From the beginning of Sunday's AFC divisional round game between the Bengals and Bills, it was clear which team held the upper hand. The Bengals' impressive 27-10 victory put them in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year and further proved they can compete (and win) against the best.
The Bengals' recent success has a lot to do with quarterback Joe Burrow as well as some other stars, like wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. They have a young group eager to erase the feelings of last year's Super Bowl defeat to the Rams with a win this year and their readiness has been shown throughout the season, but particularly as of late.
They are on a 10-game win streak and you have to go all the way back to Halloween to find a loss.
At his season-ending press conference, Bills general manager Brandon Beane spoke about the Bengals' success, calling them out a bit for how they've become a force in the AFC. He said their youth and being able to pay players lower salaries is part of the reason they have been winning, explaining the differences in cap space between the two franchises.
"Those guys are on their rookie deals. We're paying Stefon Diggs a pretty hefty number. We're paying Josh Allen a pretty hefty number. So, there [are] the constraints of the cap, but they have a really good team," Beane said (via Sports Illustrated). "They've got some good young players. We're gonna try to get as many good players as we can through the draft and through free agency. But, again, our cap situation is a little different."
Beane said Cincinnati's history of losing resulted in them drafting a star player early in the draft, a position he would not want to be in.
"They have a good team. They, right now, are on the advantage of a rookie quarterback contract. They had some lean years and, without getting too much into their build, I don't want to suck bad enough to have to get Ja'Marr Chase," Beane said. "He's a heck of a talent, I'd love to have him. But you've got to go through some lean years to do that."
The "heck of the talent" is going on to the AFC Championship Game, while the Bills have to watch from home. Chase was drafted by the Bengals in 2021 with the No. 5 overall pick.
This season he had 87 receptions for 1,046 yards, an average of 12 yards per catch, and nine touchdowns. In his career, the 22-year-old has 168 receptions for 2,501 yards and 22 touchdowns. His resume also includes NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2021 and two Pro Bowl selections.