Bills Bengals Football

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs past Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Hilton (21) during the first half of a game, Jan. 2, in Cincinnati. 

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BY Nick Sabato

How are your emotions during a Bills game?

Maybe you’re the doom and gloom fan, determined to believe the team is going to get run out of the stadium until the final whistle. Or you could be more excitable, hanging on every twist and turn the game provides.

Unfortunately, the Bills-Bengals game Sunday may be better suited for the even-keeled fan. This is likely to be a game decided in the fourth quarter and fans from both teams will experience several ups and downs throughout.

Buffalo has one loss by more than a touchdown since the 2020 AFC Championship game, while the Bengals have one double-digit loss in their last 25 games.

Don't fret, though. Here is a little guide that might be able to help you get through the game so frustration doesn’t start percolating in your chest, turning into anger that might cause some abnormal cussing to creep into your vocabulary.

When the Bills have the ball:

Everyone is concerned about Josh Allen’s turnovers. I get it. There have been a lot the last two seasons and three of them a week ago resulted in 14 points, including a fumble returned for a touchdown.

But Allen also threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, playing with the aggressiveness fans were yearning for during the years of Trent Edwards and Tyrod Taylor. Sometimes Allen gets a bit two aggressive and hubris takes control, but that’s part of the territory.

While every team is more successful with fewer turnovers, the Bills are still 8-7 when Allen has thrown at least two interceptions the last three seasons

“Obviously we want to we want to end every possession with the ball in our hands, whether it's a touchdown, punting it away or kicking a field goal,” Allen said. “And that's our mindset, that'll never change. And there is a thin line between being aggressive and being a little bit reckless. So, again, just getting back on the right side of that mind and being smart but being not being conservative.”

In the end, Allen is going to make more plays for the Bills to win than he is for them to lose. For all the talk about how great Joe Burrow has played during Cincinnati’s nine-game winning streak, Allen hasn’t gotten the same respect during the Bills’ eight-game streak.

Allen and Burrow finished with 35 passing touchdowns apiece. Meanwhile Burrow had just two fewer interceptions, while Allen had 313 more total yards. Burrow had more yards passing this season, but the running element of Allen could come into play Sunday.

The Bills haven’t relied on Allen to run the ball nearly as much since his injury. He’s had three games of at least 75 yards since then, but hasn’t run the ball more than 10 times in a game. In fact, Allen ran the ball more than 10 times all season — in wins over Baltimore and Kansas City.

The Bills are 13-6 when Allen runs for 50 or more yards over the last three seasons and he actually averages more yards passing in those games. Buffalo has refrained relying on him heavily to run the ball as of late, but this is the time of the season to unlock all of his talents, while using him on quarterback draws could limit some of the problems with picking up the blitz.

When the Bengals have the ball:

The best advice to offer when Cincinnati has the ball is to wait to decide who you want to fire or cut until after the game, because the Bengals are going to accumulate yards. The game will be decided based upon touchdowns versus turnovers.

Burrow has the best group of wide receivers in the NFL with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd — all three had over 700 yards — and that doesn’t include tight end Hayden Hurst.

The Bengals haven’t scored less than 20 points over the last nine games and were the No. 5 red zone team in the NFL, scoring touchdowns 66.1% of the time.

But the Bills are the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL. More importantly in this case, Buffalo has the No. 2 red zone defense in the league, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 45.3% of drives inside the 20 yard line.

“They don't run a complicated offense, but what they do is they do what they do well, and their receivers make plays, run after the catch, the YAC yards,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “... They're going to make some plays. We're just going to have to be able to — if they catch the ball — we're going to have to be able to catch, tackle and limit yards after catch and limit explosive plays.”

The Bills don’t give up big plays often, and with Cincinnati down three starting offensive linemen, there will be chances to create pressure, even with Burrow’s quick passing game. Elongating passing plays means a greater chance for Burrow to force a pass into tight coverage, and while the Bills are about even when Allen throws two picks or more, the Bengals are 2-5 when Burrow throws at least two interceptions since entering the league in 2020.

And even with standout running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, the Bengals aren’t going to run the ball often to mix things up. They ranked 28th in yards rushing per game, attempts and yards per carry.

Strap in, this should be an exciting, tit-for-tat game.

Nick Sabato covers the Buffalo Bills for GNN Sports. He can be reached via email at nick.sabato@gnnewspaper.com or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.

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