardage, while Josh Allen’s 39 total touchdowns tie him with Joe Burrow among NFL quarterbacks. 

Buffalo’s biggest advantage is on the defensive side of the football, where it’s allowing just 17.5 points per game – second-best behind San Francisco in the NFL. The Bills’ defensive prowess was on full display when Buffalo defeated the Kansas City Chiefs on the road back on Oct. 16, but it has taken some hits due to injury since. Buffalo lost edge rusher Von Miller, back on Dec. 1, and star safety Jordan Poyer is listed as questionable heading into Monday night’s game. 

Outside of the Dolphins and Lions, who each scored 25 or more points against Buffalo, the Bills’ recent schedule hasn’t featured opponents with weapons remotely comparable to what they’ll face in Cincinnati. The Bengals feature elite talent at the offensive skill positions that rivals any in the league, and Joe Burrow has proven himself more than capable of putting players like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins in positions to succeed. 

On the other side of the football, Cincinnati’s ninth-ranked scoring defense will get everything it can handle with Buffalo’s diverse offensive skill set. Josh Allen’s exploits, both through the air and on the ground, are well-documented, and dynamic targets like Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis are difficult to contend with. The Bills’ offense ranks in the NFL’s top seven both passing and running, an elite combination that makes it unpredictable. 

Monday Night Football’s final edition of the 2022 season ought to be competitive, high-scoring, and entertaining. Given the stakes, it is no surprise that tickets are selling for upward of $300 just to get into the building on secondary markets. Cincinnati’s crowd will arrive in droves, ready to celebrate an AFC North title should the Bengals win.

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