Paycor Stadium will be the site of a titanic clash in the AFC when the Bengals host the Bills on Monday Night Football. The game airs at 8:30 p.m. on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. Here are five things to watch:
1. Joe vs. Josh, round one
Monday night's game features two of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL going against one another for the first time in their careers. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen entered Week 17 both ranked in the top five leaguewide in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns and passer rating. They are also the only two players in the league this season with at least 4,000 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns. Though Cincinnati and Buffalo pride themselves on complementary play that has helped them net 10-plus wins in back-to-back seasons, the performance between these two signal callers will have a pivotal effect on the game's outcome.
Burrow and Allen are bringing an unprecedented level of success to Monday Night Football. In the 53-year history of the program, no pair of opposing quarterbacks have entered a matchup with as many combined passing touchdowns (66).
2. Stopping the run
While the showdown of transcendent quarterbacks has garnered much of the national attention this week, a key component of the Bills' offense has been its run game. Buffalo ranks seventh in the NFL this season with 142.8 yards per game, and is coming off a season-high 254 yards on the ground at Chicago in Week 16 — their most since 2016. The versatility of their rushing attack is what steers the success, as running backs Devin Singletary and James Cook, along with a dual-threat quarterback in Allen, have combined for 1,998 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
The Bills will face a Bengals run defense that is seventh in the league, giving up just 106.4 yards per contest. Cincinnati has held three straight opponents under 100, and doing so against Buffalo will be paramount in slowing down one of the league's top overall offenses.
3. Chase closes in on 1,000
Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense will always welcome a superstar performance from wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, but there may not be a game this season where his services are needed more than Monday's. In a matchup of two top-10 offenses potentially trading points, Cincinnati will lean on its Pro Bowl pass catcher to make plays down the field. For Chase, a high level of production will result in his second straight season of 1,000 receiving yards, a mark he is just 40 shy of. He has gone for over 40 yards in each of his last eight games played, and by doing so again he would join A.J. Green (2011-12) as the only players in team history with consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin their career.
4. Burrow set to claim NFL record
Joe Burrow needs just 12 pass attempts to reach 1,500 for his career, which will qualify him for the career completion percentage record in the NFL Record & Fact Book. Burrow, who enters Monday's game with a career completion percentage of 68.48, would surpass Drew Brees (67.69) as the NFL's all-time leader. Even if his first 12 passes fall incomplete, Burrow's career percentage would still be 67.93, ahead of Brees.
Burrow over the past two seasons has cemented himself as one of the league's most efficient passers. His 70.4 completion percentage in 2021 led the NFL and went down as the second-best mark in Bengals history behind Ken Anderson's 70.5 percentage in 1982. Burrow this year is third in that category at 69.0 percent. Monday night's contest will likely be decided well beyond his 12th passing attempt, but for the Bengals to come away with a crucial win, their signal caller will need to showcase his pinpoint accuracy against a defense that has 14 interceptions this season.
5. Paycor in primetime
The Bengals have won their last four home games that kicked off after 8 p.m., dating back to Week 2 of the 2018 season. Cincinnati this year has had one previous home contest in primetime, a 27-15 victory over Miami in Week 4 in front of a record attendance of 67,260. A victory over the Bills on Monday would tie for the franchise's most consecutive home primetime wins, as the Bengals took five straight at home under the lights from 1997-2007. They can also tie for the third-most home wins in a season in team history with six.