Bills vs. Bengals: Top storylines, fun facts as surging Super Bowl contenders meet for ‘Monday Night Football’

The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals are set to engage in what would change the entire complexity in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. The Bills (12-3) enter Week 17 as the top seed in the conference, needing to win their final two games to lock up the first-round bye and home-field advantage. The Bengals (11-4) must beat the Bills and need the Kansas City Chiefs to lose one of their last two games to lock up home-field advantage for the playoffs.

This “Monday Night Football” showdown between the Super Bowl contenders is arguably the most anticipated matchup on the program in 25 years. What is at stake for both teams? What historical significance does this Bills-Bengals matchup provide? Here are some fun facts and playoff ramifications heading into this showdown:

Featured Game | Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills

What’s at stake for Bills

Home-field advantage in AFC: The Bills have locked up the AFC East, and need just two victories to take the No. 1 seed in the conference. Buffalo has not been the No. 1 seed in the AFC since the 1993 season (the last time the Bills made the Super Bowl).

The Bills have been the No. 1 seed three times in franchise history (1990, 1991, 1993), and all three times they made the Super Bowl. The lowest the Bills can fall in the AFC playoff standings is the No. 3 seed, so beating the Bengals is paramount towards clinching the No. 1 seed.

What’s at stake for Bengals

AFC North title: The Bengals need two victories to wrap up the division title (and at least the No. 3 seed in the conference). If the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) on Sunday, Cincinnati will have to beat Buffalo to maintain its division lead since Baltimore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If the Ravens lose and the Bengals win this week, Cincinnati would wrap up the AFC North title. A Ravens win sets up a Week 18 showdown between Cincinnati and Baltimore for the division.

Home-field advantage: A win over the Bills would keep the Bengals in the race for home-field advantage, as Cincinnati would have wins over Buffalo and Kansas City in case all three teams end up tied. In that scenario, Cincinnati would be the No. 1 seed (beat Buffalo and Kansas City), Buffalo would fall to No. 2 (beat Kansas City, lost to Cincinnati), and Kansas City No. 3 (lost to Buffalo and Cincinnati).

The Bengals need to beat the Bills and have the Chiefs lose one of their last two games to have a chance of that happening.

Biggest ‘MNF’ game in a quarter century

The Bills and Bengals enter this game with a combined 23 wins, the most between two teams on “Monday Night Football” since the San Francisco 49ers squared off against the Denver Broncos in Week 16 of the 1997 season. The 49ers entered the game at 12-2 and the Broncos at 11-3, with San Francisco winning 34-17.

The showdown between Steve Young and John Elway resulted in San Francisco scoring 20 unanswered points to close the game and the 49ers clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Both teams eventually made their conference championship games, with the Broncos going on to win Super Bowl XXXII as a wild card team.

The matchup will mark only the third game in “Monday Night Football” history between teams with at least 11 wins, and the 14th between teams each with at least 10 wins. This is just the third game since 1978 — when the 16-game schedule was instituted — to feature teams on six-plus win streaks in the final two weeks of a season.

Both quarterbacks and their teams are on a roll heading into their first matchup against each other. The Bills are on a six-game winning streak, and the Bengals are on a seven-game winning streak. Allen and Burrow have the most combined passing touchdowns (66) by any opposing quarterback entering a “Monday Night Football” game.

Allen has 15 total touchdowns to just five turnovers during the Bills’ winning streak, along with a 95.2 passer rating. Burrow has 19 total touchdowns to six turnovers during the Bengals’ seven-game winning streak, with a 102.6 rating. Allen and Burrow are tied for second in passing touchdowns since the start of last season (68), with only Patrick Mahomes (74) having more.

Here are the numbers for Allen and Burrow during their respective win streaks:

Josh Allen (six games)

61.5

1,296

12

3

95.2

270

3

Joe Burrow (seven games)

68.7

1,931

17

6

102.6

115

2

Milestones at stake for Allen and Burrow

  • Allen was the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 pass yards and rush for 750 yards in a season (2021). Allen has 4,029 passing yards and 746 rushing yards this season, so he needs four rushing yards to accomplish the feat again (still the only player to reach these marks in a season).
  • Allen needs 54 rushing yards to become the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 800 yards in a season.
  • With a rushing touchdown on Monday night, Allen will surpass Kordell Stewart for the fourth-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. Allen has 38 rushing touchdowns in his career, two away from Jack Kemp (40) for the third most in NFL history.
  • Allen is one touchdown away from being the first player with 175 total touchdowns in his first five seasons.
  • Joe Burrow is 12 pass attempts away from being the NFL’s all-time leader in completion percentage. Burrow has completed 69.0% of his passes in his career heading into Monday. Even if Burrow throws 12 incomplete passes, he’ll become the league’s all-time completion percentage leader. Drew Brees holds the record at 67.6%, so 12 incomplete passes for Burrow would leave him at 67.9% — passing Brees for the top spot.
  • With one touchdown pass, Burrow will break his own franchise record for touchdown passes in a season. Burrow has thrown 34 touchdown passes in 2021 and 2022.
  • Burrow is 352 yards away from breaking his own franchise mark of 4,611 passing yards in a season. He has 4,260 passing yards this season.

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