The Cincinnati Bengals are back in the Divisional Round for the second straight year, and they are looking for more once again. Joe burrow and co. didn’t make it easy, but they defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 at home in the Wild Card Round. They may have won, but the Bengals know they’ll have to be better in the next game.

That is especially true when their Divisional Round opponent is none other than the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been a Super Bowl favorite for the entire season and have arguably the best roster in the entire NFL. There is a silver lining, though, as the Bills also struggled in the Wild Card Round by barely defeating the Miami Dolphins, 34-31.

The Bengals and Bills met in Cincinnati in Week 17, but the Damar Hamlin injury forced a no contest. Now, the two AFC heavyweights will get to face off for real this time. With the star power on both sides, this could end up being the game of the week.

Both teams will need to bring their A-game to win this game and advance to the AFC Championship GAme. Joe Burrow is a major X-Factor for this game, and one mistake could be the difference between a win and a loss. However, there are a couple of players who are even more important to Cincinnati winning this game.

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Bengals X-Factor vs. Bills: Sam Hubbard AND Trey Hendrickson

If the Bengals want to win this game, they need to find a way to slow down Josh Allen. The offense will put up points, but it won’t matter unless the defense can get some stops. It won’t be an easy task, but it’s far from impossible.

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For Cincinnati, getting those stops starts with the pass-rushing duo of Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson. Both players had a pretty quiet pass-rushing game against Baltimore, combining for only one QB hit and no sacks. That is, except for the go-ahead, 98-yard fumble recovery touchdown that Hubbard scored in the fourth quarter.

Both players have actually had a rather down season compared to 2021. Hendrickson had eight sacks this season, while Hubbard had just 6.5. Respectable numbers to be sure, but a far cry from their 14 and eight sacks last season, respectively. To be fair, though, both have missed time this season and Hendrickson played through a broken wrist near the end of the season.

In fact, the Bengals’ pass rush as a whole has struggled this season. Cincinnati has just 30 sacks on the season, which ranks 29th in the league and the lowest of any playoff team. It was a bit better in the Wild Card Round, but the Bengals still only sacked Tyler Huntley twice.

Fortunately for Cincinnati, Buffalo’s offensive line looked very vulnerable in its last game. The Bills allowed a whopping seven sacks, the most all season, and 13 QB hits against the Dolphins. In fact, one could argue that the offensive line was the main cause of Buffalo nearly losing in a massive upset.

In addition, Allen struggled immensely with all the pressure Miami put on him. The Bills star may have thrown for 352 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled three times. His QBR of just 26.1 was his worst of the season by nearly 20 points.

The Bengals simply have to get pressure on Allen in this game. If they can make him uncomfortable, then they may be able to force some ever-important turnovers, which have been an issue for the star quarterback this season. That pressure starts with Hubbard and Hendrickson, who must be on their game on Sunday.