ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — The last time the Indianapolis Colts were in Orchard Park, the stakes were much higher for both teams. Last year's wild card game was the Buffalo Bills' first playoff win since the turn of the century. This year, though, both teams need a win to stay in the thick of a tough AFC playoff race that is beginning to take shape.
Earlier in the week, I had a typo in a tweet when I called Jonathan Taylor the best. I meant to say he was a beast. As it turns out, both are true. Taylor has become one of the premier players at his position in the NFL and will be one of the toughest tests for the Bills defense all season. But there’s good and bad news. I’m a glass half-full guy, so we’ll start with the good. For the most part, the Bills rush defense has been much better this season than last season.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? The Bills will be without Star Lotulelei because he remains on the COVID-19 reserve list for the second consecutive week. I’d imagine the Bills throw the kitchen sink at both Taylor and Nyhiem Hines to try and limit the explosiveness of the Colts’ two running backs. This will allow quarterback Carson Wentz to have some success in the air if the focus is on stopping the run. But the Bills defense has been great this season and is forcing turnovers more often than any other unit in the league.
As for the Bills offense, it all starts with the line. With Spencer Brown unavailable [COVID list], the Colts should be able to get after Josh Allen like the Jags did a few weeks ago. If the Bills can give Allen an extra second here and there, they should be able to stretch the field for some deep shots against a weak Indianapolis secondary. This game is going to be close. I think the Colts are a really good team and playoff contender. If they were playing in Indianapolis I’d probably go with the Colts. But I’m not picking against the Bills in Orchard Park.
Bills 26, Colts 24
Season Record: 6-3
The Patriots won on Thursday night and the Bills still own a half-game lead in the Division. With their schedule coming up here, every game is going to be crucial... and the tough stretch begins Sunday against the Colts. This is such an intriguing matchup and it's one that I feel can go either way as each team has its strengths and weaknesses.
When you look at Indianapolis, their offense runs through running back Jonathan Taylor and for good reason, considering he leads the league in rushing yards. He's run for over 100 yards in five games this season and those five games are the five wins the Colts have. Stopping Taylor is key for this Bills defense, who have solid good against the run this season. The last time they weren't? Week six against Derrick Henry, who also was the center of a team's offense before he was injured.
When you look at the Bills offense, they've had some good games, but they haven't peaked just yet. While their pass game is better than the Colts' pass defense in my opinion, the big question mark is going to be whether Josh Allen will have TIME to throw. Spencer Brown is currently on the Reserve/COVID list and with the team signing Bobby Hart to the active roster, signs point to Brown not being able to play on Sunday. That's a big loss for a Bills offense live who has struggled to protect Allen when it comes to going up against a strong defensive line. To avoid another Jacksonville outing, the line needs to step things up and keep Allen on the ground, or this one could get ugly with Indianapolis being a far superior offense than the one Jacksonville has.
I think this is going to be a close one, just like the last time these two teams met... but in this one, I'm taking the Colts. Here's the thing... I've picked against the Bills once this season (back in week 5 where they proved me wrong and beat the Kansas City Chiefs). So, fans should hope me picking up against them is a "good thing."
Colts: 28, Bills: 24
Season Record: 5-4
Both Matt and Jenna have said plenty about Jonathan Taylor. Stopping the Colts starts with slowing down their workhorse running back. The Bills were able to do that in last year's playoffs, and it yielded a favorable result. This year, Leslie Frazier's unit is head and shoulders above the 2020 defense. That's a positive sign.
The next biggest thing for the Bills is their ball security. Buffalo has been taking the ball away more than any other team in the league. But if anyone can challenge them, it's the Colts. If Indianapolis wins the turnover battle on Sunday, they could become the new league leaders in turnover differential. Their +11 is second only to the Bills' +14. Here's another stat for you: only three teams in the NFL have recovered every fumble they've forced this year. Two of them will be in Orchard Park this weekend (for what it's worth, the third is the Packers).
Missing Spencer Brown hurts. Just in general, this offensive line can sometimes hurt. And that's a bad thing against a lengthy and tough Colts defensive front. The time to experiment, tweak, and adjust is frankly over. Buffalo emphasizes playing their best ball in January. But if they don't come close to their best football now, January might not matter. As it stands heading into Week 11, the Bills don't play a team with a losing record until Week 17.
It won't be easy, but the Bills are capable of stringing together a couple wins and building some steam this weekend. And I think they will.
Bills: 27, Colts: 24
Season Record: 5-4