Bengals Trounce Bills, Advance To Second-Straight AFC Championship Game

The AFC North seemingly has a new team that’s tough to beat in the playoffs and it’s the Cincinnati Bengals. After a dominant Divisional Round road performance in the snow against the 13-3 Buffalo Bills on Saturday, the Bengals are now slated to head to their second-straight AFC Championship game, which will be a rematch of last year’s tilt in Kansas City.

The Bengals started off with a bang, scoring a touchdown on their first two offensive drives, and seemingly never looking back. Their quarterback Joe Burrow finished 23/36 for 242 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a 101.9 passer rating. The Bengals victory saw them control the ball, as they won the time of possession battle handily behind a 100 yard performance from running back Joe Mixon and 173 total rush yards. There was a lot of talk about the Bengals’ offensive line headed into Sunday’s game, but the patched up unit answered the bell and then some in Buffalo.

After jumping out to a 17-7 halftime lead, the Bills kicked off the second half with a field goal drive. However, their momentum did not last, as they watched the Bengals put together a 12-play 75 yard drive capped off by a Mixon touchdown, taking a 24-10 lead that would not shrink for the remainder of the game.

As good as the Bengals’ offense was, their defense deserves credit. Holding All-Pro Bills quarterback Josh Allen to a season-low ten points is no easy task, especially at Highmark Stadium in the playoffs. Allen wound up 25/42 for 265 yards and a 68.1 passer rating, and could not figure out the Bengals’ defense.

Former Steelers’ cornerback Mike Hilton had himself a game, finishing with eight tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and two quarterback hits on Allen.

The Steelers played both the Bengals and Bills in 2022, losing to Buffalo in a road blowout and going 1-1 against Cincinnati. The team kicked off their 2022 season with a dramatic 23-20 overtime victory against the Bengals, as they had four interceptions and seven sacks against Burrow. In the rematch at Acrisure Stadium, the Bengals bested the Steelers by a score of 37-30, losing despite Pittsburgh scoring their season high in points. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ game against Buffalo was forgettable, as they lost by a score of 38-3 in rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s first start.

Making two straight AFC Championship games is no easy task. For perspective, the Steelers have only been in one AFC championship since the 2011 season (2016 against the New England Patriots). The last time the Steelers made consecutive conference championships was in 2004 and 2005 — former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s first two seasons. The days of the Bengals’ streak of no playoff wins seem long over, and the Steelers will have their plates full twice a year for years to come.

The AFC Championship game between the Bengals and the Kanas City next weekend will likely kickoff with the home team as slight favorites. The Chiefs were already 2.5-point favorites at some online betting sites just minutes after the Sunday Divisional Round game ended.

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