This week marks the start of the NFL Playoffs. The first game on Saturday will be the Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills. Both the Bills and the Colts won their game last week. However, the two games could not have differed more. Buffalo had already secured the AFC East. While the Colts were fighting for the AFC South division title.
What We Saw Last Week
Buffalo Bills Offense
This game was competitive for three quarters of the first half then the Bills took over. The first half was largely the Isaiah McKenzie show with two receiving touchdowns and one punt return for an 84 yard score. John Brown added a fourth touchdown to the board on a 32 yard touch pass from Josh Allen. It was in the back right corner of the end zone before half time. The Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley came in to the game in the third quarter. Buffalo tacked on 28 more points on a Dolphins defense that looked beaten down and utterly disinterested.
The second half of the game was high scoring. Aside from the practice squad running back Antonio Williams scoring a pair of touchdowns. It was not an entertaining 30 minutes of football. Let’s hope that Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon will be a better contest.
- Passing: 18/25/224/3/1
- Rushing: 2/3/0
- Receiving: 7/8/76/0
- Receiving: 6/65/2
- Punt return 1/84/1
Indianapolis Colts Offense
The Colts game plan coming into week 17 was get the ball into the hands of Jonathan Taylor early and often. They wanted to beat the Jags into submission by running the ball down their throats. So that is exactly what they did. Taylor rushed for 253 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns. He actually crossed the goal line three times with the ball in hand but the third was taken off the board. With 2:19 left in the first quarter (what would have been) his first touchdown on the day was negated due to a 15 yard face mask penalty from Jared Veldheer.
The passing attack was almost non existent. Philip Rivers did not look good in this game. His arm looked tired and was very inaccurate. After watching this game, there was no mistaking why Frank Reich and his Offensive Coordinator wanted to run as much as possible. Rivers is cooked. He’s as cooked as Cam Newton is. He can manage a game just fine, but cannot be trusted to win the game with his arm.
- Passing: 17/27/164/1/1
- Rushing: 30/253/2
- Rushing: 2/17/0
- Receiving: 6/7/50/0
- Receiving: 3/7/27/1
Buffalo Bills Defense
The Bills defense was given a major helping hand coming into week 17 as the Miami Dolphins was without Ryan Fitzpatrick due to Covid-19. Fitzpatrick came into the game in week 16 when Tua was struggling. He ultimately led the ‘Fins to victory over the Raiders in a thrilling last minute drive. The media and the Dolphins fans were excited to see what rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa could do with the reigns taken off. Surprisingly, Miami continued to keep a tight leash on Tagovailoa and did not let him loose.
The defensive story for the Bills was a tale of two halves. The first half was dominated by the Bills. They allowed only two field goals. Leslie Frazier called complex blitz and stunt packages in the first half which confused Tua. It led to a very unimpressive first half.
The Bills came out of the tunnel in the second half knowing that the Dolphins had no chance to keep up with them on either side of the ball. While the first half was full of complicated defensive fronts and many blitz packages, the second half was a very basic defensive package. The calls were straight forward and much easier for Tua to read. Buffalo played zone while daring the rookie to throw the ball down the field.
The Bills did score a defensive touchdown, but it was not due to a spectacular play. The Dolphins started their drive from their own 16 yard line after a 34 yard punt from Bojorquez. On the first play, Tua wanted to get the ball to Parker on a quick slant on the left side of the field. DeVantae Parker slipped and fell. It left Josh Norman with possible the easiest pick six of his career.
Buffalo’s defensive core led by Tre’ White have looked good the past month. They were clearly ready to take it to the Dolphins and their inexperienced signal caller.
- Passing yards allowed: 393
- Rushing yards allowed: 70
- Sacks: 1
- Interceptions: 3
- Forced Fumbles: 1
- Touchdowns allowed: 3
- Field Goals allowed: 2
Indianapolis Colts Defense
The Colts defense did what they had to do. The game was not overly impressive from a defensive standpoint. Jacksonville’s offense was led by career backup Mike Glennon and were missing their two biggest offensive weapons. Rookie running back James Robinson and stud wide receiver DJ Chark were sidelined due to injury. The only two scores Indy allowed came with 27 seconds left in the second quarter then again Jacksonville’s first drive in the second half. The Colts simply were not tested last week. They will face a much tougher challenge this week.
- Passing yards allowed: 336
- Rushing yards allowed: 104
- Sacks: 3
- Forced Fumbles: 1
- Touchdowns allowed: 2
- Field Goals allowed: 4
Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills This Week
Buffalo Bills Key to Victory
The biggest story to keep an eye on this week is whether or not Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley will be available. Coach Sean McDermott has said that he is unsure of the two receivers status for Saturday. When asked about his injury, Diggs told reporters on Wednesday “I’m cool. No major issues. Don’t believe everything you read.” Last week we saw the return of John Brown and no Cole Beasley.
If Beasley and Diggs are out again, the Bills will need John Brown to step up. The game plan will most likely be trying to get Brown down field and give Davis a chance to outmuscle opposing backs in one on one opportunities. Dawson Knox will need to be at his best and catch balls over the middle as a check down option for Josh Allen. The Bills will also be looking for another big day from Isaiah McKenzie.
The run defense for the Bills has improved over the past month, but is still not what it looked like last season. The defensive game plan this week should be relatively the same as last week: stop the run game at all costs. Jonathan Taylor has gashed defenses lately for big chunk gains and multi touchdown games. The Bills linebacking core have a very difficult task ahead of them, but one that is manageable.
Indianapolis Colts Key to Victory
The key here is simple: get the ball into the hands of their running backs early and often. Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor are the two biggest offensive weapons on the team. Yes that’s right, Nyheim Hines is a better weapon than TY Hilton. The reason for this has nothing to do with Hilton’s ability, but rather the lack of ability in Philip Rivers’ arm. With a better quarterback, Hilton would be a much bigger part of the game plan. Hilton needs to be targeted and take some of the pressure off of the run game. However, the Colts know what Rivers can do. They need to grind out clock and keep Josh Allen off the field for as much of the game as possible.
The Indianapolis defense have proven that they are able to contain a high octane passing attack with their win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Colts will need to find a way to get pressure on Josh Allen. That means Darius Leonard and Deforest Buckner need to penetrate the Bills O-line. Josh Allen has had an average of almost four seconds in the pocket to find an open receiver. On top of limiting the amount of time in the pocket, they will also have to ensure they contain Josh Allen. They can’t allow him to scramble and extend the drive. Allen is one of the best in the business throwing on the run and the Colts know it.
Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills is going to come down to defense. If the Colts can contain the hottest passing attack in the NFL this week and impose their will on the ground with Jonathan Taylor. Then they will have a real shot at winning. For Buffalo, if they kick off this week without Diggs and Beasley then it will be an all hands on deck approach to victory.
I do not expect a low scoring game. However, the Colts defense is very good. They should be able to contain the Bills high octane offense to a respectable stat line.
Bills win 34-21
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