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Way-too-early schedule predictions: Bengals vs. Bills

An early 2023 AFC Championship preview?

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Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images

If you’ve been following pretty much any NFL power ranking this offseason, you’d know that the Buffalo Bills are widely projected to be one of, if not the NFL’s best team in 2022.

After narrowly falling to the Chiefs in overtime of their Divisional Round thriller, the Bills are widely projected to be a top-three team this year. Several rankings have them at the top spot right now, including, CBS Sports and USA Today Sports.

The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t faced Buffalo since the 2019 season when Josh Allen rallied his team to a 21-17 home win over Andy Dalton. Both teams have changed dramatically since then.

Since then, Allen has become a truly elite franchise QB, and he’s already among the top favorites to win NFL MVP this year.

Joe Burrow will also be a prime MVP contender, while the Bengals figure to battle the Bills for playoff positioning, so this Week 17 Monday Night Football clash will easily be one of the most important games of the season for both clubs.

Like the Bengals, the Bills had a big offseason to bolster their Super Bowl hopes, highlighted by the addition of All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller to a defense that ranked first in both yards and points allowed per game last year. Buffalo actually finished in a tie with Cincinnati for total sacks (42), so adding Miller figures to put them at or near the top in this department for 2022.

Thankfully, the Bengals made three big additions along the offensive line in La’el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa that should slow down Buffalo’s daunting pass rush, which also features fourth-year defensive tackle Ed Oliver and second-year defensive end Greg Rousseau. If those two continue to improve while Miller keeps playing at a high level, it’s going to be tough for any offensive line to slow this unit down.

On the other side, Josh Allen should once again be arguably the best dual-threat QB in the NFL, especially with Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder and Dawson Knox to throw to.

This should be a fun game, but I’m giving the Bills a slight edge in a battle that comes down to the final minutes.

Also, I’m making a somewhat-but-not-really bold prediction that at least one of these teams will be playing in the 2023 AFC Championship Game.

ESPN FPI: Bengals have a 43.5% chance to win.

My prediction: Bills 34, Bengals 30

My predicted record thus far: 12-4

Sound off below to let us know how you see this game playing out!