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NFL: Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals Preview

In the final game of Week 17, the Buffalo Bills face the Cincinnati Bengals in what is being dubbed the most significant Monday Night Football game in years.

Both teams have designs on locking up home-field advantage through the playoffs, while the Bengals can also claim their 11th division title with a win at Paul Brown Stadium.

The matchup will also be the first quarterback duel between MVP candidates Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.

What: Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
When: 01:15, Tuesday 3rd January 2023
How to watch: (Sky Sports NFL, NFL Game Pass, Channel 5 & bet365 Sports Live Streaming
Odds: BUF Bills 4/5, CIN Bengals 21/20

The Bills' and Bengals' combined total of 23 wins this season is the most between two teams on 'Monday Night Football' since the San Francisco 49ers squared off against the Denver Broncos in December 1997.

The decision to take this matchup to prime time looked sound when it was made, as both teams were expected to be Super Bowl contenders again this year, but the way in which they arrived at this point has contrasted slightly.

Buffalo shot out of the gate with a spectacular downing of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in Week 1, then beat the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers either side of their bye to earn a 6-1 record.

Allen fitness may be a factor

However, Allen reportedly suffered a UCL injury in his throwing elbow late in his team's Week 9 loss to the New York Jets and, statistically speaking, he has not been as impressive since.

Allen, who has thrown a league-leading five interceptions in the red zone this season, has been cleared to play after the elbow injury flared up again in recent weeks.

And he isn't the only star name on Buffalo's injury report, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs expected to suit up after recovering from an illness and center Mitch Morse due to return from a concussion protocol.

But safety Jordan Poyer was limited in practice on Friday and did not practice all week before that - the Bills are 11-0 in games that Poyer has played in this season and 2-2 when he has been out.

Pressure on Bills to perform

The Chiefs' win over the Denver Broncos means Buffalo has to win in Cincy to stay in front in the race to be the AFC's top playoff seed, while the Bengals must win both of their remaining games and hope Kansas City are defeated next week to jump from No.3 to No.1.

The reigning AFC champions are arguably playing better than anyone else right now, but are paying for a slow start to the season when it took them until Week 7 to establish a winning record.

But the Bengals have not looked back since and, despite the loss of reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase to injury for a five-game mid-season spell, are putting up some of the scariest offensive numbers in the NFL.

Cincy are averaging the fourth-most passing yards per game this season and the third-most in home games at almost 300.

Burrow threw for 375 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against the New England Patriots last week.

The former LSU star is second in the league to Patrick Mahomes in passing yards (4,260) and touchdowns (34) and, at 15/2, is now ahead of 12/1 Allen in the MVP betting with the Chiefs' QB at 1/8.

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Mahomes the target in QB battle

Both could push their cases to overhaul Mahomes in the eyes of the voters with a big game at Paul Brown Stadium.

Allen has 15 total touchdowns to just five turnovers during the Bills' current six-game win streak, along with a 95.2 passer rating.

Burrow has 19 total touchdowns to six turnovers during the Bengals' seven-game win streak, with a 102.6 rating.

Although Allen has continued to make clutch plays to close out some close wins down the stretch, Burrow is coming up with more consistent throws of late and is more likely to steer the Bengals, available at 21/20 on the Money Line, to victory.

Diggs not delivering as before

Aside from Diggs' recent ailment, the star wide receiver finished with two catches for 26 yards - his second-lowest output in three seasons in Buffalo - against Chicago last week and, more than anyone else, that's on Allen.

After racking up 91 catches for 1,202 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 12 games, Diggs' production has dropped to just 10 catches for 123 yards and no scores in his past three.

One factor that will hamper the Bengals this week, and in the playoffs, is the knee injury to RT La'el Collins that looks likely to put him out for the rest of the season.

Cincy addressed their offensive line issues in the offseason but the unit took time to gel and will now have either Hakeem Adeniji or Isaiah Prince starting on the right side in Collins' place.

Adeniji and Prince formed the right side of Cincy's offensive line in last year's Super Bowl when they gave up a record seven sacks against the Rams.

The man who picked up 4.5 of those sacks, Von Miller, is of course done for the season and impressive rookie Gregory Rousseau has been held sackless the past two weeks.

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