Three things on my mind as the Bills and I get ready to freeze our backside off in a Christmas Eve game against the Bears…
Here We Go Again
It’s gonna be so cold Saturday that I wonder if anyone on the field will be able to feel any extremities by halftime. The forecast is still for temps in the single digits with wind chills opening at 20-below in the morning and “warming” to -10 by kickoff. The cold doesn’t affect football play all that much. It’s more the wind that teams have to worry about.
Generally, the dividing line between wind affecting a game and not having an impact is 15 miles per hour. The forecast has hung all week at sustained winds over 20 miles per hour with gusts going higher than that. Needless to say, it’s going to very likely have an impact.
The Bills learned some good lessons about playing through the wind against the Patriots last year in that Monday night loss. Buffalo went into that game thinking they had to run the ball and use all kinds of jumbo sets, but realized about halfway through that Josh Allen’s arm is still strong enough to be somewhat effective despite the wind. It should keep the Bills offense two-dimensional enough to make the Bears play defense honestly and not overplay the run.
The wind and the weather in general still does favor the Bears. If this game were in a dome, the Bills probably would have 30 by halftime (Chicago’s defense is muy no bueno). In the conditions expected, Buffalo’s talent advantage gets muted and the weather should help the one thing that can make the Bears dangerous…
Justin Fields Forever
Justin Fields is an absolute force of nature. He is a freight train. He is a walking 50-yard touchdown. Beyond that, he still has a lot to learn as a quarterback. As a passer, he is OK at times. It certainly doesn’t help that his receiving options peak at Cole Kmet right now, but there’s still a lot Fields can do better as a thrower.
The Bills have done a good job against rushing quarterbacks in the past, particularly Lamar Jackson. Most of the defensive guys this week wouldn’t compare Jackson and Fields and they really shouldn’t. While Jackson is more a jitterbug, as mentioned already, Fields is more locomotive.
Either way, this is a defense that is accustomed to handling a rushing quarterback. It doesn’t mean Fields can’t have some success on the ground. He’s made amazing plays and scored points on everybody. At the end of the day, the Bills should figure out how to contain Fields enough for a win.
The Mouses Of The Midway
The Bears are just plain awful on defense. They are 29th in yards per play allowed and that might be the good news. Chicago is 27th against the run. They are 30th in passing yards allowed per play. They are also dead last in sacks, pass breakups and 3rd down defense. There isn’t a single player that should cause the slightest headache for offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey this week.
If there was ever a game for Mitch Morse to be out injured, this is the one. The Bears don’t blitz much and they don’t get home with their front four rush either. They are second last in the NFL in pressure percentage and have the least quarterback hits in the league by 22!
Wind or no wind, the Bills have no excuse not to move the ball enough for a win if not enough to put this game out of reach early. This could be a good day to pump some success and confidence into the non-Josh Allen rush unit.
Went 1-2 last week thanks to one damn Isaiah McKenzie scramble drill catch. Dropped to 20-23 on the season and I’m in the red 1.2 units.
- James Cook over 28.5 yards rushing. In a game where passing won’t be quite as easy and where the Bills should be able to run the ball without much issue, I’m taking the running back over that’s got a smaller number. Devin Singletary’s 47.5 yards looks good for an over also, but I might get some extra Cook carries if the game gets out of hand late.
- Kmet under 29.5 yards receiving. Any of the receiving unders for either team are probably a good play in this game. Especially on the Bears side with an offense that doesn’t pass the ball well in any conditions. Kmet is still probably Chicago’s best receiving weapon, so fair warning there, but this number would have been good in two of the last four games anyway. Plus, Buffalo has been tough on tight ends all year.
- Singletary any time touchdown. The Bears are dead last in the NFL by five in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed. They actually do a decent job in preventing passing touchdowns (7th best in preventing TD passes by percentage). Taking a swing at Singletary cashing in a drive feels like a smart play.
- Also like: McKenzie under 2.5 receptions. I almost put this in the main three bets, but I feel like this bet is a bit of a frustration tilt after he got me beat last week. Fields plus 0.5 touchdown passes versus Allen. There might not be any TD passes in this game. Taking a swing on this at plus-135 feels fun.
The Bills are the much better team and they have a whole lot more to play for. Usually, the latter is all the info needed to pick a winner late in the season. The former definitely also helps.
The cold won’t hurt the football play much, but it certainly could impact player psyche. The Bears are 3-11 and their season has been long over. If the Bills can get out to any sort of lead and look like they’re going to control this game as expected, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears tuck tail and just get this thing over with. They’re human beings like anyone else. I’m sure they would rather be at home celebrating Christmas Eve than getting beat up playing out the string in 20-below wind chills.
The wind does remain a concerning mitigating factor. This is still the NFL. If this game ends in the same 14-10 manner Bills-Patriots did in the wind last year, anything can happen.
I do wonder if the wind and the cold is actually a benefit for the Bills. This game has all kinds of look ahead potential for the Bills with a gigantic matchup against Cincinnati just after New Year’s. The weather being such an issue may focus the Bills enough to make sure they take care of business.
One way or another, I think this ends up a win for Buffalo. They’re just too damn good. The Bears are just too damn bad. It won’t be super pretty, but Bills fans should feel pretty good opening their Christmas presents Sunday morning. Give me the Bills 20-10.