Buffalo Among Andy Dalton’s Biggest Fans
Andy Dalton is probably not feeling the love in Cincinnati these days, but he’s likely welcome in Buffalo any time.
The Bengals quarterback rallied his team in the last minute of their Week 17 game against Baltimore to oust the Ravens from the playoffs. New Year’s came early for Buffalo fans as the result lifted the Bills into the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades.
The Bills (9-7) now travel south to Jacksonville for one of two AFC wild card games against the Jaguars (10-6). At least they won’t have to worry about extreme frigid temperatures on Sunday in Florida. It will be their first postseason game since 1999 where Buffalo lost a close game at Tennessee. This is Jacksonville’s first playoff matchup since 2007. The Jags are a nine-point favorite in the game (odds provided by bovada.lv).
The Bills, who are one of only two playoff teams with a negative point differential (-57), have a 2-1 record this season as a touchdown underdog. They beat Atlanta and Kansas City on the road, but lost in New England. The Jaguars have been favored by a touchdown or more three times this year. They won them all — by 12 points over Cleveland, 20 points over Indianapolis and 38 points over Houston.
Why Buffalo will win:
- Solid defense creates a lot of turnovers.
- Huge road wins at Atlanta, Kansas City this season.
- Bills have won three of their last four games.
Why Jacksonville will win:
- Excellent home record (6-2) at EverBank Field.
- Great record (9-3) against AFC opponents.
- One of NFL’s best point differentials (+149).
Buffalo started the season 5-2 before losing three straight. Jacksonville started the season 3-3 before winning four in a row. The Bills last played the Jaguars in November 2016 — a 28-21 Buffalo victory. Their 7-2 record this season against teams who finished .500 or worse was their best since 2008.
The Jaguars, who had the easiest schedule of any team in the league this season, had a defense that finished second in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways.
Blake Bortles had a decent season for the Jaguars … for Blake Bortles, that is. His completion rate and QB rating went up, while his interceptions went down. But he still turned the ball over far too often, with 13 interceptions and six fumbles.
Bortles also threw for fewer yards, likely because of the star Jacksonville has in the backfield in Leonard Fournette. The rookie running back out of LSU gained more than 1,000 yards this season with nine touchdowns.
Marqise Lee, with 56 catches, and Keelan Cole, with 42, were the leading receivers for the Jaguars. The two combined for 1,450 receiving yards and six scores.
Tyrod Taylor’s passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating were all down for the Bills quarterback this season. At least the seven-year veteran rarely turns the ball over, with four interceptions and one fumble.
LeSean McCoy is the key to this offense. If teams can shut him down, the Bills lose — plain and simple. The 29-year-old running back rushed for 100 yards or more four times this season. The Bills won three of them.
McCoy was also the Bills leading receiver with 59 catches and 446 yards and the team leader with eight touchdowns. But here’s the problem: McCoy was carted off the field in Week 17. He’s still suffering from a sprained ankle and will be a game time decision to even play against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars lost their last two games of the regular season on the road, but they were dominant at home in December. If McCoy can’t go, Bills fans will have to wait at least another year for a playoff game.
VGB’s pick — Jacksonville (-9), Under (39)