Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 09:30 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Cincinnati -2½ over Buffalo
8:20 PM EST. Less than a year ago the sports world came to a halt. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin incurred a serious injury, so serious that he was being resuscitated live in front of a national audience. Understandably, the Bengals/Bills Week 16 game was canceled. Flash forward 11 months and we're happy to see that not only is Damar Hamlin okay, he's back as an active player. Although he's only stepped on the field in limited fashion, we imagine Hamlin's recovery will be a source of motivation for Buffalo on SNF.
The Bills have plenty of motivation, actually. Three weeks after their regular season game was canceled, the Bengals whooped the Bills, in Buffalo to proceed to the AFC Championship game. Joe Burrow was masterful in the harsh cold of Orchard Park, while Josh Allen and his offense sputtered against a fired up Bengals' defense. Cincinnati dominated the BIlls in the trenches and the Buffalo-defense had no answer for Joe Mixon and a balanced, methodical Cincinnati gameplan. Despite all the inspirational reasons why Allen and his teammates should give it their all this Sunday, we're not sure they'll avoid the same results.
You see, the Bengals were just as motivated after last season's Week 16 showdown was canceled. Why? Because the NFL unfairly decided to take away Cincinnati's chances at earning a bye and home field advantage in the 2023 playoffs. Burrow and his supporting cast answered accordingly, but clearly that same fire is burning. Bengals' players have been vocal all week, saying how Bills' players blamed the cold and snow for their win in last year's playoffs. Needless to say, they're not happy about it, and they're using it as a way to garner even more motivation.
After a massive win at San Francisco in Week 8 - we posted our support of the Bengals last Sunday right here on this site and now you can see why - they're starting to look like the same feisty team that made it to two straight AFC Championship games. They have our support again this Sunday.
The Bills eked by (and didn't cover against the spread) the Bucs last Thursday. Cool. That proved a lot of nothing. Over the last month, the Bills haven't looked anything like the world-beater we watched in Weeks 2-4. The Jaguars punked them in London, the Giants should have beat them but bad mistakes by a backup QB and a late-game screw-job by the refs on the game's final play ruined their chances, and the Patriots bullied the Bills at Foxboro. Buffalo's defense continues to work through injuries, their run-game is rarely potent (113 yards per game, but it'd be far lower without Allen's scrambling ability), and Allen is still capable of suddenly regressing to his mistake-prone younger years and flipping a game with bad passes or bad decision making, or both.
The Bengals outing at San Francisco wasn't just a win, it was a statement. Against one of the best defenses in the league, Burrow was flawless. He threw 28-32 (88%) for 3 touchdowns and no picks, and he showed an elusivity that we haven't seen since the playoffs last season. Their defense made big plays when they had to, including a big interception of the previously untouchable Brock Purdy in the red-zone. When it mattered most, Burrow led two consecutive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, answering every comeback attempt from San Francisco. The Niner-faithful and many NFL fans were left stunned. We were not.
Cincinnati is rounding into Super Bowl form once again, at the right time, and their dynamic with the Bills feels a lot like the dynamic with the Chiefs. No one can beat Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, right? Wrong. The Bengals did it three consecutive times before KC finally bested them in last year's AFC Championship game, and the Chiefs were fortunate to do so (a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty put KC in field goal position to win). In the jungle behind a crowd that knows its team is gaining steam, we love the Bengals again this Sunday. Burrow over Allen, all day.
Cincinnati -2½ -106 (Risking 2.13 units - To Win: 2.01)