The Buffalo Bills are fresh off their fourth consecutive AFC East title win, and while that is celebrated in Western New York, Bills Mafia wants more. They want it to be four straight playoffs with a win. That starts by getting a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the AFC Wild Card Round. Several factors will go into a Bills win, and one has already been decided, with Mike Tomlin declaring former Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt out for this game. While that doesn’t count as one of my five keys to a Bills victory, here are my thoughts on those keys when Pittsburgh and Buffalo take the field Monday at 4:30 in beautiful Orchard Park, New York.
The Bills are sixth in the NFL in points per game at 26.5. Conversely, the Steelers are only scoring 17.9 points per game, which is 28th in the league. That number gets even better for the Bills at home, where they score just under 30 points per game. I don’t want to blow your mind with math, but if Buffalo scores 30 and the Steelers score 18, that will be a Bills win. Add to that the normally steel curtain of defense in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are also 21st in yards per rush allowed and 21st in yards per pass allowed. Symmetry if you’re the team facing that defense. One last piece of evidence about the scoring prowess of these two teams:
Bend, Don’t Break
As stated above, the Steelers do not score very often, and that behooves the Buffalo Bills. However, should Mason Rudolph be able to guide the Pittsburgh sleigh in Buffalo, the Bills’ defense needs to stand up in the red zone. The Steelers enter the playoffs scoring touchdowns on just 47.6% of their red zone trips, 27th in the league. They also only score 1.8 touchdowns per game, which is also 27th in the league.
Let Josh Be Josh
Josh Allen finished first in the NFL in total yards and total touchdowns. I don’t care what the weather is like at One Bills Drive on Monday at 4:30 – let Josh be Josh. If he can’t pass because of the wind/snow and his 4,306 passing yards and 29 touchdowns are thwarted, let him be a white rhino and demolish the ground game. Allen was second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 15. No, this isn’t out of quarterbacks, but of all players. Let the backfield do their thing, and that includes Allen. The Steelers are 19th in rushing yards per game allowed and 21st in rushing yards allowed per attempt. This all adds up to the Bills being able to move the ball by air, land, or hell, even by sea!
Stack the Box
This isn’t so much out of respect for Najee Harris or Jaylen Warren but out of a lack of threat from the Steelers’ passing attack, who has pretty much played three backups all season in Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, and this weekend’s starter Rudolph. The Steelers come in with the 28th-highest pass-play percentage of 52.7%. Of those plays, they only complete 63.8%, which is 21st in the NFL. Looking even closer at those numbers, 6.3 yards per pass play is 22nd, 186.1 yards per game is 25th, and 29.8 pass plays a game is 29th.
Respect the Ball
If the weather is as bad as everyone is predicting, ball security will be even more important than normal. The Steelers are one of the best teams at taking it away already with 1.6 takeaways per game, good enough for eighth in the NFL. They also come down with a pick on 2.8% of attempts which is 11th in the league. I don’t need to tell you that Allen is also known by some for his turnovers. Couple all three of those things together and it could be bad.