What the Bengals’ and Bills’ Wins Mean for Divisional Matchups

The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders for the second time this season, 26-19, and the Buffalo Bills rolled over the New England Patriots, 47-17, as better-seeded teams held on to advance to the divisional round of the N.F.L. playoffs.

Saturday’s outcomes resolved much of the A.F.C.’s playoff bracket, with only No. 2-seed Kansas City left to play the No. 7-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday to determine next week’s matchups.

The No. 4-seeded Bengals’ win most likely means that Cincinnati will travel to face the top-seeded Tennessee Titans next weekend, while the No. 3-seeded Bills could face Kansas City in a rematch of last season’s A.F.C. championship game, which the Chiefs won. But those pairings depend on Kansas City dispatching 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 scrap it out.

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.

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

They did not let up in the second half, sending the already amped up crowd into a tizzy despite a temperature of 7 degrees at kickoff, the second coldest Bills home game ever.

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

New England’s defense had allowed only 17.8 points per game, the second lowest total in the league (behind Buffalo’s 17.0), but it could not hinder the Bills’ offense, which converted six of seven third-down attempts, posted its highest scoring total of the season and saw Allen complete all but four of his pass attempts.

The Patriots’ rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, who overachieved for much of the season, looked outclassed for most of the game, finishing with 24 of 38 passing with two interceptions. His two touchdown passes came late, and the Bills’ victory was never in doubt after the midpoint of the third quarter.

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

After two decades of dominance by the Patriots, the Bills made it look almost too easy. But the crowd, so used to seeing Bill Belichick-led teams vanquish their Bills, danced and sang and stomped until the final whistle. They cheered, “Hey, hey, goodbye” as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

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

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

The Raiders, a franchise which hadn’t made the postseason 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’ high-powered offense on scoring drives in their four possessions in the first half, connecting for touchdowns with receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah. The Bengals had more trouble moving the ball in the second half, and were slowed by at least one penalty not called against the Raiders.

But Burrow, who finished with 244 yards on 24 of 34 passing 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 by 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 attempted comeback, down 26-16, in the fourth quarter with no timeouts and less than two minutes to play.

Carr kept the game close, hitting DeSean Jackson on a pass to convert on fourth-and-5 from the Raiders’ 44-yard line. The Raiders kicked a field goal on the drive with less than four minutes remaining to narrow their deficit to 26-19.

The Bengals drained more than two minutes off the clock on the ensuing possession, but could not score. The 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 remaining. Carr hit Jacobs for a 15-yard gain and the Bengals were charged with a roughing-the-passer penalty, bringing the Raiders past midfield. Without any time outs, Las Vegas had little margin for error and the weight of Cincinnati’s past playoff failures heightened the drama.

But on fourth-and-goal from the Bengals’ 9-yard line, Carr was intercepted, ending the Raiders’ topsy-turvy season, and sealing the long-awaited playoff win for Cincinnati.

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