By Frankie Benvenuti | OSJ Staff
After a lengthy drought, the Buffalo Bills are back in the playoffs for the second time in 3 years. This time around, the Bills feel like they could make some noise. They finished with a record of 10-6 and own the number 5 seed in the AFC and play the Houston Texans on Saturday in Wildcard week. Most people are saying the Bills aren’t going to win a game, let alone the Super Bowl. But many people aren’t giving the Bills a fair look. The Bills, like any other team, have strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look over those now.
The Bills defence is among some of the best in the NFL and is the main reason the Bills are in the playoffs this season. The Bills secondary is loaded with talent including Tre’Daviuos White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde. The linebacking core led by Lorenzo Alexander and second year middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds have been good allowing only the occasional big run play. The defensive line, anchored by defensive end Jerry Hughes, has the ability to dial up the pressure and make the quarterback uncomfortable. The defensive tackles - Jordan Phillips, Star Lotulelei, and Ed Oliver - have been good all year long and have held some of the leagues better backs to uneventful games.
Overall, the Bills defence can go toe to toe with any team in the league. The Bills have allowed 25 points only one time this season. They have held the Ravens to 24, the Patriots to 16 and 24 in two games, and the playoff bound Titans to 7. The kicking game can also be described as a strength at times. Stephen Hauschka isn’t the best kicker in the NFL by any means, but he gets the job done. If the Bills rely on Hauschka to win games they won’t be going far, but you can count on him to make the kicks he needs to make. Barring the Cleveland game earlier in the year, Hauschka has been good. You can’t expect a 64 yard field goal to win the game from him, but when you get into range, more often than not he will make the kick.
The offensive unit has been one of the worst in the NFL in terms of yardage and it’s no wonder they rely on the defence to win them games. The Bills have a second year QB who certainly isn’t the most accurate ever. To pair nicely with that, they have undersized receivers, and the one big body they do have rarely sees the field. That big body receiver is ex-Edmonton Eskimo, Duke Williams. Williams may see his way onto the field Saturday after his performance against the Jets in week 17 when the Bills played mostly backups. The running attack has been hit or miss and the aging Frank Gore has been mostly invisible for the second half of the season. Devin Singletary has been the feature back but has had his issues with fumbling the football.
Overall, the Bills offence has been a huge issue for the team the entire season. Oddly enough, the offence, and particularly Josh Allen, become different in the 4th quarter of games. In the 4th quarter Allen has completed 58% of his passes for 782 yards, but more importantly he has thrown for 8 touchdowns without throwing a single interception. In the 4th quarter of games, Allen’s QBR shoots way up to 109.7, while his total QBR is just 85.3. The Bills need to play like it’s the 4th quarter the entire game if they want to win any games in this playoff.
One other major issue for the Bills this season is their punter, Corey Bojorquez. Normally I wouldn’t talk about the punter but, for the Bills, the punter is crucial to team success. Considering the Bills punt many times during the course of the game, they need the punter to flip the field as often as possible. Bojorquez isn’t the best punter in the NFL. If the offence can move the football this point becomes moot. If they can’t, watch for field position to be a key factor in who wins the game this Saturday.
How far will the Bills go?
The Buffalo Bills are being looked at as the underdog in Houston on Saturday, but I don’t think that should be the case. The media have given the Bills little respect this season despite the 10-6 record. The Texans have talent, but the Bills have the talent to shut them down. Tre White has yet to give up a touchdown this season, and I think that is going to continue into the playoffs. The last time the Bills made the playoffs they were happy just to be there, this time around it seems different. They look like a team that is going to shock some people. I would have liked to see them add someone at the deadline to improve on the offensive side of the football, but the solution right now is to tell Josh Allen to play like it’s the 4th quarter all game long.
I am rather confident that the Bills are going to upset the Texans on Saturday on the backs of their defence but, while defence wins championships, the offence will need to do something to get them there. Assuming the Bills are able to get past the Texans, they would likely play the Ravens. If the Titans beat the Patriots, however, then they will play the Chiefs. Call me insane, but I believe the Bills can beat both of these teams. To do so, the Bills defence needs to play like they have the whole season, but they need the offence to play like they have in the 4th quarter of games for a whole game. If the Bills offence is able to catch lightning in a bottle for a couple of games and do this, they are a serious threat to get to the Super Bowl and win.
The unfortunate news for everyone in Bills Mafia is that there is nothing indicating they can do that. The offence has been the same the entire season. I think it’s a longshot for this to happen, even as a Bills fan. Personally, I think the Bills are going to beat Houston but, barring a miracle, the Bills won’t make it out of the divisional round and will lose to either the Ravens or Chiefs. The Bills fan in me wants to believe that a miracle is coming, but I just don’t buy it. Not yet at least. The Buffalo Bills are building something special that Bills Mafia is going to enjoy for years, but it’s not ready yet. These playoffs are going to be a good experience and anything after the wildcard game would be gravy. This is the start of something special, Bills Mafia. Enjoy these playoffs and pray for a miracle.