Super Wild Card Weekend: (2) Buffalo Bills vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts Preview
We got here! Over the summer it seemed unlikely that an NFL season would either happen or be completed as planned. However, we made it to the playoffs. Surprisingly, we were able to get to the playoffs with relatively minor bumps in the road. NFL was able to prove the general population and once again reminds us that it takes all of us to point this world to a more positive place. Now that we have made it... let's talk some football.
For the first time since 1995, the Buffalo Bills are hosting a Playoff game. That's not the only first this weekend for Buffalo. For the first time this season, Bills Stadium will host fans. Although it is a meager 6,700 fans total. 6,700 fans for the Buffalo Bills will certainly sound much closer to 50,000 than the average fan would expect. This comes at the perfect time for what many consider the hottest team in football. The Buffalo Bills have won their last 7 games by 10+ points each. Taking on an Indianapolis Colts team that finished the season 11-5 and is led by former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Frank Reich. With a 1:05 pm kickoff, we look at the keys to victory for Buffalo and a couple of key matchups for our first Wild Card game of the 2020 season.
Keys to Victory
1. Stop Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor has been the hottest running back in football outside of All-Pro and NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry over the last 4 weeks of the NFL season. Coming off of a 250-yard performance in week 17 Taylor is what completes the Colts offense. Philip Rivers is no longer the Philip Rivers we were all so used to but he still can make plays. The Colts do not have Pro Bowl Caliber weapons which have certainly led to the up and down play of the team and Philip Rivers. With the recent success of Jonathan Taylor, the Colts offense has been much more complete and the success on the ground of Taylor has led to new success for the Colts passing attack. If Buffalo wants to pull away in this game it is necessary to stop Taylor. The run defense has been vulnerable for Buffalo but it has stepped up against top competition holding Derrick Henry to 57 yards on 19 rushes and only 86 total rushing yards to one of the best running offenses in the NFL in the 49ers. If the Bills are able to stifle Jonathan Taylor they really have a great chance of winning and will make it difficult for the Colts to do what they need to do to have a chance to win.
2. Special Teams
Andre Roberts, Corey Bojorquez, and Tyler Bass. The core of the Buffalo Bills special teams unit. One of the best units in the NFL can change games significantly. In the Playoffs, in order to be successful, you need to be strong in all three phases. Special teams are just as important as offense and defense because we have seen special teams lose teams in many playoff games before because of their lack of success on special teams. Where it comes in most important is in the field position game. Field position becomes much more important in the playoffs where every yard counts. It is easier to have a couple of drives of less than 75 yards than it is to have to travel the full length of the field. Tyler Bass on kickoffs, Bojorquez on punts, and Roberts on returns will all be able to change this game every time they step on the field. If the Buffalo special teams unit can be as dominant as it has been in the game of field position it makes this a very difficult game for the Colts to win.
3. Let the All-Pros All Pro
Josh Allen (2nd), Stefon Diggs (1st), and Cole Beasley (2nd) all were named to NFL All-Pro teams. The first Buffalo Bills home playoff game in over two decades is the perfect game to let all three get loose. Diggs and Beasley are questionable to play however rumors out of Buffalo are that Diggs is a 100% go and Beasley will do everything in his power to play. The Bills have so much momentum going into this game and I think they should continue it. Go right after the Colt's top-ranked defense and let the guys who are playing at an All-Pro level go out and win you the game. This Bills team has no excuse. It is among the most talented teams in the NFL and the most talked-about team when it comes to who can beat the Chiefs for a reason. The Bills should live and die by what got them to this point and that is the All-Pros they have on offense.
Sean McDermott vs. Frank Reich
Great Defensive mind vs. Great Offensive mind replaces the names here. The coaching battle will be a good one today. McDermott has routinely outcoached other head coaches this year. However, if McDermott struggles against any type of coach it has historically been offensive coaches. 2 of Buffalos 3 losses (Chiefs, Cardinals) have come to highly regarded offensive minds and the 3rd loss (Titans) came to a team that has a defensive head coach but an offensive coordinator that will land a head coaching position this summer. This game will be a chess match for both coaches and whoever is able to maneuver their way to victory will get their first playoff win as a head coach.
John Brown vs. Colts Zone Defense
John Brown has returned from a couple of leg injuries that took away several games of his season. Brown returned last week against the Dolphins with 4 receptions for 72 yards and 1 TD. With Diggs and Beasley both playing but banged up John Brown has a chance to have a major impact on the game today and could very well end up leading this game in receiving. With the Colts defense likely emphasizing stopping NFL leading receiver Stefon Diggs expect areas to open up in the Indianapolis Colts Zone Defense. If the Colts decide to resort to man coverage that would benefit Brown as well because with Rock Ya-Sin out Brown would be lined up on the Colts 3rd Cornerback.
Buffalos Defensive Line vs. Colts O-line
Although the Colts are without star LT Anthony Castanzo the rest of their offensive line has Pro Bowl caliber players. It will be quite the matchup with a Bills defensive line that has been up and down all year. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be important for victory. Look for Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison to have potentially a large impact in this game. Both Hughes and Addison are talented veterans who were rested last week against the Dolphins. The Bills rotate a lot on their defensive line and that rotation will be important today because they have their hands full with this Colts O-line and Jonathon Taylor.
Buffalo Bills 34 - 24 Indianapolis Colts