Bengals' Joe Burrow not buying underdog tag against Bills

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals Joe Burrow isn't buying into the notion his team is playing second fiddle to the Buffalo Bills, despite not being the favorite heading into the AFC divisional playoff game at Highmark Stadium on Sunday.

"I never feel like an underdog," Burrow said after Wednesday's practice.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Bills were 5.5-point favorites over the Bengals in a rematch of the Week 17 game that was canceled following Bills safety Damar Hamlin's collapse in the first quarter.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Bengals have been underdogs only twice this season -- Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens, a 19-17 loss, and Week 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs, a 27-24 victory.

Meanwhile, the Bills are the only team in the NFL this season to have never been an underdog. That's indicative of how oddsmakers viewed Buffalo heading into 2022. According to Caesars Sportsbook, Kansas City opened as favorites to win Super Bowl LVII, with Buffalo trailing close behind. The Chiefs still have the best odds of winning the Lombardi Trophy, with the Bengals coming in fifth at +800.

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the outside notion that Cincinnati isn't in the same tier as its other AFC rivals was noted inside the locker room.

"I don't think you are going to find a whole lot of people that would feel like we were mentioned with those teams very often," Callahan said. "I'm sure our guys carry that chip on their shoulder. We always knew how good we were capable of being."

Heading into the Week 17 game against Buffalo, Bengals running back Joe Mixon emphasized Cincinnati's status as the "top dog" in the conference. After Wednesday's practice, Mixon said the defending AFC champions are focused on getting back to the AFC title game to face either Kansas City or the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"All I know is that going into this game, we got one thing in mind and that's to win," Mixon said. "That's the only thing we're worried about."

Throughout the week, Cincinnati's players and coaches have indicated how difficult it is to put stock in the Week 17 game that was eventually abandoned. The teams played a total of three drives -- two for Cincinnati, one for Buffalo -- before Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after making a tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Hamlin's heartbeat was restored on the field before he was taken to a Cincinnati hospital, where he stayed for a week before he was cleared to return to Buffalo.

"We'll be back to square one," Bengals safety Jesse Bates said on Monday. "They won't know what we're on. We won't know what they are doing, what they'll have schemed up for this week. But we'll go in and watch tape just like any other week and make sure we're prepared for them."

Cincinnati is slated to have three reserve offensive linemen starting against the Bills, with left tackle Jonah Williams (left knee) and right guard Alex Cappa (left knee) still considered week-to-week with their respective injuries.

The Bengals will also be prepared for a rowdy environment in western New York. Cincinnati's offense operated exclusively using a silent pre-snap cadence during Wednesday's practice. Burrow said the team is relishing the opportunity to play in whatever the conditions will be like Sunday in Buffalo.

"I always enjoy going on the road," Burrow said. "It's just you and your guys. Feels like it's you against the world. And that's where we like to be."