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AFC Divisional Playoffs: Joe Burrow vs Josh Allen, a look at who has the advantage

Josh Allen
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s AFC Divisional Playoffs matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills brings us the battle we didn’t get to see play out in Week 17. Hyped as a potential playoff preview at the time, now we get to see who gets the upper hand between Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Allen takes the second-highest scoring offense in the league against a defense that allowed the sixth-fewest points per game during the regular season. On the other side, Burrow brings the seventh-highest-scoring offense against a defense that allowed the second-fewest points per game.

While both quarterbacks take on top-ranked defenses, they are also extremely confident in their abilities and won’t hesitate to be aggressive in seeking connections downfield. Both fanbases are eager to explain why their quarterback is better than the other, but between Burrow and Allen, who truly has the advantage?

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Josh Allen’s dual-threat ability creates more problems

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It’s tough to compare these two quarterbacks head-to-head. They’re different players who have unique skill sets. One thing that cannot be argued is their ability to pass for a ridiculous amount of yards. Burrow ranked second, and Allen ranked sixth in yards per game in 2022.

Yet, if there is one major factor that separates these two, it’s Allen’s propensity to move the chains with his legs. In fact, the 6-foot-5 QB led the Bills in rushing first downs with 55. Compared to Burrow, who picked up 28, it’s clear that when Buffalo faces a must-convert scenario, Allen isn’t afraid to shoulder the load, literally.

While Burrow has shown his own level of mobility, whether it’s moving around in or escaping the pocket, he’s nowhere near Allen’s planet when it comes to scrambling after a play breaks down. This one is obvious.

  • Advantage: Josh Allen

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Joe Burrow’s skill position group is more dangerous

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
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Allen may have the edge as a rusher, but when it comes to comparing the receivers of the Bills to the Bengals, we have to go with Burrow’s team.

Both rosters feature elite No. 1 receiving threats, with Stefon Diggs finishing fifth in receiving yards this past season and Ja’Marr Chase being named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two years while ranking seventh in yards in 2022.

But it’s not just Diggs and Chase. The Bills also have Gabriel Davis, who seems to perk up in the postseason. Davis has a total of 314 yards and five touchdowns in his last two playoff games and posted a career-best 836 yards during the regular season. He’s a strong starting option opposite Diggs, but after these two, the Bills see a big drop-off in talent.

Dawson Knox is an above-average tight end, but he’s nothing special, much like Cincinnati’s tight end situation. But Chase’s sidekicks at receiver in Cincinnati bring more to the party than Buffalo’s complementary pieces to Diggs and Davis.

Tee Higgins is the second receiving option in Cincinnati, and he’s coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. At 6-foot-4, he’s a mismatch waiting to happen. Then there’s Tyler Boyd, who could likely start as a No. 2 receiver for several teams around the NFL. He too has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt but still managed to record 762 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2022.

Ultimately, both QBs benefit from a strong receiving corps, but the Bengals have a bit more depth than the Bills, so we have to give Burrow the upper hand here.

  • Advantage: Joe Burrow

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Burrow’s protection is worrisome

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While Burrow doesn’t suffer from a lack of athleticism, he does suffer from a porous offensive line. This isn’t exactly a new problem. It’s plagued the Bengals ever since his rookie season, which was cut short due to a knee injury suffered during a sack. But Cincinnati tried to fix the trenches in recent years by signing multiple free agents, such as Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’El Collins, while also hoping 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams would work out at left tackle.

Well, despite spending the 11th pick, plus $74 million, into their offensive line, Burrow was still sacked a total of 41 times during the regular season and four more times against Baltimore. Making matters worse, now Williams has a dislocated kneecap and won’t be able to man Burrow’s blindside. Yet, considering he’s allowed more sacks than any other individual lineman this year, maybe a replacement won’t be such a bad thing.

Sure, the Bills’ offensive line isn’t exactly a strength either, but that’s where Allen’s mobility comes in. Neither team can really say their offensive line is a strength, but Buffalo’s is less of a weakness than Cincinnati’s is, and that’s a win.

  • Advantage: Josh Allen

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Bottom line: Josh Allen has a slight edge over Joe Burrow, for now

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions
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As mentioned, a head-to-head comparison between these two highly talented QBs, who typically rank as two of the very best in the NFL, is tough to do. We laid out how each signal-caller has their own advantages, such as Allen being more dangerous with his legs, yet Burrow’s skill position group helps him maintain consistency.

In the end, both players are already some of the best, and on occasion, do look like the top quarterback in football, depending on the week. If we’re picking one quarterback to get one win, give us Allen’s fearlessness, which can sometimes lead to reckless turnovers, over Burrow, whose calm and cool demeanor is unmatched in the NFL, but also is more limited due to a shoddy offensive line and reduced athleticism.

But really, fans should just sit back and appreciate being able to see two players who could someday land in Canton with a Hall of Fame bust going toe-to-toe in the prime of their careers with stakes that are as high as ever.

  • Advantage: Josh Allen

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