Monday Night Football Betting: Can We Trust the Bengals as Home Underdogs?

A lot of playoff implications are on the line for Week 17's Monday Night Football matchup between two marquee teams.

The 12-3 Buffalo Bills travel to face the 11-4 Cincinnati Bengals.

A win for the Bengals clinches the AFC North and bumps them up to the 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture while also keeping their hopes at the 1 seed alive.

For the Bills, they've already clinched the AFC East and can enter Week 18 as the 1 seed with a win but as the 3 seed with a loss.

How does our model see this one playing out?

All NFL odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook, and they -- as well as our game and player projections -- may change after this article is published.

Breaking Down the Matchup

These are two of the most similar teams in the NFL in terms of overall offense and defense.

Our Net Expected Points (NEP) model -- after opponent adjustments -- has the Bills ranked fourth offensively and sixth defensively. The Bengals are 3rd offensively and 10th defensively.

Only three other teams in the NFL were top-10 on both sides of the ball entering Week 17.

If we're looking for any unit outliers, then it's the Bengals' defense. Despite sitting 10th overall, they're 13th against the pass and 16th against the rush. That looks bad only in the scope of this particular game.

But again, these teams are very similar -- and that's most evident when looking at the quarterback battle.

Among 36 qualified quarterbacks (those with at least 150 drop backs), Joe Burrow ranks 7th in Passing NEP per drop back (0.19) with Josh Allen one slot above him (0.19 as well). If we want to see the separation, we need another decimal point: Allen leads 0.194 to 0.193.

In terms of passing success rate, the gap is virtually nothing, as well. This time, Burrow leads by a tinge (51.1% versus 51.0%).

All season, our model has liked the Bengals due to their underlying data. Even when they were 4-4, they ranked fifth in our power rankings.

Therefore, it's no surprise that our model likes the Bengals after accounting for home-field advantage.

Standard Bets

Our model is giving the Bengals a 58.4% chance to win at home, which is likely higher than you'll see most places. But, again, our model has really liked Cincinnati all year.

Of their four losses, just one was by more than three points (a 19-point loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, their first game without star receiver Ja'Marr Chase).

The Bills have lost three games all by three or fewer points, as well, so these teams have combined for one big loss, and that one was a bit understandable given the divisional matchup and loss of a stud player.

The point here: both teams are truly elite, and our model is just finding value in backing the team at home -- with or without the points.

Cincinnati +1.5 (-110) and Cincinnati's moneyline (+104) are each two-star (i.e. two-unit) suggestions.

The best bet of all for this one, though, is over 49.5 (-110). Our algorithm thinks this game scores at least 50 points with a 62.3% probability.

Prop Bets

Comparing our player projections to the NFL player prop bet lines, here are a few props that stand out.

Josh Allen Over 259.5 Passing Yards (-110) - Allen is projected for 274.8 yards tonight despite averaging 227.7 yards in nine post-bye games. In recent weeks, Allen has faced a lot of top-tier pass defenses and windy conditions. If playing the angle of the over and/or a Bengals victory, then it makes sense to think that Allen's yardage numbers increase.

Gabe Davis Longest Reception Over 20.5 Yards (-114) - The Bengals rank 30th in average depth of target allowed and are 28th in yards per target allowed on passes traveling at least 10 yards downfield. Gabe Davis has averaged 4.2 such targets per game. He should see a good number of chances to have a long catch tonight.