NFL Wild Card Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Billsby Christopher Gallagher January 8, 2021 0 comments
Hosting their first NFL playoff game in over 25 years, the Buffalo Bills (13-3) welcome the Indianapolis Colts (11-5) to Orchard Park on Saturday. Winners of six of their last seven games, the Bills roll into the playoffs after blowing out divisional rival Miami by 30 points in Week 17.
Led by potential MVP candidate Josh Allen, Buffalo has enjoyed a revamped passing attack, averaging over 288 yards through the air. The Colts fell just short of capturing the AFC South crown but have won four of their last five games, their lone loss at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Relying on creating turnovers on the defensive side of the ball and on the backs of a strong rushing attack offensively, Indianapolis racked up 25 takeaways for a plus-11 point differential in 16 games.
Leading one of the most balanced attacks in football, rookie running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 touches this season. Averaging a healthy 5.04 yards per carry, the 21-year-old gashed the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17 with 253 yards on the ground and two scores.
The team has been stellar up front all season in 2020, allowing Phillip Rivers only to be sacked 19 times. They will need to control the clock and keep the high-powered Buffalo passing attack on the sidelines if they hope to be victorious Sunday. The Colts’ receiving core is led by veteran T.Y. Hilton who paced the team with 56 receptions for 762 yards. Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman Jr. pitched in 629 yards and 503 yards receiving, respectively.
Struggling throughout the second half of the season after a red-hot start, the Indianapolis defense heads into this one ranked 20th in the NFL against the pass with over 241 passing yards allowed per game. Matched up with one of the league’s elite passing offenses, the team will likely be without a key member of the secondary after cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was ruled out with a concussion.
Amongst the top of the league at forcing disruptive plays, Matt Eberflus (who just turned down an opportunity to interview for head coach with the Texans) has a group that has racked up four defensive touchdowns and two safeties this year. Defensive standouts include All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (132 tackles), defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (9.5 sacks), and safety Kenny Moore (4 interceptions).
On a tear offensively all season long, the Bills have leapt from the 26th-ranked passing group in 2019 to a top-three ranking this year. Buffalo has increased their points per game by 11.7 in 2020, averaging over 31 scored per contest. Emerging into the MVP conversation over the last month of the season, Allen has thrown for over 340 in three of the Bills’ final four games while tossing 15 touchdowns passes.
Thriving after being acquired from the Vikings in the offseason, wideout Stefon Diggs has posted over 100 receiving yards in three of the final four games this season, easily pacing NFL receivers with a whopping 127 catches for 1,535 yards, both league-highs.
If the Bills defense wants to set themselves up for success, the focus will be on slowing down Taylor. Averaging more than five yards per carry this season, the former Wisconsin Badger has also racked up multiple games of over 150 rushing yards. Leslie Frazier‘s group will also be focused on their opponent’s primary pass-catching option out of the backfield in running back Nyheim Hines. Providing the perfect complement to Taylor this season, the 24-year-old Hines rushed for 389 yards this season while adding 63 receptions and seven scores out of the backfield.
Philip Rivers has ten interceptions throughout his postseason career. Buffalo’s defense is likely to be ultra-aggressive against the 39-year-old gunslinger. Forcing turnovers in key moments of games throughout the back half of the season, the Bills have created ten takeaways in their last six games.
Date: January 9, 2021
Start Time: 1:05 P.M. EST
Location: Orchard Park, NY
Stadium: Bills Stadium
TV Info: CBS
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Point Spread: IND +6.5 (-110) | BUF -6.5 (-110)
Moneyline: IND +235 | BUF -310
Over/Under: O 51 (-110) | U 51 (-110)
Taking a look at the six-and-a-half point spread, take the Bills to cover, and win the game outright with ease. The Moneyline price of -310 should be a comfortable bet for high-rollers, but not likely worthwhile for shallow pockets. The hottest team in football throughout the last month of the season, Buffalo’s passing attack has looked unstoppable, averaging 47.3 points per game over that period.
While the Colts have primarily become a run-heavy offense throughout the last half of the season, look for both teams to supply plenty of offense and push it over the 51-point total. The over in this game is a safe bet for all gamblers.
Appearing as legitimate Super Bowl contenders for the first time since the Jim Kelly era, the Bills offense has blossomed into one of the best units in the league behind Allen and Diggs. Along with this, Leslie Frazier‘s defense has begun to play stellar complimentary football by creating turnovers in key moments of games. While the Colts have been strong all season behind Rivers and an unrelenting rushing attack, look for home field advantage and Buffalo’s big-play ability to be too much for Frank Reich‘s group to handle.
Final Score: Indianapolis Colts 20, Buffalo Bills 34