As I See It.
There’s not much guess work involved in the Bills’ path to their ultimate goal. They MUST win at Miami next Sunday Night. The oddsmakers like their chances, with the Bills an early 3 point favorite for the 8:20pm kickoff at Hard Rock Stadium. Expect a large and noisy group of Bills fans to annoy the Dolphins fans as usual.
Forecast? Rather perfect. High of 73 and sunny, but dipping to a chilly 66 by kickoff time. Thanks to NBC for the Flex, but playing in Southern Florida in December just ain’t the same as roasting in the sun in September.
Right here a quick shout out to my sponsors: Atwal Eye Care, which did a fabulous job on both eyes with their cataract surgery procedure.
BluTuskTech of Orchard Park, which refurbishes used computers better than anybody.
Also, GlobalVendingGroup of Buffalo. They’re sending book vending machines to schools all over the world to enhance children’s literacy.
Back to the Bills and some legit questions ahead.
The teams are coming off totally different games, with the Bills leaning on the D in a 27-21 win over the Patriots in Orchard Park to reach 10-6, while the Dolphins were worked over in Baltimore 56-19 by the Ravens. Not only did the Fins drop into the danger zone of letting an AFC East title slip away, but they lost their best defensive player, Bradley Chubb with a torn ACL. Chubb had 11 sacks, and will certainly be missed.
As the smoke clears on a wild and wooly NFL regular season, the Ravens are now clearly the AFC’s best team, and QB Lamar Jackson is an MVP lock after a 5 TD performance against the Fins. The Ravens have been good all year, but the past two weeks were impressive with big wins at the 49ers and home against Miami. At 13-3 they’re the #1 seed, so next Saturday’s regular season finale at home against the Steelers will likely be some rest time for Jackson and other starters.
The game could have an effect on the Bills however. If the Steelers can get the win – and they’re early 3 1/2 point favorites – the Bills could wind up missing the playoffs altogether if they slip up at Miami.
The mission is totally clear. Beat Miami, and the Bills win their 4th straight AFC East title at 11-6. The Fins would also be 11-6 but the Bills easily have the tiebreaker with the earlier 48-20 win in Buffalo.
Both quarterbacks are listed as questionable. Tua Tagovailoa hurt his left (throwing) shoulder sliding late in the game against the Ravens and left the field. He said after the game he was fine.
Allen also suffered a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury after taking a hit running for a first down late in the Pats game. Allen also says he’s fine, but added it was a “stinger” unlike anything he’d experienced before. It’s not nothing.
We all know that if Allen can walk and lift a football, he’ll play. Despite his physical style, Allen has been one of the NFL’s most durable QB’s as he finishes his sixth season. Oddly, his most serious injuries (right elbow twice) and a lingering shoulder injury this season, have come while passing in the pocket. This shoulder injury clearly was from the kind of hit the Bills have been trying to get him to avoid.
The Bills won the game over the Patriots with Allen playing what was likely the worst game since his rookie season. Bill Belichick is a clever one, as he compared Allen to Tom Brady earlier in the week, and then confused the heck out of Allen in the game. Allen completed 15-30 for 169 yards with an interception. He also added his 15th rushing TD.
But Allen seemed “off” throughout most of the game, and despite this being late December in WNY, the weather wasn’t a factor. Big #17 fumbled twice, but luckily the Bills recovered both of them. The second fumble was the kind that has given Allen a reputation (among those looking for flaws) as being “out of control”. In the 4th quarter with the game still very much in doubt, Allen, trying to stretch for a first down, actually lateraled the ball BACKWARDS, with Pats defenders everywhere.
Statistically, Allen is having another great season, with just under 4,000 yards passing and 27 TDs. Allen also has 457 yards rushing, with a hefty 4.8 ypc, and 15 TD’s. His 42 total TD’s is tops in the NFL.
But. Always a but. Allen has 16 INTs and six fumbles (he’s lost three).
Does this mean Allen is a turnover machine?
It’s a ludicrous question, but you hear it from the lips of a few attention seekers in the media. He has a 62-30 record, and he’s still only 27. Since his rookie season, Allen has started and played every Bills game the past five years! That’s 81 straight games, and you can add eight playoff games to that total. This year’s 65.6 % completion pct is his highest since the record 2020 season.
Allen has always, with maybe one exception, played his best in big games, and especially the playoffs. His 4-4 record is a bit misleading, because he left the field twice with a late lead the D couldn’t hold. Here’s a really interesting number: Allen has 17 TD passes and 4 INTs in the playoffs. He’s also rushed for two scores.
Allen’s INT was also a misfire, as Stefon Diggs had a man beaten deep, but Allen’s throw was slightly underthrown and picked.
This isn’t helpful, with Diggs now in a slump, compared to his amazing start. Diggs has had some drops recently, and he’s not alone.
You know who ISN’T dropping anything?
Khalil Shakir, that’s who. Shakir, a 5th round pick from Boise St a year ago, has been targeted 39 times. He’s caught 33 of them for 506 yards and a couple TD’s, but here’s the kicker: Shakir has NO drops. Zero. Sometimes I wonder if the Bills coaching staff has noticed this incredible stat.
The link with turnovers, when looking at Allen’s overall body of work, is simply absurd. Just the mental toughness to start 89 straight games is a remarkable achievement. With hopefully more than one game left in the regular season, Allen has thrown 182 TD passes and rushed for 57 more, for a total of 237 touchdowns. 80 INTs and 23 lost fumbles are insignificant compared with the production.
Having said this, should we worry right now about Allen’s “slump” late in the season? I’d say yes and no. He’s had the same OLine the entire season, and they might be the best group he’s had to protect him.
But the Bills receivers haven’t been as consistent, and obviously Gabe Davis is the first name we think of. Rookie TE Dalton Kincaid isn’t a super star yet, but he’s everything the Bills could have hoped for. Diggs? A question mark now in terms of where he is, as he nears 30. Is he slipping? Losing a step? Legit questions.
The idea to get James Cook more involved is working, but not as well as hoped.
OC Joe Brady seemed to be the spark the offense needed, but the Patriots game – under 300 yards – is a cause for concern. We said out loud when Brian Daboll left, the offense might suffer a bit. It has. The Dolphins are well know for their track team offense, but they play pretty good D too.
It’s a strange feeling going into this biggest of games in South Florida. The Bills are favored, and they’ve been resilient in winning five of their final six games.
But is Allen ok? Will he shake off some issues and take a game over? It’s great to see the Bills win games without him doing it on his own, and that’s why I like the Bills in this game. This team isn’t just about Allen. The D has been great, and they’re getting healthy. They’ll put a ton of pressure on Tagovailoa. GM Brandon Beane stole CB Rasul Douglas from the Packers. Have a game, Rasul! Two INTs – one a pick 6 – and a potential secondary weakness becomes a strength.
It’s all right here for the taking. Win, and not only are the AFC’s #2 seed, you get at least one home game. You can’t play the Fins first, but you might host KC. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Lose? With help, the Bills could still sneak in, but I don’t think it’s gonna come to that.
Bills win 31-21.
Again thanks to sponsors Atwal Eye Care, BluTusk Tech and GlobalVendingGroup.
See ya soon.
Editor’s babble: We are so grateful for Ed Kilgore’s contributions to our blog. You can also find Ed on Xwitter @Kilgore2Ed.