Buffalo Bills (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1 SU, 3-6 ATS)
Week 11 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: BUF +3/CIN -3
Over/Under Total: 47
The Buffalo Bills come to Paul Brown Stadium to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in a key AFC matchup. Both teams had big plans this season, but haven't seen things go their way, with Buffalo at 4-5 and Cincy at 3-5-1. Buffalo may actually be in a worse position, as the division race is pretty much out of reach. For Cincinnati, despite a really rough start to the season at 3-5-1, is still within reach of first place Baltimore at 5-4. But after dropping a one-point loss to the Giants on MNF, they are in dire need of a positive development. They've won only one of their last five games, with a tie in that stretch. Buffalo is coming off a bye, which followed three straight losses.
It's been an up-and-down season for the Bills this season, as they opened the season in ragged form losing to the Ravens and Jets. Four straight wins had them looking really good, with a run-game in full bloom and a defense that was getting the job done. But three straight losses brought a stop to that. In those three games, they scored 25 points in each game, which is particularly odd. The defense allowed 100 points in that stretch. After the break, they look to get back on the winning track, as their margin for error is narrowing.
On offense, the Bills are a running team, with their aerial attack not much of a factor. Tyrod Taylor is efficient and can run the ball, but he lacks the weaponry to air it out much, with Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Charles Clay their only viable aerial threats. But with Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and Mike Gillislee, they can pound the ball. They average 5.3 yards per run, which is really good. The line has been adept in creating paths for runners to exploit, though they don't always excel in keeping pass rushers off of Taylor. Nevertheless, their 26.3 points per game average is good for 9th in the league.
On paper, the Buffalo defense is a middling unit, ranked 14th in overall defense—11th against the pass and 20th against the run. Hopefully, they used the bye week to get some new life in the defense, as they were not heading in the right direction prior to the week off. What makes them a little more menacing than they appear on paper is their ability to make plays. They have a robust pass-rush, led by Lorenzo Alexander's ten sacks, followed by Jerry Hughes. The defense has scored three times this season. They've lost some key pieces that have cost them and they can be porous on occasion, but that doesn't mean they won't have success in certain weeks.
There is no one convenient answer on what's gone awry with the Bengals, a team that has become a perennial playoff team, despite not much success in that area. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that they just ran out of mojo. No team gets to go to the playoffs every season and the football gods only allow so much sustained success. It also doesn't help that a team that built its success around the defense is now the league's 24th-ranked unit. And also hurting is an offense that can still produce, but has trouble getting over the hump with touchdowns. Sure, the Giants defense is a lot better, but for the Bengals to manage just a field goal in the second half was just plain lousy.
The Bengals' offense is still a top-ten unit. Andy Green is a fine quarterback, though ten touchdown passes is a little thin on over 2500 yards passing. AJ Green is near 1000 yards, but somehow, when teams keep him in control, he aerial game struggles with thin weaponry other than Green. And the run-game, which was so big for Cincy in recent seasons, hasn't been very consistent with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard not providing that constant 1-2 punch. Tyler Eifert had 96 yards on MNF, so maybe there is help on the way. But what they have on paper and what you end up seeing on the field makes you wonder if there's a chasm between potential and actual production this season with the Bengals. And let's face it, the line hasn't really been thriving, as Dalton has defenders in his face more than we've seen in recent seasons.
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Again, the Cincy defense is not pulling its weight. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have done well in getting after quarterbacks, without getting a ton of help in that area. Vontaze Burfict is a force in the middle, while there is some game-changing ability in the secondary with Dre Kirkpatrick, Pacman Jones, and others. Injuries and inconsistent play have robbed this unit of their previous edge. And when a team that depends so heavily on defense wanes in that area, it can take a playoff team and make them 3-5-1.
This season there are a lot of teams that have performed far under most projections. A lot of money can be lost in assuming these struggling teams will at some point snap out of their funk and re-assume their prior form. At some point, we have to look at these teams as they are now, not what they could have been or what they might be. But against a team that has its own share of problems in Buffalo, a team like Cincinnati can shake it off and at least nudge themselves closer to getting on the right track. I see that happening this week with the Bengals.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Cincinnati Bengals minus 3 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Buffalo vs. Cincinnati game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!