Buffalo bills NFL Game Live: – We have reached that point in the Bills’ season, the one we reach every year, where they have very little room for error in their quest to make the playoffs.
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It’s not at the stage where they don’t have their destiny in their own hands because if they were to shockingly run the table and win their remaining four games, the Bills more than likely would make the postseason tournament for the first time since 1999.
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The fact that they still have a road game at New England makes that scenario a bit unlikely, but the other three games are certainly winnable, and the first of those comes up Sunday at New Era Field when the Indianapolis Colts take up residence on the other sideline.
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The Colts are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the Bills should take care of business even with rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman expected to start. A win would get Buffalo to 7-6 with Miami in town next week before the game with the Patriots.
It’s very possible the Bills will go to Miami for the final game sitting at 8-7 and still alive, though probably in need of much help. However, the postseason dream would die Sunday if the Bills falter against Indianapolis.
1. Can the Bills win offensively on the early downs? The Colts don’t do many things very well, but one thing they excel at is stopping the run on first down. Indy is allowing just 2.9 yards per first-down rushing attempt, lowest in the league, and that could be troublesome for the Bills. Buffalo, as always, will have to rely on its running game, especially with rookie Nathan Peterman most likely at quarterback in place of injured Tyrod Taylor. But if the Colts stuff the run and put the Bills in unfavorable down and distance situations, that ramps up the pressure on Peterman. The Bills haven’t been terrible on first down as they’re averaging 4.24 yards rushing on those plays, ninth-best in the NFL. However, they’ve also been maddening inconsistent on the ground as they’ve also had about 25 percent of all their rushing attempts stuffed, meaning zero or lost yardage. The Colts are solid on the front line, but are weak at linebacker, especially with John Simon getting hurt last week and now out for the season. This is a matchup the Bills have to exploit with LeSean McCoy.
New Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught 3 passesBuy Photo
New Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught 3 passes in a 47-10 loss to the Saints. (Photo: JAMIE GERMANO, @jgermano1/Staff Photographer)
2. How much will Peterman and Kelvin Benjamin matter to the passing game? The weather isn’t supposed to be too cooperative, so the passing game — a weakness for both teams — may end up being a non-factor. However, the Bills need to find a way to take advantage of a Colts defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 30th in sacks per pass attempt. We haven’t seen much from Peterman, but it certainly seems he’s more willing to throw the ball downfield than Taylor, and Sunday he’ll have the Bills’ best WR at his disposal as Benjamin is expected to play after missing nearly three full games with a knee injury. The last time we saw Benjamin, he was catching a perfectly-thrown 20-yard pass over the middle from Peterman in Los Angeles. He hurt his knee on the play, left the game, and Peterman melted down with five interceptions. Also, it will be interesting to see whether Brandon Reilly — if he’s active — can factor into the passing game. He and Peterman have worked closely for three months on the scout team and have a connection with each other.
3. Can the Bills dominate Colts QB Jacoby Brissett again? If you’ll recall, the Bills beat the Patriots in Week 4 of the 2016 season because Brissett was filling in for suspended Tom Brady, and injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Buffalo held him to 205 harmless passing yards and pitched a shutout that day. Now, Brissett is replacing injured Andrew Luck in Indy, and while he’s made some progress through increased playing time, he’s still a lower-echelon QB who holds the ball too long and has absorbed a league-high 47 sacks behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Brissett has completed only 60 percent of his passes, has a mere 10 TD passes to seven interceptions, and is still learning the full scope of the offensive system as he joined the team right at the start of the regular season. If CBs Tre’Davious White and E.J. Gaines can combine to slow down WR T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ only legitimate offensive threat, it will be a difficult day for Indy. RB Frank Gore may be a future Hall of Famer, but he’s at the end of the line.
Theoretically, there is no way the Bills can lose this game. The Colts are awful, as their 3-9 record suggests. They aren’t productive on offense, they’re sieve-like on defense, they’re decimated by injuries, they have an all-time nice guy but lousy coach in Chuck Pagano, and they’re a dome team coming outside to snowy Orchard Park in December. There isn’t a single thing that points in the direction of an Indianapolis upset, except for this: The Bills have a long history of doing things that are absolutely inexplicable, and losing this game — which would effectively kill their already slim playoff hopes — would rank right near the top of the list of all-time playoff drought era screw-ups. There aren’t many teams the Bills are more talented than, but that’s the case in this game. Buffalo has the better roster from top to bottom, and that should carry the day. Last week in their loss to Jacksonville, the Colts were playing three rookie CBs on passing downs. Combine that with the Colts inability to generate a pass rush (just 20 sacks), and the Buffalo offense should be able to take advantage, even with the inexperienced Peterman expected to be under center. The Bills have reached the annual “must-win” portion of their schedule, and they should be able to get it done. MY PICK: Bills 20, Colts 10.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is the Colts most dynamic
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is the Colts most dynamic offensive player. (Photo: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)
By the Numbers
5 – Straight games in which the Bills defense has allowed a score on the first drive after halftime, four touchdowns and a field goal. The Bills have scored twice on their first possession of the third quarter, both field goals.
3 – NFL teams that rank no better than 25th in both total yards gained, and total yards allowed. The Bills (26th, 27th) and Colts (27th, 29th) are two of the three, and the Giants (28th, 32nd) are the other team.
47 – Times Colts QB Jacoby Brissett has been sacked. It’s the most sacks through a quarterback’s first 12 games of a season since Steve Beuerlein also was sacked 47 times through his first 12 games with Carolina in 2000.