Buffalo Bills Week 17: Just Keep Winning

The Buffalo Bills have been in playoff mode since their bye week. They haven’t always won pretty or convincingly, but they have put up four straight W’s in four weeks and thrust themselves back into not only the playoff conversation but the division title talk as well. When the dust settled on Sunday night, a prime-time showdown against Miami for all the marbles in the AFC East loomed. Buffalo controls their own destiny and remains a team of destiny, thanks to another ‘closer than it should have been’ win in Western New York. Here are four takeaways from the Bills win on Sunday afternoon.

Buffalo Bills Week 17: Just Keep Winning

The Defense Is Crushing While the Offense Keeps Flushing

If there were any questions about the Bills’ defense, they were at least lessened greatly after a four-turnover performance. I still think that the Bills are too blitz-happy and get burned by it too often, but their pressure was a difference-maker in the game. If they can continue to disrupt opposing offenses and stop the run, this defense will be a problem for anyone. Yes, even Lamar Jackson.

Rasul Douglas has to be the best trade in the league that was made at the deadline. He has absolutely balled out and seems to be revitalized. His passion and drive are infectious, and Buffalo would be fools to not sign this guy to a long-term deal in the offseason, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out. He’s a difference-maker and has filled the huge hole left by Tre’davious White and Matt Milano.

The offense, on the other hand, is a concern. At this point, it’s a moderate concern. The last two wins were sloppy, and the offense was not in sync at all. The offense cannot continue playing substandardly going forward, or the season will be a short one. With prodigious weapons like Josh AllenStefon Diggsand James Cook, and a more than capable supporting cast, the Bills’ offense has to become the best version of themselves, starting now.

Ugly wins only take you so far. Buffalo has reached that point now, and they must figure out how to return to a polished and potent machine that scores points and racks up yardage. Teams may be wary of this defense, but no one is afraid of the offense. The Bills had four turnovers, each one giving the offense a shorter field to work with. Yes, they scored off of all those takeaways to the tune of 20 points, but they could have put the game away with four TDs from the TOs. Settling for FGs is a surefire way to keep bad teams in the game, and give good teams a chance to beat you.

The Bills Didn’t Clinch a Playoff Spot. Best Thing That Could Have Happened

The Bills have won ugly; part of the reason that they are still winning is the edge that they have had. Backs against the wall, written off as wasted potential, changing coordinators, defense missing too many players… All the chatter, all the scenarios, and all the what-ifs have been a noise, but Buffalo has kept the noise in the background. They did their part Sunday afternoon, winning another must-win game. They needed help from a few other teams and didn’t get it. Officially, the Bills are the number six seed entering week 18 of the season, but they have not clinched a playoff berth.

That means that an all-important showdown with the Dolphins awaits, with the winner claiming the AFC East Division crown and possibly the number two seed. Buffalo’s back is still against the wall, and that edge could be the edge they need to win. Miami has looked beatable and vulnerable, but they still control their own destiny as well. The one difference could be that Miami, win or lose, is in the playoffs. Buffalo could still get into the postseason even if they lose to the Dolphins, but who wants to back their way in on the graces of others? Not the Bills.

Joe Brady Needs To Rip Out the Deep Ball Plays From His Playbook (And Throw Them Away)

Josh Allen has thrown a lot of interceptions this season. It’s what you get when you draft a gunslinger and give him ballers to target. Prodigious touchdowns, tough-as-nails runs, and an attitude that wins over the locker room. At least half to two-thirds of his picks have been on ill-advised deep throws. Everyone loves the highlight bombs and big plays but it’s a dangerous game to solely rely on them. The teams that can move the ball consistently, even if it’s boring, are the ones winning divisions and earning byes in the playoffs.

Joe Brady needs to stop calling deep shots, and Allen needs to be ok with that. The most successful passing plays for the Bills are the crossing routes of 10-15 yards, hitting Cook of another back in the flat, or finding a tight end for 5-8 yards. It’s not flashy but it’s also not fatal. If Josh Allen keeps zinging deep balls into double coverage, the Bills run will end quickly. I can’t help but wonder if this is a reason that Diggs has been absent from the offense lately. He gets the deep routes and either there is nothing there or the ball is intercepted. Great teams minimize mistakes and dominate by controlling the game.

Looking Ahead to Another Non-Playoff Playoff Game for Buffalo

So it all comes down to a single game. The schedule makers are high-fiving each other and asking for a bonus and NBC is cheering having that juicy final game of the season. Each team has much to gain and lose. Miami has already gained a spot in the playoffs, but a home game and the number two seed? You can’t pass that up. The Bills have a few other scenarios to sneak in, but realistically, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville are not going to lose their games. So the Bills must win, plain and simple.

Buffalo MUST play better than they have in the last two games. Miami is more than capable of putting up points, and I’m not sure the Bills want to get into a shootout with them. The fans and fantasy owners would love it, but that is a recipe for disappointment for the Bills. If you deserve to be in the playoffs, then prove it. They have come back from the dead but this will be their toughest test, perhaps of the season.

Final Thoughts

Sam Martin, the Buffalo punter, deserves to be in the Pro Bowl. Three times he pinned the Patriots inside their own 10-yard line, and his other punts were unreturnable. In contrast, the opening kickoff was run back 97 yards for a TD (not kicked by Martin). He has consistently provided the Bills with quality work and does his job. He is certainly part of the solution at One Bills Drive.

Josh Allen’s left shoulder is carrying a lot of weight. Mainly because it is not 100 percent. Given that a quarterback uses his whole body in the mechanics of his throwing motion, having an ailing or failing shoulder is a concern. It sounds like Tua Tagovailoa is also dealing with some ‘discomfort’ in his non-throwing shoulder. It may come down to the QB who can remain upwardly mobile.

The refs. Oh the refs. It’s been an epically bad year for the zebras, and at least some of the blame is squarely on them. Holds, illegal blocks in the back, and pass interferences were all committed directly in front of them and left uncalled during the Bills-Patriots game. I’m sick of talking about it, but I’m sicker of seeing the inequity and how it affects the game. It must be fixed, and Roger Goodell must go. The fans are restless and ready to revolt, and their cause is just. If a playoff game is decided by a bad call or a non-call, the powder keg will ignite and the results will not be pretty. the NFL must address this and make the changes.

Main Image: Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

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