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Bills set to take on high flying Bengals for AFC Championship Game spot

Josh Allen Bills
Adrian Kraus
AP Photo
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills are set to host the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round of NFL playoffs Sunday. When the two teams met in Cincinnati in early-January Bills Safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac incident and had to be resuscitated on the field. The game was canceled and not rescheduled.

The good news is Hamlin is home and recovering. His progression has been a rallying point for both the Bills team and fans and a pre-kickoff appearance could turn the volume up to 11 at Highmark Stadium.

“It would be an amazing rush,” said Buffalo Business First Reporter Jim Fink. “If I were the Bills, for the coin toss the only player I’d send out would be Hamlin.”

And for the game itself, Fink says this won’t be a walk in the park for the Bills. As fans saw against a depleted Miami Dolphins team nothing is given, especially in the playoffs.

“They got lucky against the Dolphins,” Fink said of Buffalo’s turnover-riddled 34-31 win in last week’s wild card round. “When you get to this level of playoffs, you can't expect to play like that. I don't care if you're playing Cincinnati or any other team. You can have those level of turnovers and reasonably expect to win. I know it's one of the basic rules of football, but you got to protect the ball. You can't be giving away the ball because giving away the ball means you're leaving points on the field that you might need.”

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, 26, is in his third season in the NFL.
Eric Gay
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, 26, is in his third season in the NFL.

The AFC North champion Bengals, who lost last year’s Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams, feature a passing attack led by quarterback Joe Burrow and a fleet of wide receivers.

Fink said it could be a long day for the Bills secondary.

“They’re deeper at wide receiver,” he said. "[Tee] Higgins, [Ja’Marr] Chase. They’re very deep, deceptively deep. Do you want to throw [Tyler] Boyd into that equation as well? And the Bills secondary has trouble with that when they’re facing that type of depth at wide receiver and tight end.”

And what about Burrow versus Josh Allen? Fink believes the game is a “prove it” game for both signal callers.

“I think until you get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl every game is a ‘prove it’ game for every Quarterback and I don't care if you're talking about Josh Allen or Aaron Rodgers. Patrick Mahomes or Joe burrow. You have to get to the Super Bowl you have to win the Super Bowl.”

Fink takes it a step further.

“Every game is approved game for the coaching staff and of all the players not just Josh Allen.”

If the Bills win they will play the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia next week.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.