Bills at Bengals: 7 storylines to watch for in Week 17

Here are seven  Buffalo Bills storylines to watch for during the lead up to the team’s Week 17 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals:

Biggest MNF game ever?

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Buffalo Bills  (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

The Bills (12-3) and Bengals (11-4) in Week 17 on Monday Night Football. It’s a game that’s been circled since the schedule was released in the spring because, on paper, these are two excellent teams facing off in a late-year matchup.

Guess what? The paper wasn’t lying, that’s exactly what is unfolding.

There’s actually a few bits of evidence that this might be the biggest MNF contest… in NFL history.

Combined, Buffalo and Cincinnati have 23 wins. That’s tied for the most ever between opponents in Monday Night Football history. On top of that, quarterbacks Josh Allen and Joe Burrow of the Bills and Bengals, respectively, have combined for 78 totals touchdowns in 2022. Again, that is the most ever between opponents.

Buckle. Up.

The No. 1 seed

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 reason this game is being watched by so many is because of the No. 1 storyline… the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The battle for that spot is essentially on the line for both of these teams. The loser falls out of the race, which also features the Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)… who face the lowly Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The top seed in each conference earn a first-round bye week.

Playoff matchup preview?

Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21)  (USAT photo)

This might be part one of two.

There is certainly a near future that many can imagine where the Bills and Bengals meet again in the AFC postseason. Again, this brings the No. 1 seed into the picture because the winner of this game could solidify that the second meeting is in their home stadium.

Josh vs. Joe

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) (USAT photo)

We mentioned Allen and Burrow. Between those two, there’s a bit of a surprise.

They’ve never faced each other in the NFL. Allen faced the Bengals his rookie season, but Burrow was not yet in the pros.

With all the hype we’ve seen between the likes of Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and other young AFC QBs… there’s a reason it’s never been about Allen and Burrow. Simply because it’s never happened.

However, they are acquittanced. Allen has previously revealed that the two worked out with the same offseason QB coach, Jordan Palmer, in the past.

Streaking sides

Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Bills, so hot right now.

The Bengals, even hotter.

Heading into Monday, someone (likely) will lose. In doing so, that team will snap one of the NFL’s two longest winning streaks. Cincy has won six in a row while Buffalo is up to five straight.

Important time to get a healthy O-line

It would an ideal time for the Bills to get some improved health along their offensive line. Last week, the Bills were without center Mitch Morse (concussion). Guard Ryan Bates briefly re-injured his ankle. Additionally, Ike Boettger came off injury designation but barely played.

Buffalo’s O-line actually took a big jump in ranking last week against the Chicago Bears, according to Pro Football Focus‘ metrics. However, the Bears have a pretty poor defensive front.

Week 17’s opponent is much better there. The Bengals sport the likes of DJ Reader, Trey Hendrickson, and Sam Hubbard up front on defense. A much larger test that will require the best starting five the Bills have.

Secondary's big test

Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam (24) Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a chance that the playmakers on the outside for the Bengals are the best bunch the Bills secondary face in 2022. That group includes Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins. Tyler Boyd, and Hayden Hurst.

That’s a massive test for any defensive backfield, especially one missing a Pro Bowl safety in Micah Hyde and has a rotating starting piece at cornerback opposite of Tre’Davious White.

Not only will this be a test defensive for Buffalo, on offense, the likes of Stefon Diggs & Co. have had a few down weeks despite the Bills’ successes. Much like the way Allen and Burrow will be going head-to-head, so will all their playmakers and Buffalo will need to respond when Cincy puts up points.

Story originally appeared on Bills Wire