ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — For the second-straight week in the postseason, Buffalo will get a big break with Cincinnati's offensive line banged up heading into the Bills' and Bengals' AFC Divisional matchup.
After the Miami Dolphins had to start their third-string quarterback, Skylar Thompson, in the Bills' 34-21 win in the AFC Wild Card round in Orchard Park last Sunday, and now Buffalo will be able to get more pressure on Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow.
Bengals offensive guard Alex Cappa was officially ruled out for Sunday's game with an ankle injury on Friday, as was left tackle Jonah Williams.
Cincinnati's right tackle La'el Collins was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in Week 16 against the New England Patriots.
The Bengals worked diligently to rebuild one of the weakest offensive lines in the NFL in 2020, which led to a season-ending knee injury to Burrow in his rookie year, over the past two offseasons.
"I think our locker room is so rare and so close. I think that's why guys are able to step in and make the plays they do is because everyone has trusted everybody in that in that locker room to put in the work to get their job done. And so whenever one guy goes down, you throw another guy in," Burrow said the week leading into the game in Orchard Park.
"Now the expectation is there's not going to be a drop off and there really hasn't been at all this year for any position."
The Bengals' offensive line injuries almost offset the loss of the Bills having Von Miller in this divisional game. The Bills' front seven on defense will need to get immense pressure to slow down Burrow and the top receiving trio in the NFL featuring Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
"They got a lot of depth there on the edge and inside. I know losing Von (Miller) wasn't ideal for them, but they've drafted really well at all their spots to have these reinforcements at this point the season," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said about the Bills' defensive line.
"They've got a lot of weapons there that you got to be aware of and their backers are really good pressure and they'll bring nickels or bring safeties over and corners. So this is one of the few teams that probably every person or defense is pressure... You don't go in every game with that."
JULIANNE'S PICK: The Bills will be able to slow down the Bengals' talented receivers, but their quarterback is so accurate on check downs. Their defense is real, and scary. Buffalo won't be able to get past Cincinnati without playing its cleanest game possible. My prediction is 34-31, Bengals.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen was responsible for three turnovers in that last game against Miami which ended up giving the Dolphins their first lead of the game at the time. Despite always finding a way to pull out a win, these turnovers and costly mistakes have undoubtedly been a reoccurring trend for the Bills in their past few games.
When addressing these mistakes and turnovers specifically, Allen used the phrase "aggressive and not reckless" several times to explain his mindset for how he has to play and take care of the ball moving forward.
"That’s our mindset, it’ll never change," Allen said. "There is a thin line between being aggressive and being a little bit reckless. So, again, you know, getting back on the right side of that line and being smart but not being conservative."
Another key for the Bills in this matchup is having several different receivers to turn to when needed. It's no surprise that Stefon Diggs may only get targeted in the first few drives before the opposing team gets the hint to completely shut him down.
In the Bills' last game against Miami, other receivers like Gabe Davis, Cole Beasley and Khalil Shakir all stood up to the plate and made big plays when it really mattered.
Gabe Davis, specifically, had been getting some extra reps in after practice this week to ensure that his teammates can trust him to make those big plays. When Davis was asked about what gives him that motivation, there seemed to be quite a few factors.
"Von had put the super bowl trophy over in the locker room and put 'you said you'd do anything for it,' Davis said. "So, it kind of reminded me of what we need to do to get there and I'm going to try my best to show the guys they can trust me and do the extra work. My mom also wrote me a letter reminding me too where I came from, how blessed I am to be in the position I'm in, and remember why I'm doing what I'm doing."
LINDSEY'S PICK: This game will be a true battle of the quarterbacks. Burrow, known for his consistency, timing, and connection with receivers. Allen will go above and beyond to extend every play. The Bills have been consistently finding a way to win close games, regardless if it's a pretty or ugly win. All of this combined with Bengals O-line injuries and home field advantage in front of Bills Mafia...my prediction is 27-24, Bills.