Thad’s Three Things: Bills vs. Colts

Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 09: Denico Autry #96 of the Indianapolis Colts attempts to tackle Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of an AFC Wild Card playoff game at Bills Stadium on January 09, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)

Three things on my mind as the Bills prepare for only their second home game since October 3rd(!)…

Back To Jacksonville

Barring a last minute Covid list miracle, the Bills will be without Spencer Brown and Jon Feliciano for the second time in three games. The first time against the Jaguars Buffalo played Ike Boettger and Cody Ford at guard while also moving Daryl Williams back to tackle. It did not go well.

I would be stunned if the Bills try the same combo this week against the Colts. As much faith as this organization showed in Ford during the offseason and at the start of this year, he has been bad enough his last two games that he should be stapled to the bench on Sunday. My guess is Williams stays at guard where he has been better this season and Sean McDermott tries something different at tackle.

Ryan Bates is the likeliest choice because he is the only guy left on the roster that has any sort of reasonably competent track record. Rookie Tommy Doyle is still as green as it gets with only 15 snaps on offense so far this year. Newly re-signed Bobby Hart was bad enough in preseason that the news of him rejoining the Bills petrified BillsMafia. Jamil Douglas played tackle in college, but really has never manned that position in the NFL.

This might not be just a one game problem. McDermott has been non-committal about whether Feliciano, who is eligible to come off injured reserved for Buffalo’s game against the Saints, would be healthy enough to play just four days after Sunday. Brown’s stay on the Covid list is nebulous at best and very possible to last all the way to Thursday. Actions speak louder than words in the NFL. Adding a player like Hart who knows the system from his time with the Bills in training camp might be all the answer anyone needs regarding the future status of Brown and Feliciano. The good news is almost any solution Buffalo tries with the banged up O-line must be better than what they did in Jacksonville.

Need A Star For A Star

As much as the injuries on the offensive line are a concern, the loss of Star Lotulelei would be arguably more problematic because of the opponent this week. Lotulelei is also on the Covid list and did not practice all week.

With Derrick Henry injured, Jonathan Taylor is probably the NFL’s number one current running back. The stats say so. Taylor is tied with Henry for the most rushing yards in the NFL so far this season and is more than two hundred yards ahead of everybody else. He has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last seven games.

The Bills defense has been dominant in all areas and stopping the run is no different. Henry is the only back who has rushed for more than 70 yards against Buffalo all year. That said, the list of Buffalo’s victims at running back is not overly impressive and I think Taylor will do a decent amount of damage on Sunday. It’s not just the loss of Lotulelei that hurts. Justin Zimmer’s season-ending injury forces someone like Efe Obada into a significant part of the defensive tackle rotation. Although I love Obada as an interior pass rusher, he has been the liability this year against the run.

The goal for the Bills this week isn’t to dominate Taylor. They just need to make sure they don’t get dominated by him.

It’s MVP Time

Even though the Colts have a secondary anchored by super talented Xavier Rhodes, it has been the top Indy weakness by far. Just two weeks ago, Frank Reich’s crew surrendered 400 yards passing to the vaunted combo of Mike White and Josh Johnson. At home.

Indianapolis has one of the lowest blitz rates in the NFL and they are only 29th in quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Reference. That means they don’t attack the quarterback much and they don’t get home with the front four much, either.

The Colts’ 10 interceptions do rank seventh in the NFL, but all the passes that they don’t catch usually end up in a good spot. Indy has surrendered the most touchdown passes in the league.

There’s no reason that Josh Allen can’t have a banner day against the Colts on Sunday. The rib issue that continues to plague Cole Beasley is a concern, but Gabriel Davis and the return of Dawson Knox should more than make up for it. I think the story on any Bills win will include the words “Josh Allen” and “MVP’ in the first paragraph.

The Pick

The title of the top of the column says I get only three things but want to slide an extra one in here real quick on The Curious Case of Carson Wentz.

This is a quarterback that last year was known for doing the dumbest thing possible almost every other snap and he’s shown a willingness this year to throw passes left handed from his own end zone. Yet Wentz’s three interceptions this season are less than all but one other regular starter. The Bills turnover prone secondary on the other side Sunday screams regression. If I could see the future on one stat to determine my game prediction, Colts interceptions thrown would be it.

This is a big spot for the Bills. This is a team that has been exceptionally healthy under McDermott and generally hasn’t had to deal with much run of the mill NFL adversity the last couple seasons. When they have faced such adversity, the outcome has been rough. Three missing offensive starters flipped the clock on Allen back to his rookie season with three turnovers and six points against Jacksonville. The Tennessee Covid mess last year produced the worst defeat in a Josh Allen start.

The Bills would probably lose the battle on the line of scrimmage to the Colts even if they had everyone healthy. Their likely situation upfront on Sunday makes the disadvantage even worse. However, Buffalo proved last week against the Jets how high level skill personnel can overwhelm games in the current NFL. It needs to happen again versus the Colts.

Allen has to play like a guy who’s worth 258 million. I think he will. I think you can count on Allen, in particular, and the Bills, in general, to learn from their mistakes and to learn fast. They improve and they don’t let small problems fester in the season killing issues.

I think being home helps a lot this week and I think Buffalo gets it done. Give me the Bills 30-24 in a game that will feel very similar to last year’s playoff win against Indianapolis.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

NBA Stats

Donate Now to the Food For Families Food Drive

Trending Stories

Rochester Rundown
What's Good with Dan Gross
Songs From Studio B
Download Our App

Don't Miss