Monday, January 15th at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY.
Weather: 25 degrees, lake effect snow and high winds.
Latest line: Bills -9, over/under 33.
The Labors of Hercules have nothing on the Bills quest for a Lombardi Trophy. Execute a clutch five game winning streak and secure the #2 seed, and here comes the Lake Erie Snow Machine. It’s too late now, but were there Meteorologists in the room when the decision was made to build an open air stadium in the south towns? I love that the new buzz word at One Bills Drive is resourceful; but it doesn’t get much more resourceful than Pittsburgh making the playoffs with a negative point differential.
Let’s break down the matchup, then say at the end that the weather might render analysis useless.
Laramie Wyoming was a fine place for a future Bills QB to cut his teeth, and Josh Allen is the best QB for the expected conditions in the NFL. And no need to fret about the deep passing game this week… quick hitters and RAC fit the weather. Mason Rudolph is the poster child for a game manager backup, and that’s a compliment. He might not be as climate challenged as Tua this week, but experience matters.
HUGE advantage Bills.
Running game weapons:
At the moment, the Steelers RBs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren match the description of Josh Allen…the #1 tandem in the league I would choose in a snowstorm. I’m not sure I have a frame of reference on James Cook under these conditions…I remember Shady McCoy running wild in the Colts blizzard game.
Allen makes it very close, but advantage Steelers.
Passing game weapons:
George Pickens and Diontae Johnson have stepped up in a big way since Rudolph took the reins, and Freiermuth and the backs are well above average in the passing game. Well suited for these weather conditions, Diggs, Shakir, Knox and Kincaid all should do damage. Sometime soon under better conditions I hope to see all four on the field together more often. Even.
If you are looking for reasons why a team with all the talent the Steelers have suffers with a negative point differential, their OL is on the short list. The Bills Iron Man five rolls on, with an exciting cameo performance by Ryan Van Demark while ‘Schnow’ got stitched up. Advantage Bills.
Looking at the season long stats, it looks close. Recent form tips the scales to Buffalo. Tyrel Dodson’s absence or limitations could have an effect. Even.
There is separation here; the Bills are a strong 6th in fewest passing yards allowed, while the Steelers are middle of the pack and poor at stopping TEs. No TJ Watt is a big deal. Advantage Bills.
Even with Harty winning ST Player of the Week and Sam Martin ST Player of the Month, I haven’t heard enough correlation talked about between bad ST play when the Bills were scuffling, and outstanding ST play during the winning streak. The Steelers are consistently good on ST, and that is no small factor in why they win consistently. Experience in Buffalo weather gives Bass and Martin the edge.
Can somebody answer in the comments if I can watch Tomlin and McDermott playing for William and Mary on YouTube? Both have their critics these days, but I would hire either in a New York minute. Even.
Cold and wind and snow are tangible. There are scenarios where Buffalo gets a lead early and it’s easy. But if we are destined to sweating it out in the 4th Quarter, WILL and EXPERIENCE will rule the day. The 99th percentile will of TJ Watt will be greatly missed by the Steelers.
The Forecast: Bills 23 Steelers 10
Ball security and Tyler Bass and another home game in January.
The Pregame Plan:
I had a victory lunch with Dean Kindig this week, and I have to spotlight the Bourbon BBQ wings at Good Smoke in East Rochester. Every bit as good as the Bar Bill Cajun Honey Butter wings. Besides McDermott/Tomlin footage, a recipe to make my own bourbon BBQ sauce at home in the comments would be really sweet!
This kind of weather means that the beer run might be limited to the corner convenience store. Your odds on getting the freshest beer available are best with LaBatt’s Blue, and it may be your default choice already.
A weather related block:
- Cold As Ice…..Foreigner.
- Six Feet of Snow……Little Feat (that was last year. Buffalo scoffs at 16 inches).
- Idiot Wind….Bob Dylan.
- Riding The Storm Out…REO Speedwagon.
Stay informed and stay safe Bills Mafia!
It might be chilly… GO BILLS!
Editor’s babble: As I write this, it is -31F air temp at our house in Wyoming. If you’re going to the game in Orchard Park, stay warm and dry. And yell like crazy for those of us who can’t be there. We are grateful for Joe Reagan’s contributions to our blog. You can also find Joe on Twitter @joer869.