The Buffalo Bills enter week 14 atop the AFC East at 9-3, set to do battle with the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. This may be the most important game of the season so far for the Bills. Can Josh Allen and the Bills take advantage of a weakened Steelers defence? What happens if they win this week? So many questions will be answered at the end of those 60 minutes.
Before getting into the specifics of the Bills and Steelers game, let’s take a closer look at the current standings in the AFC East:
Buffalo Bills (9-3)
The Bills enter week 14 one game ahead of the Dolphins. Their previous encounter in week 2 saw the Bills come away with a victory. Buffalo has a solid lead over the rest of the division and the fate of their season rests firmly in their hands. Their final four games of the season are all conference games, including divisional matchups against the Patriots and Dolphins.
Miami Dolphins (8-4)
The Miami Dolphins are hot on the heels of the Bills, only one game back. The ‘Fins face-off against the Chiefs this week. The Dolphins defence is no joke and the Chiefs will not have an easy path to victory. Miami enters week 14 ranking first in third-down percentage, second in points allowed per game, eighth in sacks per pass attempt and ninth in red-zone percentage. KC should still win, but it will be a tougher game than you might imagine. Miami plays NE next week followed by the Raiders in week 16. If the Chiefs lose to the Dolphins this week, Miami’s week 17 matchup vs Buffalo could possibly decide the winner of the AFC East.
New England Patriots (6-7)
The Patriots entered week 14 having embarrassed the LA Chargers, 45-0. However, their victory lap was short lived. They suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Rams 24-3 this past Thursday night. At this point, the Patriots are on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff hopes. They face Buffalo in week 16, which could be critical to the final standings should Buffalo lose this week.
New York Jets (0-12)
The lowly Jets are the only winless team in the NFL this year. They lost a last second heart breaker to Derek Carr and the Raiders in week 13. They face Seattle this week in a game that the Seahawks should win. The AFC East title fight is between the Bills and Miami. The Jets will not figure into the final outcome of the division.
Break Down of the Bills and the Steelers
Entering week 14, let’s break down each team on both sides of the ball.
The Buffalo Bills are hot off a solid outing on both sides of the ball. They are the 23rd ranked rush defence, yet held the 49ers to a measly 86 yards on the ground. Much lower than the 129 yard per game average they had coming into week 13. The pass defence gave up three TD’s and 316 total air yards. The final TD to Reed came after the game was well in hand for the Bills. As a result, the stats look worse on paper than the actual performance. The real Bills pass defence is a bend but don’t break defence and looked fine. I do not see much changing in the weeks to come.
The Bills offence looked excellent last week. Josh Allen in particular looked spectacular. His pocket presence was as good as I have seen it all season and he remained calm under pressure. He stepped up in the pocket when he had time, and scrambled when needed. Allen’s Achilles heel entering 2020 was his accuracy. He appeared to have solved that issue the first four weeks of the season. So much so that he was in the conversation about possible league MVP.
After a mid-season lapse, Allen once again regained his composure in week 13. Throw after throw, whether in the pocket or scrambling, his passes were laser accurate. Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs led the Bills through the air. Beasley was excellent with 130 yards on nine receptions and a TD. Diggs had 92 yards on 10 receptions. When SF played zone, Allen found Beasley over and over. When in man defence, Diggs was too much for Richard Sherman to handle. The offence is in high gear and there are only good things on the horizon for the Bills on this side of the ball.
Big Ben and the Steelers suffered their first defeat of the season last week to the Washington Football Team. Key losses on defence can impact any team, including the Steelers. Robert Spillane hurt his knee in the 3rd quarter and left the game. Joe Haden was concussed and left in the 4th quarter. Bud Dupree was already a huge loss to Pittsburgh’s linebacking core, out for the season with a torn ACL in week 12. In the second half of week 13, Alex Smith took full advantage of those losses, connecting over and over again with his receivers. WFT came back from a 14 – 3 deficit at the half to tie the game in the 4th quarter. Hopkins then slotted two late 45 yard field goals to seal the victory for the WFT.
Coming into this week, another of Pittsburgh’s star linebackers, Vince Williams, is on the COVID-19 list and will not be available. Defensively, Pittsburgh is not as scary a matchup for opposing teams as it was only a couple weeks ago.
Offensively, Pittsburgh could not have started week 13 any better. WFT defence did not seem to have an answer for the second quarter arial attack. Diontae Johnson and James Washington scored two TDs, leading Pittsburgh into the locker room at half time up by 11. The second half was a totally different story for the Steelers. Eric Ebron, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and even sure handed JuJu Smith-Schuster dropped key passes that stalled drives over and over again. Wright potted a 37 yard FG for the only score the Black and Gold would see in the 4th quarter. In an interview with NFL media this week, Roethlisberger said he was largely to blame for the lack of offensive production. He was not perfect, but the dropped passes were the real issue.
What Will We See This Week?
Can the Bills beat the Steelers? Vegas says yes, but have it very close at Bills -2 with an implied point total of 48.5. Pittsburgh will have James Connor back this week, who will likely be heavily utilized. Diontae Johnson and the rest of the receiving core will see their share of targets as well. Buffalo’s defence has their hands full and will need to stop the second half flood gates from opening for Pittsburgh. The Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL in second half points allowed on defence.
Buffalo’s real chance for victory comes on the opposite side of the ball. Josh Allen and his powerful core of offensive studs need to keep the chains moving. They can do this by exploiting the Steelers’ weakened secondary through the air. Haden would normally be a real difference maker in man-to-man coverage. Without him, I think Diggs will be able to find space deep down field. The loss of both starting inside linebackers (Dupree and Williams), weakens the pass rush considerably. This leaves TJ Watt as the main threat to Josh. TJ is a pro-bowl calibre linebacker and will certainly cause some havoc in the pocket. The Bills’ O-line must focus on him the way teams focus on his brother JJ in Houston.
If Buffalo can slow down TJ Watt and the Steelers’ pass rush, Allen should have enough time to see Beasley find soft spots in the middle. Cole is as good at they come at finding ways to move the chains; this week shouldn’t be any different. Can the Buffalo Bills beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 14? Yes they can. I see them winning a close one at home 27-24, taking them to 10-3 on the year.