What the Bengals and Bills wins mean for divisional games

The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders for the second time this season, 26-19, and the Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots, 47-17, as the top-ranked teams held on good for qualifying for the NFL Divisional Round. playoffs.

Saturday’s results resolved much of the AFC playoff draw, with only No. 2-seeded Kansas City to face the No. 7-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday to determine matchups. of the next week.

The win for the No. 4-seeded Bengals most likely means Cincinnati will travel to face the No. 4-seeded Tennessee Titans next weekend, while the No. 3-seeded Bills could face Kansas City in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, which the Chiefs won. But those pairings hinge on Kansas City sending the Steelers, who, in the event of an upset on Sunday, would get the Titans (and presumably Derrick Henry) in the next round, leaving the Bills and Bengals to get rid of them.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a near-perfect game, throwing for 308 yards and five touchdowns, and running for 66 yards to keep the Patriots on their heels from the start.

Coming into Saturday night having won four of their last five regular season games, the Bills kept their momentum going, scoring on all four possessions in the first half to take a 27-3 lead in front of the home crowd at Highmark Stadium.

They didn’t let go in the second half, sending the crowd already fired up despite a temperature of 7 degrees at kickoff, the Bills’ second coldest home game.

Although favored, Buffalo dominated every phase of the game, toying with the Patriots at every turn in an AFC East rematch that reaffirmed the division’s new hierarchy.

New England’s defense had allowed just 17.8 points per game, the second-lowest total in the league (behind Buffalo’s 17.0), but it couldn’t hinder the New England offense. Bills, who converted six of seven third attempts, posted his season-high point total and saw Allen complete all but four of his pass attempts.

Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who has outperformed for much of the season, looked outplayed for most of the game, finishing with 24 of 38 assists with two interceptions. Both of his touchdown passes came late, and the Bills’ victory was never in doubt after midway through the third quarter.

Allen rested late in the fourth as Mitch Trubisky was cleared to play in the Bills’ final series.

After two decades of Patriots dominance, the Bills have made things look almost too easy. But the crowd, so used to seeing teams led by Bill Belichick defeat their Bills, danced, sang and stomped until the final whistle. They clapped, “Hey, hey, goodbye” as the final seconds ticked away.

A large majority of players on both of these teams had never played in a playoff game, but one team gained valuable preparation for its playoff run.

The Bengals’ 26-19 win over the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday, the franchise’s first playoff win in 31 years, could prove valuable experience when Cincinnati hits the road next week in the Divisional Round.

The Raiders, a franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2016 and last won a playoff game in 2002, suffered from a lack of rest and preparation that showed.

Quarterback Joe Burrow led the Bengals’ powerful offense by scoring in all four possessions in the first half, connecting for touchdowns with receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end CJ Uzomah. The Bengals had a harder time moving the ball in the second half, and were slowed by at least one undelivered penalty against the Raiders.

But Burrow, who finished with 244 yards on 24 of 34 passes and no interceptions, provided just enough offense to counter the Raiders, who moved the ball much better in the second half thanks to big plays from quarterback Derek Carr. , running back Josh Jacobs, and several critical penalties on the Bengals. The Bengals defense held off Carr and the Raiders, who mounted a feverish comeback attempt, down 26-16, in the fourth quarter with no timeout and less than two minutes left.

Carr kept the game close, hitting DeSean Jackson on a pass to convert fourth-and-fifth from the Raiders’ 44-yard line. The Raiders threw a field goal with less than four minutes left to cut their deficit to 26-19.

The Bengals drained more than two minutes down on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t score. Rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase finished with nine catches for 116 yards.

The Raiders got the ball back on their own 35-yard line with 1:51 left. Carr hit Jacobs for a 15-yard gain and the Bengals were charged with a passer-roughing penalty, bringing the Raiders past midfield. Without any downtime, Las Vegas had little room for error, and the weight of Cincinnati’s past playoff failures added to the drama.

But on fourth base from the Bengals 9-yard line, Carr was intercepted, ending the Raiders’ upside-down season and sealing the long-awaited playoff victory for Cincinnati.

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