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Thad’s Three Things: (Wild Card) Bills v. Steelers

todayJanuary 14, 2024 2

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Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready to play yet another weather altered kickoff to begin the postseason…

The Dangerous Game

It would be nice if the Bills could play a game without helping their opponent remain competitive. For the most part, we’re talking about turnovers. And yes, Josh Allen, we’re looking at you.

The only game Buffalo did not have a turnover during their regular season concluding five game win streak was against the Cowboys. Likely, not a coincidence that was the only blowout. It shows what the Bills can do when they protect the ball.

On the flip side, every game the Bills have turned it over more than once has ended in a loss or a one-score win against the Giants, Chargers and Dolphins. It doesn’t matter the QB or the opponent. Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick, Tua Tagovailoa–the Bills can let anybody hang around.

Buffalo is not going to win four straight playoff games with more than one turnover in all of them. They might not win one. If they keep playing with fire, it’s only a matter of time before the Bills get burned.

Monday Funday

Moving this game to Monday isn’t only a good thing for the Buffalo region, it’s probably a good thing for the Bills. While winds will still be up (10-15 mph with gusts near 30 mph), it won’t be the same level of game altering the gales would have been on Sunday afternoon.

The big winds would have hurt the Bills because it would have negated a good chunk of their advantage at quarterback and in the passing game. Frankly, the somewhat-problematic-but-not-too-problematic wind levels are perfect. Allen has the arm to cut through that stuff. Most other QBs do not.

Even if the game had to be played largely on the ground, I don’t think the Bills have ever been more prepared for it. The offensive line is much improved both as pass and run blockers. Buffalo finished the season 7th in rushing yards and 8th in yards per carry. James Cook ended up with the 4th most rushing yards for an individual rusher and proved against the Cowboys he’s capable of dominating a game.

Moving this game to Monday was the smart play for a myriad of glaring human safety reasons. That includes my own drive to Orchard Park. The football fallout (for this game) could be really convenient for the Bills. Their quarterback should be able to do whatever he wants to build a lead. Pittsburgh’s quarterback will have a tough time trying to rally, if and when that becomes necessary.

Nasty Najee

Despite the quality season from Cook, the running back on the field most capable of taking over a game is still probably Najee Harris. The Steelers top back has been much better since Pittsburgh changed coordinators at Thanksgiving.

Under Eddie Faulkner, Harris has put up four of his best five games of the season. He goes into the playoffs on a three game streak where he averaged well over four yards per carry and 100 yards per game. Harris also has four rushing touchdowns in his last three weeks, which matches his total from the previous 14 games.

With T.J. Watt out, Harris is probably the most likely Pittsburgh player who can alter this game on his own. Jaylen Warren is a very good complimentary back with at least four receptions in his last five games. He can’t be overlooked, but any Pittsburgh win in Buffalo almost certainly comes with Harris as one of the heroes.

Betting Things

Didn’t look like it was going to hit, but you can always count on the Tyreek Hill under when the Bills are on the other side. That allows me to finish the regular season with a winning record (9-8) and I head to the playoffs ahead 2.5 units.

When the game was Sunday at 1pm, betting an under was a lock. The move to Monday opens up a ton more options. And stunningly, I’m going to take a Pittsburgh passing over.

Mason Rudolph has not been any sort of dominant for the Steelers in his three starts. He has been productive, adding to the seemingly lengthy list of backup QBs this season that succeed immediately. He averaged 282 yards in his first two starts and still found a way to top 150 in a deluge to close the season in Baltimore.

The Bills pass defense ranked 7th this season in passing yards allowed and have prevented five of the last six teams to pass for more than 200 yards. “Team” is the operative word there. Team passing yards takes negative yardage from sacks into account. While five of the last six teams have NOT passed for 200 yards, four of the last six quarterbacks HAVE reached 200 (Jalen Hurts needed overtime, sure, but it’s still a two-hundy).

So, yep. The bet is Rudolph to reach 200 yards. If Rasul Douglas misses the game, I feel even better about it. Regardless, Douglas won’t be 100 percent after not practicing all week. I’m also getting +200 odds on this bet from FanDuel. That’s a sweet price for what is a small number of pass yards by 2024 NFL standards.

The Pick

The Bills had the whole 53-man roster available for the season finale in Miami. That won’t be the case this week. Gabe Davis and Taylor Rapp have already been ruled out. Douglas and Tyrel Dodson are questionable. Playing Monday will up the odds of both the questionable players getting a helmet, but I’m still pessimistic about Douglas because he did not spend a single second on the practice field this week.

Although Douglas is the best player of the four that are injured, I don’t think he’s the biggest lost. Dane Jackson is easily the top replacement for any of the four, simply based on his extensive starting experience. He’s also a strong tackler and that could be quite valuable against a Steelers team that probably is hoping to run the ball (and the clock) a ton.

Davis is the guy I think the Bills will miss the most. He’s well established as an inconsistent receiver, but he plays a ton of snaps because he’s a top blocker for a receiver. Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield are capable to take up that slack, but don’t have the size and skill to match. It will hurt the Bills on perimeter or edge run schemes.

You could take the collective loss together of all four Bills injuries and it wouldn’t match what the Steelers lose without T.J. Watt on the field. There’s no replacing 19 sacks. Wind or no wind, snow or no snow, Watt is more than adept at wrecking a game on his own. Watt’s knee injury becomes a huge break for the Bills.

The Bills are ten point favorites in this game and they deserve to be. Contributors have been falling off trees on both sides of the ball since the bye week. While too many games seem needlessly dramatic, the Bills have been finding ways to win. They might need a better game against the Ravens or even the Chiefs, but that’s not who is on the other sideline Monday.

Even if this is a game that needs saving late, I trust Allen slightly more than Rudolph. And by “slightly”, I mean “infinitely”. Give me the Bills to figure a way out of this, 23-17.

​ Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready to play yet another weather altered kickoff to begin the postseason…

The Dangerous Game

It would be nice if the Bills could play a game without helping their opponent remain competitive. For the most part, we’re talking about turnovers. And yes, Josh Allen, we’re looking at you.

The only game Buffalo did not have a turnover during their regular season concluding five game win streak was against the Cowboys. Likely, not a coincidence that was the only blowout. It shows what the Bills can do when they protect the ball.

On the flip side, every game the Bills have turned it over more than once has ended in a loss or a one-score win against the Giants, Chargers and Dolphins. It doesn’t matter the QB or the opponent. Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick, Tua Tagovailoa–the Bills can let anybody hang around.

Buffalo is not going to win four straight playoff games with more than one turnover in all of them. They might not win one. If they keep playing with fire, it’s only a matter of time before the Bills get burned.

Monday Funday

Moving this game to Monday isn’t only a good thing for the Buffalo region, it’s probably a good thing for the Bills. While winds will still be up (10-15 mph with gusts near 30 mph), it won’t be the same level of game altering the gales would have been on Sunday afternoon.

The big winds would have hurt the Bills because it would have negated a good chunk of their advantage at quarterback and in the passing game. Frankly, the somewhat-problematic-but-not-too-problematic wind levels are perfect. Allen has the arm to cut through that stuff. Most other QBs do not.

Even if the game had to be played largely on the ground, I don’t think the Bills have ever been more prepared for it. The offensive line is much improved both as pass and run blockers. Buffalo finished the season 7th in rushing yards and 8th in yards per carry. James Cook ended up with the 4th most rushing yards for an individual rusher and proved against the Cowboys he’s capable of dominating a game.

Moving this game to Monday was the smart play for a myriad of glaring human safety reasons. That includes my own drive to Orchard Park. The football fallout (for this game) could be really convenient for the Bills. Their quarterback should be able to do whatever he wants to build a lead. Pittsburgh’s quarterback will have a tough time trying to rally, if and when that becomes necessary.

Nasty Najee

Despite the quality season from Cook, the running back on the field most capable of taking over a game is still probably Najee Harris. The Steelers top back has been much better since Pittsburgh changed coordinators at Thanksgiving.

Under Eddie Faulkner, Harris has put up four of his best five games of the season. He goes into the playoffs on a three game streak where he averaged well over four yards per carry and 100 yards per game. Harris also has four rushing touchdowns in his last three weeks, which matches his total from the previous 14 games.

With T.J. Watt out, Harris is probably the most likely Pittsburgh player who can alter this game on his own. Jaylen Warren is a very good complimentary back with at least four receptions in his last five games. He can’t be overlooked, but any Pittsburgh win in Buffalo almost certainly comes with Harris as one of the heroes.

Betting Things

Didn’t look like it was going to hit, but you can always count on the Tyreek Hill under when the Bills are on the other side. That allows me to finish the regular season with a winning record (9-8) and I head to the playoffs ahead 2.5 units.

When the game was Sunday at 1pm, betting an under was a lock. The move to Monday opens up a ton more options. And stunningly, I’m going to take a Pittsburgh passing over.

Mason Rudolph has not been any sort of dominant for the Steelers in his three starts. He has been productive, adding to the seemingly lengthy list of backup QBs this season that succeed immediately. He averaged 282 yards in his first two starts and still found a way to top 150 in a deluge to close the season in Baltimore.

The Bills pass defense ranked 7th this season in passing yards allowed and have prevented five of the last six teams to pass for more than 200 yards. “Team” is the operative word there. Team passing yards takes negative yardage from sacks into account. While five of the last six teams have NOT passed for 200 yards, four of the last six quarterbacks HAVE reached 200 (Jalen Hurts needed overtime, sure, but it’s still a two-hundy).

So, yep. The bet is Rudolph to reach 200 yards. If Rasul Douglas misses the game, I feel even better about it. Regardless, Douglas won’t be 100 percent after not practicing all week. I’m also getting +200 odds on this bet from FanDuel. That’s a sweet price for what is a small number of pass yards by 2024 NFL standards.

The Pick

The Bills had the whole 53-man roster available for the season finale in Miami. That won’t be the case this week. Gabe Davis and Taylor Rapp have already been ruled out. Douglas and Tyrel Dodson are questionable. Playing Monday will up the odds of both the questionable players getting a helmet, but I’m still pessimistic about Douglas because he did not spend a single second on the practice field this week.

Although Douglas is the best player of the four that are injured, I don’t think he’s the biggest lost. Dane Jackson is easily the top replacement for any of the four, simply based on his extensive starting experience. He’s also a strong tackler and that could be quite valuable against a Steelers team that probably is hoping to run the ball (and the clock) a ton.

Davis is the guy I think the Bills will miss the most. He’s well established as an inconsistent receiver, but he plays a ton of snaps because he’s a top blocker for a receiver. Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield are capable to take up that slack, but don’t have the size and skill to match. It will hurt the Bills on perimeter or edge run schemes.

You could take the collective loss together of all four Bills injuries and it wouldn’t match what the Steelers lose without T.J. Watt on the field. There’s no replacing 19 sacks. Wind or no wind, snow or no snow, Watt is more than adept at wrecking a game on his own. Watt’s knee injury becomes a huge break for the Bills.

The Bills are ten point favorites in this game and they deserve to be. Contributors have been falling off trees on both sides of the ball since the bye week. While too many games seem needlessly dramatic, the Bills have been finding ways to win. They might need a better game against the Ravens or even the Chiefs, but that’s not who is on the other sideline Monday.

Even if this is a game that needs saving late, I trust Allen slightly more than Rudolph. And by “slightly”, I mean “infinitely”. Give me the Bills to figure a way out of this, 23-17. Read More NFLRochesterFirst  

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