As the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills prepare to go head-to-head to determine who advances to the AFC Championship Game, the offensive line for both teams is struggling.
The Bengals, of course, have lost three of their five starters along the o-line over the past month while the Bills are coming off a game where their offensive line surrendered seven sacks on Josh Allen. Both offensive lines are incredibly vulnerable, that's for sure.
When I spoke to Ryan Heckman of BuffaLowDown, FanSided's site for all things Buffalo Bills, he said that the Bills' biggest weakness was indeed their offensive line. He also said that Allen was a weak spot right now too, which was a bit of a surprise.
"At the moment, I would say their biggest weakness is a combination of the offensive line falling apart in the second half of games and Allen's miscues. The Dolphins sacked Allen seven times in the Wildcard round and he looked uncomfortable under pressure. It was a much different quarterback than what we saw in the playoffs last year."- Ryan Heckman
The Bengals OL is bad because of injuries. I asked Ryan to elaborate on why the Bills' unit has been so bad.
"To put it simply, Beane has missed on both draft picks and free agent signings. They haven’t been able to put together a competent line. It’s not even anything to do with injuries. They have just been plain bad, and mediocre at best, all around. "- Ryan Heckman
Bills OL might be worse than the Bengals' OL
Here's the rest of my Q&A with Ryan.
Q: The Bills haven't looked as sharp over the past month yet have continued to win. What's been missing from this team and why do you think they continue to win games even without playing their best ball?
A: The number one thing missing from this team is sharp play. Simply put, they have been sloppy. They have taken their foot off the gas at times and become fine with the mediocre. Buffalo cannot afford to play sloppy against the Bengals.
Aside from Joe Burrow, who is a player (or who are some players) that could deal the Bills fits on Sunday?
Ja'Marr Chase is a problem, and especially in the playoffs. Every team should be scared of that man, especially after how he dominated the postseason last year. It doesn't matter what kind of coverage you throw at him, he can make a play at any given moment.
Who from the Bills offense aside from Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs need to have a big game to beat the Bengals?
Someone up front, defensively, needs to have a great game. With the Bengals' offensive line being banged up, the Bills must get to Joe Burrow. I want to see someone step up. Whether it's Shaq Lawson, Ed Oliver, even Matt Milano on blitzes, or someone else, the Bills need someone constantly in Burrow's face.
Aside from Josh Allen, what is the biggest strength of the Bills roster?
I would say their secondary. After losing Von Miller for the season, the Bills haven't been able to generate a consistent pass rush. They've had plenty of good moments, but since losing Miller, they've relied much more on the secondary. Even losing Micah Hyde was difficult, but the Bills have come together to make stops through the air when needed. They finished the season 7th overall in third down percentage, defensively, which is a testament to their secondary playing consistently well no matter who has been back there.
Fill in the blank: The Bills will win this game if ____.
Josh Allen limits himself to one turnover or less.
Give us a prediction. What's the final score of this game? What do you think the AFC Championship matchup will be?
The fan in me is going to say Josh Allen comes through with his best performance of the year, and the Bills pull it out 34-31. The AFC Championship will be Kansas City and Buffalo at a neutral site.
Thanks again to Ryan for taking time out of his day to talk to answer these questions ahead of what should be a fun game!