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The Wild Card round represents the opportunity for one of two teams to end a cold streak in the post season. The Buffalo Bills (9-7), who snuck their way into the playoffs after a very unlikely chain of events, play in their first postseason game since 1999. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6), who won the AFC South, will make their first playoff appearance since 2007. One team will get their first win in over a decade, and the other will become just a footnote in the other’s charge towards the Super Bowl.
Keys To The Game:
The Bills come into the game with star running back, LeSean McCoy’s status up in the air. He claims that he believes he can play but only as long as his right ankle doesn’t cause him any pain. McCoy is currently fourth in the league in rushing yards. It’s also not certain if wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin or tight end Charles Clay will be available, as they were limited in practice. If quarterback Tyrod Taylor doesn’t have his weapons for this game, things could get ugly for the young the quarterback. Their one biggest weakness however will be defense, as the Bills rank 29th against the rush.
They will need to be stout up front against an excellent Jaguar rushing attack. McCoy will dictate how this game is played. If he plays, expect the Bills have to have a healthy dosage of run, while still allowing Taylor to air it out, maybe about 2 – 3 ratio off runs to pass(more than likely 20 rushes to 30 passes). Should McCoy be out, expect more of a 1 – 2 ratio. It will be crucial for the Bills’ running game to take off, as Jacksonville has dominated the passing game, and to challenge it would be a flawed game plan. The defense shouldn’t do too much, maybe they’ll get a sack or two, and maybe a turnover, but don’t expect a defensive struggle.
Meanwhile the Jaguars will come into this game a lot healthier. Quarterback Blake Bortles will have most of his weapons, only having to worry about wide receiver Marqise Lee, as he has missed practice so far this week. The Jags will still have Leonard Fournette to carry their offense. The Jaguars play a more balanced game than most other teams, but can have a tendency to get one dimensional with the run. Given Buffalo’s struggles on defense this season, expect more passes than normal for Jacksonville, probably around the range of 35 passes to 25 runs. The defense should play a key role in this game. They’ll force at least two turnovers, and Tyrod Taylor multiple times, with at least 3 sacks.
For the Bills, it’s half back LeSean McCoy. If he plays, the Bills will have the fourth best running back in the NFL going against the leagues 21st best rushing defense. When McCoy has rushed for 100+, the Bills have gone 3 -1, with the only loss coming against the Los Angeles Chargers.
As for the Jaguars, it’s going to come down to Blake Bortles. The defense can do it’s job, half back Leonard Fornette can do his job, and the offensive line can do it’s job, but if Bortles isn’t on point, it could be a long day for the Jaguars. This will be his first playoff appearance, and if he hopes to shed any talk of him being a bust, he has to make his stand here.
Prediction: With the Buffalo Bills’ defense having struggled all season, and their offense relying heavily on the status of LeSean McCoy, it doesn’t look to promising for the Bills, especially against the second best defense in the NFL. Jacksonville defeats Buffalo, 28 – 16.