NFL Divisional Round Leveraging Tails: Bet on Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals to attack through the air

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

•  Bet on Joe Burrow to go over 280 passing yards: The Cincinnati Bengals need Burrow to be at his best to take down the Bills, and Burrow's quick-game passing efficiency should enable him to clear his passing yardage prop.

• Take the Bengals spread: The Buffalo Bills offense has struggled a bit against quick passing games, which should play right into the Bengals' plans on offense.

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Bet: QB Joe Burrow OVER 280 passing yards and Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5, +550 — BetMGM)


While the current Buffalo Bills -5.5 spread would suggest that there is a clear tier gap between the Bengals and Bills, that notion doesn’t hold up when accounting for team efficiency, especially over the second half of the season. For the season, both teams have roughly the same efficiency numbers, and while CIN has remained mostly consistent throughout the year, Buffalo’s season-long numbers are propped up by its dominant start. Following a bunch of key injuries, I’m skeptical that including early-season numbers has as much signal as looking at a sample of their second half of the season numbers.  

  • Over the second half of the season (which also roughly corresponds to Josh Allen’s elbow injury and Ja’Marr Chase‘s return), these teams have been roughly even in their ability to move the ball, as captured by drive quality. 
  • And by EPA as well, on offense the Bengals have a 0.10 EPA to the Bills 0.06 EPA. On defense, CIN's -0.06 EPA allowed ranks 6th best in the NFL, while BUF occupies the 18th spot at a -0.01 EPA. 
Matchup Angles:

The talk of this week – and what is certainly behind the line movements toward Buf – is the Bengals offensive line's injuries. Nonetheless, the losses mean less to a Bengals team that has been terrific using quick passes, which generally mitigate pressure because the ball is out before pass-rushers even have the opportunity to generate pressure.

  • Burrow has the best PFF Grade (90.5) on quick throws by a wide margin, and the Bengals' 0.13 EPA is top in the NFL. 
  • Meanwhile, the Bills have both struggled to defend quick passes allowing a 0.16 EPA per play, and the team ranked toward the bottom of the league at generating quick pressure since Von Miller went down. 
  • It seems likely that Cincinnati employs a quick-passing game plan, as they threw quick passes on 82% of their passing plays last week. 
Why Joe Burrow?

We’ve illustrated reasons to be bullish on the Bengals but why are we including Burrow in this play? 

  • Since the Bengals' Week 10 bye, the team has consistently passed above expectation, which suggests that the game script volume will not be an issue for Burrow. 
  • And quietly, the Bills' pass defense has the 10th-worst dropback EPA allowed over the second half so, in addition to the volume, there’s no reason to suggest the matchup will limit Burrow’s efficiency. 
  • Even taking a step back and looking at the macro-view, if the Bengals are going to win this game and keep pace with the Bills offense, they will need to lean on Burrow and the Bengals' passing game.

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