MNF Preview: Buffalo at Cincinnati

MNF Preview: Buffalo at Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills

Line: Bills -1

Total: 49.5

Where: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

When: Monday, 1/2 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Two of the hottest teams in the NFL will square off on Monday night when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Buffalo Bills in a matchup between squads vying for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Both teams have secured playoff spots and are fighting with Kansas City for the top seed in the AFC. DraftKings has the Bills priced as -120 favorites heading into Week 17, with the Chiefs at +130 and the Bengals at +650. Cincinnati knocked off Kansas City in Week 13 as a 2.5-point home underdog, but it is still one game back in the standings.

The Bengals have won and covered the spread in seven consecutive games following their narrow win over New England last Saturday. They have not been favored by more than four points during any of the last six games during their winning streak. Buffalo has quietly rattled off six straight games since losing to Minnesota in overtime in Week 10.

“This is what you work so hard throughout the body of the season is to come down the stretch here and play these games,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for the Bengals. They’re the defending AFC champions and represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. And came within a whisker of winning that game, right?”

Oddsmakers opened Buffalo as a 2.5-point favorite, but the early betting action has pushed the line down to anywhere from -1.5 to a pick’em, depending on the sportsbook. The total has been moved slightly up from the opener of 49 to the current price of 49.5, as of Friday afternoon.

Cincinnati has been the most profitable team in the NFL over the past 3.5 months, covering the spread in 12 of its last 13 games. The Bengals rallied from a 17-0 deficit against Tampa Bay two weeks ago in a 34-23 win, and they held on for a 22-18 win against New England last week. Patriot running back Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled on a first-and-goal play from the five-yard line in the final minutes to gift Cincinnati the win after it nearly blew a 22-0 lead.

The Bengals have benefited from starting the same five offensive linemen in every game this season, but that streak will be snapped when right tackle La’el Collins (knee) sits out on Monday. They have been one of the league’s top offensive teams this season, ranked seventh in yards per game (367.4).

Quarterback Joe Burrow has completed 69.0% of his passes for 4,260 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His top targets have been wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who have combined for nearly 2,000 receiving yards.

Running back Joe Mixon powers the rushing attack with 787 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He is facing a Buffalo defense that ranks seventh in the league, allowing 317.7 yards per game.

The Bills have been even better on the other side of the ball, with quarterback Josh Allen engineering the No. 2 offense in the NFL (402.3). They trailed Chicago 10-6 last week before outscoring the Bears 29-3 in the second half behind a pair of long touchdown runs from Devin Singletary and James Cook.

Star wide receiver Stefon Diggs finished with just two catches for 26 yards against Chicago, marking his second-lowest output in three seasons with the team. He has been limited to 10 catches for 123 yards in his last three games after racking up 91 receptions for 1,202 yards and 10 scores in his first 12 games. Diggs is facing a Cincinnati pass defense that is No. 21, allowing 225.9 yards per game.

Buffalo has only covered the spread three times in its last nine games, and it has gone ‘under’ in nine of its last 13 games. Cincinnati has cashed the ‘under’ in four of its last five games, so these teams have been playing low-scoring games despite their strong offenses.

The pick: Buffalo PK (-115 at DraftKings)

It’s hard to argue against either of these teams right now, as this game turned out to be a schedule-makers dream for the final Monday Night Football game of the season. I am still higher on Buffalo than Cincinnati overall, especially in a game that is lined as a pick’em. The Bills have a little more firepower offensively, and their defense has more balance than a Cincinnati unit that struggles in pass coverage at times. Cincinnati has been able to ultimately come away unscathed, but there have been some seriously shaky moments in each of its last two games. The Bills know that they can make a statement and take another step towards clinching the top seed in the AFC.

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