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Joe Burrow, Bengals embrace challenge of road playoff game: 'It's you against the world'

Joe Burrow has been here before.

A year ago, Burrow's upstart Bengals tore through the AFC, winning their first playoff game at home before embarking on a grueling two-game road trip that each ended in heart-stopping fashion. Both wins (over the top-seeded Titans and the powerhouse Chiefs) required Burrow to find a way to move the ball while under constant duress thanks to his battered offensive line.

And both required some serious mental fortitude in hostile environments.

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

Burrow finds himself once again packing his bags for a pivotal road playoff game in a place that might be a bit unfamiliar to him. Though they met in Cincinnati in a game that was eventually canceled, the Bengals haven't played the Bills in Buffalo since 2019, the final season played before they selected Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Back then, the Bengals were a putrid football team that earned the top pick by taking more than their fair share of on-field beatings. They won just two games in 2019, and those days seem as if they happened decades ago.

These Bengals are different -- and they're ready for the challenge, even if it includes some precipitation.

Sunday's forecast calls for approximately one inch of snow in Orchard Park, New York, at which a winter veteran would scoff. But Cincinnati hasn't yet played in the snow in the 2022 season, and didn't have to battle such elements in their postseason run to the Super Bowl last year, either.

Cool as ever, the threat of snow isn't fazing Burrow.

"We've had some practices in the snow and that's where you get your reps," Burrow said. "It really shouldn't be an issue. Doesn't really change much, like the rain does."

What is likely more worrisome is the state of the Bengals' offensive line, which is without starting right tackle La'el Collins and likely won't get left tackle Jonah Williams back in time to play Sunday, either. Right guard Alex Cappa remains an uncertainty, too.

Highmark Stadium promises to provide a raucous, unfriendly environment for Burrow and the Bengals, who, despite being overlooked in favor of the Bills and Chiefs, remain the reigning AFC champions.

That means they'll take the field in orange and black with a big red target on their backs. The Bengals are embracing the role as yet another challenge on their road back to the AFC title game.

"We know that we're defending AFC champions," coach Zac Taylor said. "There's an edge to this team, we're not an underdog to anybody. That's just been the feeling all season, we don't care what anybody else says about us. We know we belong on the field with every team in this league."

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