The Buffalo Bills are a playoff team for the third straight year. Something they last did before a majority of their players were even born. Unfortunately, that’s the easy part of the equation because it’s Super Bowl push time and getting your hands on the Lombardi Trophy makes earning a playoff birth look easier than a chip shot field goal.
Winning the big game is the highest mountain to climb in the NFL and it’s more daunting in Buffalo, where the last title they hoisted had AFL written on it. Although it may seem impossible — especially since the Bills haven’t smashed their ways into the tournament — it can be done. With that in mind, here are five keys that could make these upcoming playoffs legendary in Orchard Park.
5 keys to the Buffalo Bills playoff chances
Unleash Josh Allen
The gloves are off and there is no tomorrow. The long and physical grind of the season is in the rearview and the strategy of trying to keep everyone as healthy as possible for the playoffs can be scrapped. It is time to unleash Josh Allen in all his beauty and flaws, for better or worse.
- Josh Allen stats: 64.1% completion rate, 4,168 passing yards, 34-15 TD-INT ratio, 92.8 passer rating
Sure, Allen’s completion percentage and yards are down, and his interceptions are up, but the Bills’ hopes rest completely on the talents of the 25-year-old. That includes what he can do with his legs just as much as his arm. And despite having way more rushing yards than previous years, some have complained the team has not made better use of his all-around talents this season. Now is the time to showcase everything their pro-bowl caliber QB can do on the field.
If the Bills can massage the best out of Allen and play to his high potential, he has the skills to take them to the Super Bowl.
Playing smart football, cutting down on penalties
Although winning in the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl can be absurdly difficult, it isn’t rocket science either. And one way to cut your legs out from under you is racking up a bunch of boneheaded penalties. It has been a problem for the Bills all year as they ranked fourth in total penalties and seventh in penalty yards. And that’s for the whole league, not just the AFC.
If they hope to have any meaningful run in January, the Bills needs to cut down on their infraction in a major way and stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Open up the pass by establishing the run
Obviously, the Bills don’t have a ground-and-pound offense. They don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher and their quarterback is ridiculously close to being their leading force on the ground. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be better, because it must in the playoffs.
The league is built on winning games through the air. But when it comes to the playoffs, those old traditions of defense and a reliable run game still can be game-changers in a trench war between talented teams. As important as Allen is to the team’s playoff hopes, Devin Singletary has a major role to play. And if he and their pricey offensive line can deliver a more consistent threat, the Bills offense will be a handful for any defense in the playoffs.
Keep dominating the turnover battle
The Bills may not have a classic run game for the playoffs, but they certainly have a defense that can get them to the big game. All year long, Buffalo has been pretty good on D as they’ve led the league in the lowest total yards allowed through the air, and overall. Although they’ve been middle of the road when it comes to stopping the run, you don’t score two shutout wins in one season without being a serious force on defense.
Yet despite their weakness in stopping the run at times, they have made up for it this season in one area that plays a massive role in the playoffs: Turnovers. They are currently a plus-eight in turnover differential and have the third most picks in the league.
The turnover game can be the ultimate trump card in the biggest games of the year, and fortunately for Buffalo, they have been one of the best at it all season.
Stay hot heading into the postseason
We have seen over the last decade that heading into the playoffs in a rhythm and with confidence is a necessity. Sure, you’d like to get everyone rested and playing in the toughest games of the year when healthy. But you would much rather be facing your stiffest challenges when your team is firing on all cylinders and feeling good.
Buffalo has won three straight for the first time since the first quarter of the season and has a chance to match its season-best winning streak (four games) by beating the New York Jets in the season finale. They’ll also have another rare opportunity to win an AFC East division title. It seems like a win-win in terms of motivations to be your best heading into the playoffs in a sport where momentum has led to countless titles in recent years.
So, simply put, don’t much it all up by losing to a division rival to end the season.