We finally saw the Bengals offense return to normal.
Joe Burrow’s injury, once obvious and concerning early in the season, has subsided.
Last week we saw him use his legs and run out of the pocket multiple times en route to a dominant double-digit win over the 49ers.
Now the Bengals return home in an AFC Divisional Round rematch where the Bengals routed the Bills. Could it be an AFC Championship preview? Possibly.
Is it the game of the day? Definitely.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of a now mobile Burrow is wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
While Burrow has gotten closer and closer to 100 percent over the last three weeks, we’ve seen Chase make an absolute splash in the stats.
In three straight wins, Chase caught 31 balls – 43 targets – and 372 yards. It’s an incredible workload for one of the best receivers in football, who so eloquently proclaimed, “I’m always open,” after Cincinnati’s 1-3 start to the season.
And it’s true.
The man is always open.
Sunday night will be no different against a limping Bills defense. The main injuries include cornerback Tre’Davious White and linebacker Matt Milano.
This creates two large gaps where there is a lack of efficiency, both at the outside and in the middle.
Rasul Douglas was brought in at the trade deadline, but this is his first game in a new defensive system. It will take time to make adjustments.
That brings us to Chase, who turned heads in the stat sheet and was Burrow’s only consistently reliable target.
Tee Higgins really struggled, managing just 218 total yards in six games.
No player other than Chase has more than 250 receiving yards.
There are two props I like as I target Chase on Sunday night.
Betting on the NFL?
The first is his mileage, even at this current rating of 84.5 on FanDuel. The other is his all-time touchdown, which is just +100 at Caesars Sportsbook.
I’ll dive a little deeper into the matchup in a moment, but let’s talk about the touchdown. Over the last three weeks, Chase has scored a total of four goals, including two from three.
Ahead of this week, he promised a Chad Ochocinco-style celebration — jumping into the stands and operating a camera — as long as Ochocino paid the fine. Of course he agreed.
Okay, back to basics.
The Bills defense, as good as it is offensively, is about league average from a DVOA perspective in both the run and the pass.
But they’ve been torched by the No. 1 receivers this season, 29th in that category.
Davante Adams rushed for 84 yards and Calvin Ridley added 122.
Even Darius Slayton completed four passes for 69 yards and Kendrick Bourne himself 63 yards. Chase is a clear evolution of the latter two.
The Bills consistently display a combination of zone and man looks, but that doesn’t matter against Chase.
The Bengals receiver has a PFF receiving grade inside the top 15 in both man and zone coverage. However, his target percentage in the zone is a staggering 65.1.
With a total set of 50.5, this will be a fast-paced, high-scoring game.
Both teams have dominant offenses that are both in rhythm.
What they lack is defense. Burrow’s return to full health means one thing for Chase: more targets, more yards and more production.
Back Chase will be the star in prime time as he flies for 84.5 yards – I expect him to finish with more than 100 yards – and finds the end zone.