The Buffalo Bills continue their postseason journey in the Divisional round against the Cincinnati Bengals at Highmark Stadium.
Once the battle arrives, there will be a few particular things to keep in mind.
Here are seven things to watch for during Sunday’s Bills-Bengals matchup:
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Damar Hamlin’s recovery from the cardiac arrest he suffered the first time the Bills and Bengals faced off continues. However, positive steps continue. Hamlin is said to be at the team’s facilities “almost daily.”
An incredible turnaround, is there a chance Hamlin makes an appearance at the game? We’re not speculating one way or another at all, but certainly it would an amazing and emotional moment for both teams if Hamlin is able to be there.
Keep the ball
Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
While the Bills advanced from their Wild-Card meeting with the Miami Dolphins, the word that more comes to mind is “survived.” Buffalo made mistakes, specifically in terms of turning the ball over.
You won’t even really need to make this a “thing to watch” on game day. It will be front and center: Do the Bills fix their giveaway problem against the Bengals? It will be a massive factor in determining the winner.
Gimme, gimme, Allen vs. Burrow
Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
No reason to get too complex here, the NFL will finally get quarterbacks Josh Allen and Joe Burrow facing off. They never have, this will be Round 1.
After the situation surrounding Hamlin, this matchup has been something Buffalo and Cincinnati are anxiously awaiting, too.
In their canceled Week 17 outing, both put up points on their opening drives, so if that pace continues, it should be a fun one.
Taking advantage of injuries
Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams (73) (USAT photo)
The Bills are rolling through this week with one key injury: Dane Jackson. The cornerback sustained a knee injury against the Dolphins last weekend, however, he’s already practicing in a limited capacity and is considered day-to-day, per head coach Sean McDermott.
The Bengals are in a much worse position.
Cincinnati revamped their offensive line this past offseason. Tackle La’el Collins was part of that and ended up on injured reserve just prior to the first Bills-Bengals meeting.
Then their offensive line had two more huge blows last weekend in their Wild-Card win against the Baltimore Ravens.
Tackle Jonah Williams (knee) and guard Alex Cappa (ankle) were hurt. Head coach Zac Taylor considered them both “week-to-week” in his early assessment and both have not yet practiced since.
The likes of Greg Rousseau off the edge and Ed Oliver up the gut should get good matchups. No excuses now, those battles must be won. Take advantage of it, Bills.
The plan in the defensive backfield
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) is wrapped up and tackled by Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer (21) (USAT photo)
If Jackson can go, he would be a big boost because of how deep the Bengals are in terms of their playmakers on offense. They sport the best trio of receivers in the NFL: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Plus, there’s tight end Hayden Hurst.
The pass rush for Buffalo will factor in here. The secondary has to be ready, too.
Along with Jackson, cornerback Kaiir Elam could be busy. Burrow could certainly be looking away from defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jordan Poyer–but make no mistake–the entire Buffalo defensive backfield is going to be busy and has to play well.
Playoff Gabe to stay?
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis (13) (USAT photo)
Playoff Gabe is a beautiful Gabe.
To Buffalo, anyway.
After an inconsistent regular season, wide receiver Gabe Davis had another monster playoff outing on the heels of his record-setting effort a year ago. Davis had six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card. He was named one of the NFL’s best wideouts last week by Pro Football Focus as well.
Stefon Diggs is elite and the Bills’ No. 1 playmaker. Having Davis playing his best ball beside him makes the Bills offense such a better unit. Can Davis keep rolling?
Who can be two-fold?
Bills running back James Cook (28) Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
After noting names such as Chase, Tiggins, Diggs and Davis, there’s another important factor to keep in mind on Sunday: The ground game.
While the Bills and Bengals both thrive on their passing attacks, an offense always runs best when it is two-dimensional.
Buffalo and Cincinnati both will want to establish their rushing attacks more than most onlookers will realize.