ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) – The last time the Indianapolis Colts were at Orchard Park, the stakes were much higher for both teams. Last year’s wild card game was the Buffalo Bills’ first playoff victory since the turn of the century. This year, however, both teams need a win to stay in the thick of a tough AFC playoff race that is starting to take shape.
Earlier in the week I got a typo in a tweet when I called Jonathan Taylor the best. I meant it was a beast. It turns out that both are true. Taylor has become one of the best players in his job in the NFL and will be one of the toughest tests for the Bills defense all season. But there is good news and bad news. I’m a guy with a half-full glass, so we’ll start with the right one. For the most part, the Bills’ defense has been much better this season than last season.
This is the good news.
The bad news? The Bills will be deprived of Star Lotulelei as he remains on the COVID-19 reserve list for the second week in a row. I imagine the Bills are throwing the kitchen sink at Taylor and Nyhiem Hines to try and limit the explosiveness of the Colts’ two running backs. This will allow quarterback Carson Wentz to have success in the air if the focus is on stopping the run. But the Bills’ defense has been excellent this season and forces turnovers more often than any other unit in the league.
As for the Bills offense, it all starts with the line. With Spencer Brown unavailable [COVID list], the Colts should be able to go after Josh Allen like the Jags did a few weeks ago. If the Bills can give Allen an extra second here and there, they should be able to stretch the field for deep shots against a weak Indianapolis secondary. This match is going to be close. I think the Colts are a very good team and contend for the playoffs. If they were playing Indianapolis, I would probably go with the Colts. But I’m not fighting the Bills in Orchard Park.
Tickets 26, Colts 24
Season record: 6-3
The Patriots won Thursday night and the Bills still have a half-game lead in the division. With their schedule coming up here, every game is going to be crucial … and the difficult period begins on Sunday against the Colts. It’s such an intriguing game and I think it can go both ways as each team has its strengths and weaknesses.
When you watch Indianapolis, their offense goes through running back Jonathan Taylor, and for good reason, considering he leads the league in rushing yards. He’s run over 100 yards in five games this season and those five games are the Colts’ five wins. Stopping Taylor is key to this Bills defense, which has a solid good against the run this season. Last time they weren’t? Week six against Derrick Henry, who was also the center of a team’s attack before he was injured.
When you look at the Bills offense, they had some good games, but they haven’t peaked yet. While their passing game is better than the Colts’ passing defense in my opinion, the big question mark will be whether Josh Allen has the TIME to throw. Spencer Brown is currently on the reserve / COVID roster and with the team signing Bobby Hart on the active roster, signs indicate Brown will not be able to play on Sunday. It’s a big loss for a live Bills offense that struggled to protect Allen when it comes to facing a solid defensive line. To avoid another outing at Jacksonville, the line needs to step things up and keep Allen down, or this one could get lousy with Indianapolis being a far superior offense than Jacksonville.
I think it’s going to be tight, just like the last time these two teams met … but in this one, I’m taking the Colts. Here’s the thing … I’ve faced the Bills once this season (back to Week 5 where they proved me wrong and beat the Kansas City Chiefs). So the fans should hope that fighting them is a “good thing”.
Foals: 28, Bills: 24
Season record: 5-4
Matt and Jenna have both talked a lot about Jonathan Taylor. Stopping the Colts starts with slowing down their workaholic by running. The Bills managed to do that in last year’s playoffs, and it turned out favorably. This year, Leslie Frazier’s unity is above the defense of 2020. That’s a positive sign.
The next most important thing for the Bills is their ball safety. Buffalo took the ball more than any other team in the league. But if anyone can challenge them, it’s the Colts. If Indianapolis wins the revenue battle on Sunday, they could become the new league leaders in terms of revenue differential. Their +11 is just behind the +14 of the Bills. Here’s another stat for you: Only three NFL teams have recovered every fumble they’ve forced this year. Two of them will be at Orchard Park this weekend (for what it’s worth, the third is the Packers).
Missing Spencer Brown hurts. Just in general, this offensive line can sometimes hurt. And that’s a bad thing against a long, difficult Colts defensive front. The time for experimenting, tweaking and adjusting is frankly over. Buffalo emphasizes playing his best ball in January. But if they don’t come close to their best football now, January might not matter. Heading into Week 11, the Bills aren’t playing against a team with a loss record until Week 17.
It won’t be easy, but the Bills are capable of stringing together a few wins and gaining momentum this weekend. And I think they will.
Tickets: 27, Foals: 24
Season record: 5-4