So this is it. No more maybe next year, no more we just need X player, or X coach and then we will get in. No more talk of rebuilds and tanking. The Bills have finally made it to the dance. This season has taken a lot of luck and a lot of patience to get through, there was a lot of post game anger and disgust due to poor play or poor decisions but it was all worth it to get where we are today. The Bills first playoff game in 18 years.
The last time the Bills were in the playoffs I was 15 years old and the team they are facing were going in to their 4th year in the league, most of the players on both teams were just starting school, John Madden was still on the cover and the voice of the madden game. It has been a long time with a lot of ups and downs, a lot of cheering and a lot of sadness. And that sums up just this season.
The Bills are coming into this after beating out the Dolphins for the second time this year. And much like the last game the Bills took their foot off Miami’s throat and almost let them back in. After completely curb stomping and controlling every aspect of the game in the first half the Bills let off and it came down to a walk off interception by Jordan Poyer to end a game that never really looked like a game.
The Bills did their part but still needed some help from the Bengals. The Bengals, like the Bills, had dominated most of the first half but let the Ravens back in in the second half. The Ravens went up late and Bills fans were just hoping for a field goal to tie the game and send it to over time. That last drive of the Bengals game was the most nervous I have ever been about any football game. There were incomplete passes, an interception called back on a penalty, and it started to look like the game was over and the Ravens would be moving on, but hey there is always next year right? But on 4th and 12 Andy Dalton dropped back and threw a strike to Tyler Boyd and a collective sigh of relief as they are in field goal range… but wait he slips threw a tackle, he’s free, no one in front of him… TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!! With barely any time left Baltimore couldn’t mount a come back and the Bills finally snapped the drought.
So we are on to the Wildcard round. The Bills come in with a 9-7 record to face the Jaguars of London er, Jacksonville with a 10-6 record riding the top defense in the league. The Bills have been middle of the road in most stats. The Bills are 6th in rushing but 31st in passing on offense and 20th against the pass and 29th against the run and they are 7th in turnover differential. The Jags are 17th in passing and 1st in rushing on offense, and 1st against pass and 21st against the run with a 5th place turn over differential.
Lets take a closer look at these two teams:
Quarterback – Push: While Bortles has more yards, 4009 passing and rushing, and more touchdowns, 21 passing and 2 rushing, he also has 3 times as many turnovers, 13 interceptions and 3 fumbles. Tyrod comes in with a conservative 3226 all purpose yards and 14 passing touchdowns with 4 rushing touchdowns along with only 4 interceptions and one fumble. So while Tyrod doesn’t help the team he also doesn’t hurt the team as much as Bortles.
Running Back – Push: Both running backs have had great years. Fournette has had over 1000 yards rushing, 302 yards receiving and 10 TDs while Shady has had just over 1100 yards rushing 448 receiving and 8 TDs. Making this a very close matchup but Shady is coming in with an injury so it should be interesting how this goes Sunday.
Wide Receivers – Jacksonville: Its not even close, Jacksonville has way better wide receivers. I’m not going to throw all kinds of stats around on this because there is no point.
Tight Ends – Push: Jacksonville has a slight edge in Touchdowns with 2 more than the Bills but Buffalo has almost twice as many yards out of Clay and O’Leary. This is a another close battle to watch with the TE’s leading the Bills receiving attack and Lewis coming in with an injury.
Offensive Line – Jacksonville: This is another one that’s not even close. Jacksonville has given up almost half the sacks Buffalo has and rushed for 200 more yards. Buffalo has given up 47 sacks. This will be a huge matchup going up against the leagues top sacking team in Jacksonville. I hope Tyrod is ready to run.
Front 7 – Jacksonville: Both teams are sub par vs the run. The Bills have given up 1994 rushing yards while the Jaguars have given up 1860 rushing yards, but the Jags have 55 sacks compared to the Bills 27 sacks. The Bills need a heavy dose of run game and to keep the Jags front 7 in check if they want to win this.
Defensive Backs – Jacksonville: The Jags secondary is the top in the league. They lead the league in fewest passing yards given up and they are up there in interceptions as well. The Bills get well timed turn overs and are towards the top in interceptions but they also give a lot of yards up in the passing game. Some of this could be caused by the lack of pressure getting to the QB but some is caused by missed tackles and poor coverage.
Special Teams – Push: Both kickers have been excellent. Jags have 30 field goals while the Bills have 29.
Coaching – Bills: As a fan who has seen both these coaches at work I have to give the edge to McDermott. While Marrone has been less conservative at his new job I still don’t think he’s a great coach. Like in Buffalo, Marrone has benefited from having a great defense. In a weaker division, with a much better roster and with one of the easier schedules in the NFL Marrone was only 1 game better than the Bills. McDermott has taken a team that at the beginning of the year was predicted to win 4-6 games and was supposedly tanking and made them a playoff team.
Prediction: 24-23 Bills. The Bills will edge this one out by Blake Bortles doing something Blake Bortlesesque.