The Cincinnati Bengals hope to advance to the AFC Championship Game but they'll have to knock off the NFL darlings -- the Buffalo Bills -- in order to do so.
Here are three keys to victory for the Bengals if they hope to make it to their second consecutive AFC title game.
For anyone who has watched the Bills throughout the season, you won't be surprised to learn that the Bills turn the ball over at an alarmingly high rate. According to Blake Jewell, the Bills finished the season with the third-most turnovers while Cincinnati had the fourth-fewest.
The Bills showed that they're no strangers to turning the ball over in their narrow Wild Card win over the Dolphins, as Josh Allen threw two interceptions and lost one fumble during the game. If the Bengals can get multiple turnovers in this game, I'm not sure how they can lose.
Keep Joe Burrow upright
Despite their four sacks on Skylar Thompson last week, the Bills' pass rush has not been the same without Von Miller. The two-time Super Bowl champion was a huge get for Buffalo and had eight sacks in 11 games.
When I spoke with Ryan Heckman of BuffaLowDown, he said the pass rush is one of the biggest weaknesses for the Bills. This bodes well for a Bengals offensive line that has been decimated by injuries, now having to play backups at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle.
Earlier this week, I made some bold predictions for the game and said that Cincinnati would allow two or fewer sacks. I'm sticking to this because the Bills' unit hasn't been elusive and this o-line didn't look as bad as they could have during the Wild Card game. Heck, the best drive of the game came after Jonah Williams went down and Jackson Carman was injured.
If the Bengals OL can give Joe Burrow enough time in the pocket to make his Houdini magic happen, this game won't even be close.
Spread the ball around
Joe Burrow is fortunate to have several different threats to throw to and the key to keeping the Bills' defense on its toes will be for Burrow to get everyone involved. Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins will get the bulk of the targets but this offense is the most lethal when Joe Mixon, Hayden Hurst, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and Samaje Perine are all getting looks in the passing game.
With the offensive line banged up, Burrow is going to have to get the ball out at lightning speed and that's where mixing up the targets will help. The Bills secondary and pass rush are both banged up so there's no reason why Burrow can't exploit the Buffalo defense and get everyone in on the action.
It'll be harder for the Bills to slow this offense down if they don't know who the ball is going to every time. Throwing to Chase and Higgins is rarely a bad idea but Burrow has to mix it up this week if he wants to punch the Bengals' ticket to their second straight AFC title game.