The Buffalo Bills are back-to-back-to-back-to-back AFC East champions thanks to capping a five-game winning streak by beating the Miami Dolphins in the Sunshine State, 21-14. The Bills now turn their attention to a fourth straight season of hosting a playoff game when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town on Sunday. Buffalo currently sits as a 10-point favorite, a number that has been bet up from nine. The implied score for this game is Bills 23, Steelers 13. All of the Bills Mafia would take that or even a one-point win when it comes to the postseason. With the oddsmakers numbers behind us, let’s get into my five storylines (plus a bonus) to watch as the Bills host the AFC Wild Card round versus the Steelers on Sunday at 1:00.
Survive and Advance
I’ve said numerous times that I can’t stand the term must-win game when it truly isn’t must-win, but Buffalo has been playing virtual playoff games since they were 6-6. In those games, the Bills have gone 5-0 to get to 11-6 and earned a fourth straight AFC East title. Pressure either bursts pipes or makes diamonds. So far, it has produced several gems, but now the Bills need to keep that going into this weekend.
I know many fans aren’t happy that the Bills haven’t won a Super Bowl with Josh Allen as the franchise QB. However, over the last few seasons, they have found rare success. Buffalo is one of two teams (Kansas City Chiefs) to win at least one playoff game each of the last three seasons. If things fall their way in Orchard Park and Miami can stay warm enough to upset KC, it would be neat to say Buffalo is the only team to have won a playoff game in the last four seasons.
The Bills left South Beach with a win and the division championship, but also with a bunch of ice bags. Gabe Davis, Rasul Douglas, Ty Johnson, and Tyrel Dodson all left the game at one point or another and did not return. As of writing, these three still hadn’t practiced and Johnson was limited. Taylor Rapp was also a DNP with a knee injury. There is still plenty of time to get back before Sunday, but it is worth monitoring. On the other sideline, TJ Watt – the NFL sack leader – has been ruled out for Pittsburgh.
The Bills are 4-1 at home in the playoffs with Allen under center. The lone loss came last year to the Cincinnati Bengals in what was the last game of a very difficult season. Before that, they had gone 4-0 with blowout wins over the Ravens (+14) and the Patriots (+30). Whether it’s the Mafia firing the squad up, the weather (doesn’t make a ton of sense with those wins over Baltimore and New England), or just sleeping in their beds. Whatever makes the Bills tick at home, keep doing.
Defense Wins Championships
Three of the top four teams in the AFC playoffs have coaches with defensive backgrounds. Sean McDermott and Mike Tomlin have a defensive background, so the new thought that you can’t have success with a defensive coach seems debunked. Now, I will admit, those coaches need to make a run at a Super Bowl to truly put this to bed. Anyway, that wasn’t my point for this segment. My point is that Buffalo should be able to rely on its defense in this game. Without getting too deep into the woods on stats – we’ll save that for the keys to victory piece – the Steelers average less than 18 points per game, 28th out of 32 in the league. The Bills’ defense only allows just over 18 points per game. Couple that with the Bills’ offense being sixth in the league in scoring at 26.5 points per game, and the math seems to add up to a Bills win.
BONUS: Let Josh be Josh! The Wyoming product has 2,334 yards for 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions in eight career playoff games. He’s rushed for another 417 yards and two more scores.