In the regular season last, the Bengals won three of their last four games to sneak into the playoffs and make their way to the Super Bowl. This year they started the engines much earlier.
Riding a seven-game winning streak, joe burrow and his hosts seek to prove that their 2021 title in the American Conference was not the work of chance.
- Joe Burrow and his followers want to send a loud and clear message to the current leaders of the AFC.
The Bills (12-4) have a chance to play the entire season. postseason in frigid Buffalo, a prized advantage considering the hostile conditions that persist there for any rival, particularly in January, when temperatures hardly read positive. But Cincinnati has been in this position before.
“This team hasn’t backed down on anybody yet,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor warned.
A year ago, the Bengals (11-3) hosted the Chiefs — then the top-seeded AFC — in a matchup in the penultimate week of the regular schedule. The result, a 27-24 win for Cincinnati, cost Kansas City first place in the Conference and the rest is history.
Buffalo is aware.
“This is why you work so hard throughout the season, to get to the final stretch and play these types of games,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. “We have a lot of respect for the Bengals. They’re the defending AFC champions…we know they’re a good opponent.”
And they really are.
Their sixth-best offense in the league is averaging 26.7 points per game during their seven-game winning streak, fourth-best on third down and sixth-best on the last 20-yard pass. With Burrow behind center and two receivers in the likes of Ja’Marr Chase (960 yards, 8 TDs) and Tee Higgins (1,022 yards, 7 TDs), he has enough to keep any defense in check.
The Bills, fortunately, are not just any defense. They come into Monday’s game second-best in points conceded in the entire NFL; they’ve allowed more than 25 points just once during their six-game winning streak and have nine games this season with at least two takeaways.
Yes, the first duel between Burrow and Allen promises to be a memorable one. More importantly, it could just be the hors d’oeuvre to a playoff entree.
PANTHERS (6-9) at TAMPA BAY (7-8)
In the South of the National Conference, the playoffs begin on Sunday, in a duel in which Tom Brady once again has history at his fingertips.
The Buccaneers, who scratched a dramatic victory in overtime last week to avoid giving Tom Brady the first losing season of his illustrious career, are now one win away from clinching the NFC South title.
First they must get past a Panthers who have won three of their last four games to get fully into the playoff conversation.
Carolina has been a different team since inserting Sam Darnold as its starting quarterback in Week 12. Since then, the Panthers lead the NFL in yards per attempted pass (8.63) and have committed just one turnover — also league leaders in that box during that period.
The Bucs have won four of the last five meetings in the series and need just one more to wipe out Carolina. The key is in the hands of Brady, who on Sunday looks to become the first quarterback in history with five consecutive games of at least 30 completions and the first with 10 such games in a single season.
DOLPHINS (8-7) at NEW ENGLAND (7-8)
Throughout the regular schedule, the Dolphins have been characterized as much by their inconsistency as by their explosiveness when they are at their peak. On Sunday in Foxboro they will need to shed both tags if they are to secure a spot in the postseason.
Once again without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, absent for his third concussion so far on the calendar, Miami faces the possibility of signing its place in the playoffs. But their hopes will fall on veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to get them to postseason for the second time since 2009 and leaving behind a streak of four consecutive defeats that has put his classification in question.
The Patriots, who similarly control their destiny through postseasonare clinging to life after losing four of their last five games, the most recent two heartbreakingly to the Raiders and Bengals.
The fifth best defense in the league will have to control a Bridgewater that has not won a game as a starter since week 12 of the previous season, when he played with Denver, and that in eight years of career has never faced Bill Belichick and the Pats.
The penultimate week of the regular calendar began on Thursday with the visit of the Cowboys (11-4) to Tennessee (7-8), which is going through a five-game losing streak, which has cost it the top of the South Division of the Conference American.
The action continues on Sunday with the following games: Cardinals (4-11) at Atlanta (5-10); Bears (3-12) at Detroit (7-8); Jaguars (7-8) at Houston (2-12-1); Broncos (4-11) at Kansas City (12-3); Colts (4-10-1) at NY Giants (8-6-1); Saints (6-9) at Philadelphia (13-2); Browns (6-9) at Washington (7-7-1); 49ers (11-4) at Las Vegas (6-9); Jets (7-8) at Seattle (7-8); Vikings (12-3) at Green Bay (7-8); Rams (5-10) at LA Chargers (9-6); and Steelers (7-8) at Baltimore (10-5).
TOWARDS AMERICAN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
Buffalo is already a division champion and clinches first place in the AFC with a combined win-loss of Kansas City.
Cincinnati already has a playoff berth and clinches the AFC North title with a win combined with a Baltimore loss.
Miami clinches the last wild card berth to the playoffs with a win coupled with a Jets loss.
Kansas City already clinched its division title.
The Chargers already have a secure place in postseason as a wild card team.
Baltimore already has a playoff berth and still has a chance to be a divisional champion.
Philadelphia already has a playoff berth, but clinches the division and first place in the NFC with a win.
Minnesota already has its division title locked up.
San Francisco already clinched its division title.
Dallas already has a playoff berth, although it still has a chance to win its division.
The Giants secure a place in postseason as a wild card team with a win.
Tampa Bay wraps up the South’s crown with a win.
Washington needs a win combined with a loss for Seattle to sign their ticket to postseason.
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They add flavor to the postseason