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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Buffalo can earn their stripes by beating Bengals

Cincinnati have plenty to prove

Carlos Hyde can shine for San Francisco
1 of 1

Best handicap bet
Buffalo +3.5 at Cincinnati

It took just two weeks for Cincinnati to fire their offensive coordinator after dismal home defeats to Baltimore and Houston in which the Bengals mustered just nine points.

They return to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday hoping to impress after an improved display against Green Bay was followed by victory over Cleveland, when quarterback Andy Dalton looked a lot more comfortable and threw four touchdown passes.

The Bills have not made the post-season since 1999 - the longest run of missing the playoffs in the NFL - but there is suddenly optimism in up-state New York after three wins in their opening four matches and they should provide the Bengals with a severe test.

Their defence has been in excellent form, conceded a league-lowest average of 13.5 points per game, and the quality of the opposition they have beaten has raised eyebrows.

Match previews

Carolina at Detroit

Green Bay at Dallas

Kansas City at Houston

This week's power rankings

Few people were shocked to see them get the better of AFC East rivals the New York Jets in the opening week, but in the last two weeks they have recorded a success over Denver and a stirring 23-17 triumph in Atlanta.

The Falcons suffered a game-ending injury to star receiver Julio Jones, but Buffalo are clearly making waves under new coach Sean McDermott.

If they can limit an offence of Atlanta's quality to just 17 points then there should be scope for them to at least cover the handicap as underdogs against the Bengals, who still have to convince they can make a full recovery after losing their first three matches.

Next best
Seattle to beat LA Rams
If the league is chatting about how Buffalo could surprise this season, then the Rams are the talk of the town.

Victories against Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis and San Francisco were signals of intent but people have sat up and taken notice after the team who won just four of their matches last season - and none of the seven quarterback Jared Goff started as a rookie - went to Dallas and claimed their third victory of the season.

It all seems to be coming together for the Rams. Goff looks a completely different proposition under new coach Sean McVay, running back Todd Gurley looks capable of reaching the heights he displayed in his rookie season two years ago, while Sammy Watkins looks at home after moving from Buffalo.

The defence looks strong as well. However, this is just the sort of challenge their NFC West rivals Seattle are capable of rising to.

The Seahawks have been prone to slow starts in recent seasons and their 46-18 trouncing of the Colts indicates there might not be too much to worry about.

Seattle are capable of showing the Rams that they may still have some way to go.

Best total-points bet
Over 39 points in Baltimore at Oakland
Both these teams have been through the mill over the last couple of weeks.

Baltimore's points have dried up after a 44-7 tonking by Jacksonville at Wembley was followed by another poor display against their arch-rivals Pittsburgh last week.

The Ravens need to improve but the issues at the Raiders look even more troubling as quarterback Derek Carr injured his back last week and there are misgivings about the quality of replacement EJ Manuel. Carr was expected to miss two to six weeks, but managed to return to practice on Thursday and has not been officially ruled out yet.

Whoever plays at quarterback will feel that they have a point to prove and a 39-point total could prove to be quite modest. The line has also been eclipsed in each of Oakland's last five games.

Best player bet
C Hyde to score a touchdown
San Francisco head to Indianapolis having failed to win any of their opening four matches and scoring an average of just 1.2 touchdowns per game.

However, while their passing game has not been brilliant, Carlos Hyde has looked their most dangerous offensive player. Going into Week Five, he was the sixth most productive rusher in the league with 321 yards.

With quarterback Brian Hoyer having thrown just two touchdown passes this season, Hyde, who scored two touchdowns in their Week Three loss to the Rams, could be their biggest threat.

It seems realistic to anticipate he can make an impression against a defence who have already conceded six rushing scores this term. 

Buffalo +3.5
3pts Evs Betfred
2pts 11-10 Coral, Ladbrokes, Sky Bet
Over 39 points in Baltimore at Oakland
2pts 10-11 general
C Hyde to score a touchdown
1pt 11-10 Betfair, Paddy Power

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The Bills have not made the post-season since 1999 - the longest run of missing the playoffs in the NFL - but there is optimism now
E.W. Terms
Sky bet