Posted on January 3, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Regardless of how it plays out, the 2017 NFL season will go down as a good one for the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. Buffalo finally ended its playoff drought after 17 years. Jacksonville went from being the team everyone expects to beat, to the AFC South Division Champions. The two will meet Sunday in the AFC Wildcard for the right to move on to the next round.
Are they happy to be there? Of course, but neither is satisfied with just making it into the postseason. They want to move on. But only one can.
So—who’s going to win?
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At one point in the season, it looked like the Bills were ready to pack it in. After dropping two in a row and seeing their record fall to 5-4 for some odd reason the team decided to bench Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman. Taylor hadn’t been playing fantastic, but he was hardly the main issue the Bills had at the time.
Peterman went on to throw five interceptions in the first half and was benched for Taylor. One can only assume the move was made in hopes of giving a stagnant passing game a spark. The run game was doing well with LeSean McCoy leading the charge.
But to better set to succeed in the playoffs (should they make it) it would be good to see if they could develop a passing game. They didn’t and ended up ranking No. 31 in the league with just 177 yards a game—which is conveniently close to what the Jaguars allow per game (No.1; 170 yards/game allowed).
Buffalo is going to have a hard time passing against the Jaguars. But if they can get the running game on track they may be in luck. The Jaguars have had trouble against the run this season (No. 21; 116.3 yards/game). Buffalo happens to have one of the better run games in the league (No. 6; 126.1 yards/game).
However, the Bills may have no choice but to pass if they can’t slow down the Jaguars No. 1 ranked run game (141.2 yards/game). It’s hard to imagine them doing so since they have one of the worst run defenses in the league (No. 29; 124.6 yards/game allowed).
Buffalo barely belongs in the playoffs. Their defense is not impressive, and their offense is one-sided. To make matters worse, their best weapon, LeSean McCoy, had to be carted off the field last week. His availability for this week remains to be seen.
Without McCoy in the lineup, Buffalo’s best chance is for the Jaguars to have issues on offense like they have the last few weeks. They were great a few weeks ago in a huge win over the Seahawks and dominated the Houston Texans.
But then they struggled against the 49ers and didn’t look great last week against the Titans either. Blake Bortles had thrown eight interceptions in the first 14 games but then threw five in the last two. However, Bills fans shouldn’t count on Bortles to help them win.
Jacksonville is going to minimize Bortles as much as they can and lean on the defense and run game to win it. They will likely have no problem doing so. Oddsmakers have made the Jags a nine-point favorite. Expect them to win by double-digits.