COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – “Sunday Night Football” on NBC4 returns to Ohio and will feature teams very familiar with each other.
For the third time in less than a year, the Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) will play the Buffalo Bills. The reunion at Paycor Stadium (kickoff at 8:20 p.m.) expects to produce high-octane action from each of the team’s passing gurus, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen.
Burrow got off to a slow start to the season due to a lingering calf injury but has heated up over the last three weeks. Burrow has tossed eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions in helping the Bengals win three straight games.
During that same period, Burrow has completed 77.9% of his passes, compared to 57.6% over Cincinnati’s first month of the season. He had two TD passes and two interceptions, and the Bengals were 1-3 through Week 4.
The Bengals’ success hinges on Burrow’s ability to stay efficient while overcoming the team’s lack of run game of late. True, Joe Mixon, who struggled early on, had his best game of the season last week with 87 yards and a touchdown. But the Bills have held recent opponents, New England and Tampa Bay, to just 110 total yards rushing over the last two games.
The Bills, meanwhile, are a head-scratching 5-3, which sounds good at the halfway point of the season, but over the last four weeks the team has produced some underwhelming results. Losses to the Jaguars and Patriots, along with too-close-for-comfort wins against the Giants and Buccaneers, raise questions on whether the team belongs in the conversation among the AFC’s elite.
While Josh Allen is boasting impressive numbers – 12 TD passes and a league-leading 71.7% completion rate – the Bills have had a propensity to turn the ball over. Buffalo has a +2-turnover ratio, but that number includes 12 turnovers, including 10 by Allen (eight interceptions, two fumbles lost).
That bodes trouble for the Bills due to Cincinnati’s knack for creating said turnovers, 13 to be exact, including 10 interceptions, third best in the league in both categories.
If there’s one area Buffalo can take advantage of it’s with the use of their rookie tight end, Dalton Kincaid. The Bengals are among the worst at covering the position, having allowed six receptions per game and four TDs this season. Last week San Francisco’s George Kittle totaled nine catches for 149 yards, primarily on Bengals safety Nick Scott.
Added intrigue is the return of Bills Damar Hamlin, the defensive back who suffered a cardiac arrest on the field at Paycor Stadium during a Jan. 2 regular season game last season. Hamlin, who has been active for one game this season, is unlikely to play Sunday, but will be a sight for sore eyes after being resuscitated on the field and hospitalized for over a week at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Line: 1 ½. O/U: 49 ½.
Prediction: Bengals stay hot, 30-23.
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Nov. 5 at Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)
It it ain’t broke: The Browns rushing game remains the backbone of the offense, averaging 155 yards over the last three weeks. Kareem Hunt scored four touchdowns over that period and paced the team with 55 yards in a loss at Seattle. Jerome Ford eased his way back into the rotation last week while nursing an ankle injury, but led the team in rushing (158 yards) in wins over Indianapolis and San Francisco.
Another one-two punch should be effective against an Arizona defense that ranks in the bottom 10 in rushing yards allowed per game (130.6). Most recently, the Cardinals were gashed by Baltimore’s Gus Edwards for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
Feast on QB uncertainty: With the expected eventual return of QB Kyler Murray, the Cardinals traded their interim starter, Josh Dobbs, to Minnesota. That leaves Murray, who hasn’t taken an NFL snap since December 12 of last season. Murry was taken off the Cardinals’ injury report after tearing his right ACL against the Patriots. The alternative is Clayton Tune, who has attempted one career regular season pass, a four-yard completion two weeks ago at Seattle. Enter the Cleveland pass rush, namely Myles Garrett, and his 8.5 sacks this season, fourth best in the league.
Line: Cleveland 8 ½. O/U: 37 ½.
Prediction: Browns stifle Cardinals with run O and run D, making Deshaun Watson’s likely return an afterthought, 24-13.