UPDATE on Tuesday, 1/24/23 at 7:45 a.m. Eastern: Since I published this article early Monday, the Bengals have moved from one-point underdogs to 1.5-point road favorites Sunday at Kansas City. DraftKings has even moved Cincinnati to -2. I’m still extremely bullish on Joe Burrow and Co., but I’d rather anyone who is tailing go with the Bengals at -125 on the money line rather than laying -1.5. Continue reading for my reasoning in backing Burrow and the Bengals…
Cincinnati (14-4 straight up, 13-4-1 against the spread) has won 10 straight games and hasn’t tasted defeat since October. The Bengals dominated in the snow at Buffalo on Sunday, winning 27-10 as six-point road underdogs in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. They held at least a two-possession lead for more than 36 minutes of game time in Orchard Park.
The only question mark for Cincinnati going into Buffalo was the injury situation along its offensive line. The Bengals had lost three starters in the last three games. The fear for many Cincinnati fans (and betting backers) was that this o-line group would stand out as the team’s weak link on Sunday. Instead, they stunningly stood out as a team strength.
From the opening play, Buffalo’s defensive front was absolutely dominated. With only a few exceptions, Joe Burrow had all day to throw. He completed 23-of-36 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. The Bengals had perfect balance, throwing it 36 times and running it 34 times.
Joe Mixon ran for 105 yards and one TD on 20 attempts. Ja’Marr Chase, Samaje Perine and Hayden Hurst had five receptions apiece for 61, 59 and 31 yards, respectively, while Chase and Hurst both hauled in touchdown catches. The ground game produced 172 rushing yards for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average.
Let’s not ignore the performance from Cincinnati’s defense either. During the regular season, Buffalo ranked second in the NFL in total yards and scoring with its 28.4 points-per-game average. The Bills’ lowest scoring output had previously been 17 points in a 20-17 loss to the Jets on Nov. 6. They were also on an eight-game winning streak before Sunday’s lopsided defeat.
Cincinnati is now 8-1-1 ATS during its 10-game winning streak. However, I backed the Bengals in the non-cover and the push that are reflected in their ATS record (that’s based on the closing lines), but both of those games were winners for me. I had Cincinnati -6.5 from betting it on the Monday before Lamar Jackson was ruled ‘out’ of Baltimore’s 24-17 loss at Paycor Stadium as a 7.5-point underdog.
Also, I backed the Bengals in their regular-season finale at -7 before Baltimore QB Tyler Huntley was ruled ‘out.’ When it was announced that third-string QB Anthony Brown would be starting for the Ravens, they moved to 11-point underdogs in what ended up being a 27-16 loss.
Zac Taylor’s team is 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in 10 road assignments this season. Cincinnati has been an underdog three times this year, going 3-0 ATS with a pair of outright victories. The Bengals have now played eight games against opponents that made this year’s playoffs, producing a 6-2 SU record with their two defeats coming by five combined points at Dallas and at Baltimore.
In six postseason games the last two years, Burrow and the Bengals have produced a 5-1 record both SU and ATS. The lone non-cover (for some) was the aforementioned ATS loss by the hook in the 24-17 win over Baltimore eight days ago.
Look, the Bengals were going to win this game anyway, regardless of whether Patrick Mahomes was 100-percent healthy or not. But the reality is that Kansas City’s star QB isn’t healthy after going down with an ankle injury in Saturday’s non-covering home victory over Jacksonville.
Mahomes is obviously a fantastic NFL QB, but one of his main talents that makes him so special is his elusiveness in the pocket that allows him to extend plays. With a bad ankle, he’s most likely going to be without one of his strengths.
Remember, Burrow was the better quarterback last season when the Bengals went into Arrowhead Stadium (when Mahomes was 100-percent healthy) and won a 27-24 decision as seven-point road underdogs in overtime. On that afternoon, Burrow completed 23-of-38 throws for 250 yards and two TDs with one interception. He also had 25 rushing yards on five attempts, including two key scrambles for first downs on third-down plays at crunch time.
Mahomes connected on 26-of-39 passes for 275 yards and three TDs with two interceptions. He also made a crucial mistake (with some help from Andy Reid) before halftime that resulted in the Chiefs missing out on a short field-goal attempt.
When these teams played in Cincinnati on Dec. 4, Burrow led the Bengals to a 27-24 win as 2.5-point home underdogs by completing 25-of-31 passes for 286 yards and two TDs without an interception. He also had 46 rushing yards and one TD on 11 attempts, while Perine produced 106 rushing yards on 21 carries while filling in for an injured Mixon.
Mahomes completed 16-of-27 passes for 223 yards and one TD in the losing effort. He also had a rushing score.
These teams also met in the regular season at Cincinnati last year. The Bengals won 34-31 as 3.5-point home underdogs thanks to 446 passing yards and four TDs without an interception from Burrow, who completed 30-of-39 throws.
I expect Burrow to improve to 4-0 both SU and ATS against the Chiefs in the last 14 months with another victory Sunday in Kansas City.