Joe Burrow says Bengals beyond viewing Bills as litmus test

Joe Burrow says Bengals beyond viewing Bills as litmus test

CINCINNATI – No extra hype is needed for the upcoming game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Both teams are among the best in the NFL and are competing for the No. 1 conference playoff seed, which would mean home field advantage throughout the postseason. In previous years, that might have been a good gauge for the Bengals.

But after the wave of success the past two seasons, Cincinnati is well aware of its status.

“We’ve beaten everybody,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said. “We know we can play against everybody. We’ve done it in the biggest moments. Like I said, we’re treating every game the same. We’ve played everybody the last two years.”

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Beginning with Week 17 of last season, Cincinnati has defeated the Kansas City Chiefs three straight times, including the AFC Championship Game last season.

Burrow, a third-year quarterback, compared this year’s Week 17 matchup against Buffalo to last year’s Week 17 matchup against Kansas City. By beating the Chiefs in that game, the Bengals won the AFC North and clinched their first playoff berth since 2015.

“We hadn’t played in the top echelon of the AFC at that point,” Burrow said. “So this was a big win for us.”

However, Burrow noted that Buffalo (12-3) is one of the teams Cincinnati (11-4) has yet to face since the Bengals became Super Bowl contenders. The last time Cincinnati faced Buffalo was in Week 2 of the 2019 season, which was the beginning of a slump that left the Bengals with the league’s worst record. This gave them the opportunity to select Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Cincinnati enters Monday’s game as one of the NFL’s hottest teams. Its seven-game winning streak is the longest in the AFC and is meaningless for a franchise record.

Burrow and Bills quarterback Josh Allen have combined for 78 passes and hurries, tying the NFL record for the highest total by two opposing quarterbacks entering a game, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

Cincinnati wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs both rank in the top six in touchdowns and receiving yards over the past two seasons. Chase called Monday’s game a meeting of the “best of the best” that will highlight the quality of a team.

“That’s what the NFL is all about — the best of the best playing and giving the fans what they want. Put on a show for the whole world to see,” Chase said.

Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who reached 1,000 yards for the second straight season, agreed with Burrow about Cincinnati’s confidence heading into Monday’s game.

“We definitely know who we are as a team,” Higgins said. “At the end of the day, we just have to go out there and be who we are. You all know what we can do. We know what we can do. We just have to go out there and do it.”

Cincinnati’s offense will be up against a Bills secondary that Higgins believes is one of the best in the NFL. The Bengals are expected to start tight end Hayden Hurst, coach Zac Taylor said. Hurst, who has missed the past three games with a right calf injury, was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, according to the team’s injury report.

During his weekly press conference, Burrow was asked about the preseason talk that had the Bills as the hot pick to reach the Super Bowl. Caesars Sportsbook took twice as much money on Buffalo winning the Lombardi Trophy as any other team in the league, including last year’s runner-up Cincinnati.

But then and now, Burrow held minimal concern for how the Bengals stacked up against the NFL’s best.

“The offseason is the offseason,” Burrow said. “People are going to find things to talk about. We knew the season was going to play out the way it has. We knew we were going to play really well, so we weren’t too worried about it.”

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