As the Buffalo Bills gear up for the AFC Wild Card playoff game against the New England Patriots on Saturday, January 15, analysts are breaking down the teams’ strengths and weaknesses to predict who will come out victorious in this win-or-go-home matchup.
As for their strengths, the Bills enter the postseason with the No.1 defense in the entire NFL, an elite dual-threat quarterback, and a large pool of reliable wide receivers. But the team’s Achille heel remains the same as before the season started: a weak run game.
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While Devin Singletary has emerged as the team’s No. 1 running back, the Bills player who ranks second in rushing yards is quarterback Josh Allen. While Allen recorded 763 yards rushing, including 54 rushing first downs, per The Athletic, and six rushing touchdowns — it’s nerve-wracking watching the $258 million franchise star continuously put himself in the position get tackled.
The Bills are playing with fire allowing Allen to run the ball so much, and no matter what happens during the postseason, Buffalo will have to make it a point to sign a reliable running back when free agency starts on March 16.
Bleacher Report‘s Alex Kay, however, warns the Bills about going after Tampa Bay Buccaneers star running back Leonard Fournette, and “should think heavily before doling out a big contract” to the former first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fournette Will Likely Be the Top-Rated RB to Hit Free Agency
Before hitting injured reserve on December 23, Fournette was in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. The 26-year-old was Tampa Bay’s leading rusher, recording 812 yards and eight touchdowns, along with catching 69 passes for 454 yards and two receiving touchdowns from quarterback Tom Brady.
The Bucs are hoping “Playoff Lenny” can return to action during their postseason run, which starts on Sunday, January 15, against the Philadelphia Eagles. Fournette’s performance in the playoffs last season, which ultimately led to Tampa Bay winning the Super Bowl, he rushed for 300 yards and scored three touchdowns in four playoff games, per Pro Football Network.
With these kinds of stats, Fournette, on paper, sounds like the exact type of running back the Bills need. However, the LSU alum won’t come cheap. Pro Football Focus projects that Fournette will land a two-year, $16 million contract with $11 million guaranteed money this offseason.
“The Bills could use some of the money that Fournette would cost to ink a player like Chase Edmonds, a dangerous playmaker out of the backfield who would add a new dimension to the offense,” Knox surmised.
“While Fournette does offer value as a hard-running back with elite ball security, he’s traditionally been a one-dimensional player who isn’t a great asset as a receiver. He did show growth in the area this past season (ranking fourth amongst RBs with 454 receiving yards), but that was largely a result of his situation within Tampa’s backfield.”
Due to the Inclement Weather Predicted for Saturday’s Playoff Game, All Eyes are on Buffalo’s Run Game
It may seem superfluous to discuss how cold it will be in Buffalo in January, but when the Bills host the Patriots in Orchard Park this Saturday, there’s a 30% chance of snow in what’s expected to be single-digit temperatures, and Allen doesn’t play as well in frigid weather.
The Athletic‘s Matthew Fairburn reported, “Allen has played five games in his career where the temperature at kickoff was 31 degrees or colder. The Bills are 3-2 in those games, and Allen has a completion percentage of 50.3 percent with 883 yards, six touchdowns, and seven interceptions.”
While inclement weather will obviously affect the Patriots’ performance as well, “the difference is the Bills lean on their passing game a lot more than the Patriots do,” Fairburn noted.