Three things on the tip of my tongue as the Bills get ready to begin their postseason run…
Fake (Injury) News?
Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley have spent all week on the Bills injury report. Both are questionable for Saturday’s game. Yet, the situations are likely very different.
Diggs said on Wednesday he was fine. He looked fine dancing around in practice on Thursday. The best reason to think his oblique injury won’t keep him out of the lineup was provided before all that.
When he appeared on the availability list for media Wednesday morning, that made him a lock to play. NFL players are almost never made available for interviews when they are injured. That even goes for the non-Covid days when reporters were granted access into locker rooms. If the Bills are allowing Diggs to speak with media, the organization is overwhelmingly confident he will play.
Beasley is another story. He was MIA after the game in New England with a knee injury until he appeared in practice Thursday. He looked pretty healthy in the limited portion media was allowed to view of that Thursday workout. However, five “did not practice’s” and a limited practice is hardly the indication of a guy who is ready to play.
It is the playoffs. Beasley is going to make every effort to contribute. I think the most likely scenario is that he plays, but is limited in some way.
The Colts might have an ascending star in rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. He can run away from you. He can dance around you. He can run through you. Don’t be surprised if he’s the first guy taken in your 2022 fantasy draft.
His last six games totaled 741 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s a 2000 yard, 19 touchdown pace. Sure, his 253 yards last weekend against Jacksonville helped (everyone’s games against Jacksonville help), but this is far from a one week wonder.
The Bills have been better against the run lately. Part is a defensive improvement, but part is because Josh Allen and the Touchdown Tribe has been scoring so much that opponents can’t keep up without ditching the run offense.
If the Colts can somehow avoid the boat-racing Buffalo has been dishing out weekly, the Bills defense will be vulnerable to Taylor. Don’t look past his backfield mate, either. Nyheim Hines might be the best pass catching, third down, change of pace back not named Kareem Hunt. A Colts upset will, undoubtedly, include big games by one or both.
Hearing Some Noise
BillsMafia will finally get to be a part of this magical Buffalo football season. Sixty-seven hundred of them, anyway.
The stadium will be about as full as a decent high school championship game. There will be noise, but not nearly enough to impact the Colts as they make audibles and checks at the line.
Where the impact will be felt is on the Bills sideline. Buffalo players have been dying to share their success with the fans. The jolt of energy from finally getting that chance will be immense. In fact, the Bills this week have discussed the danger of becoming a walking live wire and the need to remain under some level of control.
This goes more for an offensive player than the defensive guys. If the Bills can build the type of quick lead that was a weekly occurrence in December, it might just unleash their defense. Indy might find themselves underneath an avalanche triggered by the shouting of the first few thousand voices this year that get to cheer for the Bills in person.
The Colts deserve respect. It takes a pretty good team to win 11 games. Philip Rivers may be miles past his prime, but he still led the 11st best passing offense in the NFL this year. T.Y. Hilton didn’t top 70 yards receiving for his first ten games, but he averaged better than 70 over his last six. Indy has elite players on both lines (Quenton Nelson and DeForest Buckner), at linebacker (Darius Leonard) and at corner (Xavier Rhodes).
I still don’t give them much of a chance. One of their calling cards is defense and, yet, they’ve allowed 300 yards passing in four of their last five and five of their last seven. Allen should have no problem piling up the yards and, potentially, building a big lead. The Indy offense has rallied from a pair of large deficits, but one was against the Bengals and the other involved forcing four turnovers (against the Packers).
The latter scenario is the one that should worry Bills fans the most. For all his success this year, Allen still turned it over 16 times. Only six players had more. A three turnover game from the QB who melted down spectacularly in his only playoff performance, so far, cannot be totally discounted.
I just don’t see it happening. Allen is a much better player this year and has been playing at an incredible level the last three or four weeks. Plus, he’s now throwing to Diggs and not Duke (Williams). I also don’t think there’s a team on God’s Green Earth who is going to beat the Bills in their first game with fans.
This is the first ever 2-seed versus a 7-seed in the NFL playoffs and I think it’ll be harbinger of blowouts in this matchup to come. Give me the Bills to look just like they’ve looked against Denver, New England, Miami, etc. and spoil Frank Reich’s return with a Buffalo 34-10 win.