Bills vs. Chargers: Top 5 Storylines to Watch in NFL Week 16

12/20/2023
DB+

The Buffalo Bills are coming off of a 31-10 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys at home last week, and after taking down Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott, they now get ready for games where the opposing quarterbacks are expected to be Easton Stick and Bailey Zappe. No, those aren’t AI-created high school movie villains. First up is a date with Stick and his Los Angeles Chargers, who lost to the Raiders 63-21 last Thursday. I’ve never hidden the fact that I am a Raiders fan; in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have predicted that outcome. The key for the Bills is to not let that performance by L.A. sway how hard they attack this Saturday when they travel west to take on the Chargers at 8:00. Reminder, this game is one of those infuriating “Peacock only” games unless you live in the Buffalo market. Enough of the 10,000-foot view of this game. Let’s get into my five storylines to watch as the Bills visit the Los Angeles Chargers inside the home of the Rams on Saturday night.

Playoffs?

The Bills were being talked about as though they were dead in the water at 6-6, but a pair of wins over playoff-caliber teams has moved them to 8-6 and in a huge gaggle of teams battling for the final few playoff spots. Buffalo has a 70% chance at the playoffs, per the NY Times playoff predictor. If they win out, it’s >99%. Win two of three; it fluctuates between 52% and 65% depending on which two they win. So, we are beyond “so, you’re telling me there is a chance” territory.

MVP Race

Aiden O’Connell just went for 248 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Chargers defense. It’s not unfair to say the Raiders rookie is not in the class of Bills’ Josh Allen, so if the Bills QB can improve on those numbers, he should once again improve his MVP stock. Over the last two weeks, Allen has moved from 10th to fifth to fourth in the MVP odds depending on where you like to donate your money.

Keep Cooking

Can James Cook keep it up? It’s a small sample size, just four games, but the numbers are becoming pretty incredible for Cook under Joe Brady’s playcalling. In those four games, Cook has 68 carries for 353 yards and a touchdown. It’s 16 catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Extrapolated over a 17-game season, that is 289 carries for 1,500 yards with four touchdowns and 68 receptions for 897 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. All told, you’re looking at almost 2,400 all-purpose yards with 17 touchdowns. If he keeps that up, the Bills will keep winning, and his name will have to be mentioned in Pro Bowl, or better, conversations.

New Coach

The Chargers have lost five of six, including the embarrassing defeat to the Raiders leading to the dismissal of Brandon Staley. With the old coach relieved of his duties, in steps interim head coach Giff Smith. Fun fact, Smith started his NFL coaching career in Buffalo as a defensive line coach for the Bills from 2010 to 2012. 

Sticking with Easton

The Bills are coming off of back-to-back wins over Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott, who are both in the top 10 in the MVP odds along with Josh Allen. With Justin Herbert sidelined for the season, the Chargers will again turn to Easton Stick under center. Stick was a four-time FCS champion with North Dakota State before being a fifth round pick of L.A. in 2019.

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