Was there a greater moment this NFL season than seeing the Buffalo Bills fans and players celebrate their entrance into the playoffs? It took a late-game miracle from the Bengals over the Ravens to get the Bills into AFC playoffs for the first time since 1999. That’s the same year that Jaguars last hosted a playoff game. This matchup has several story lines that will be exciting to watch unfold. Kickoff inside Everbank Field is at 1:05 PM ET.
These two teams have played against each other 15 times. The Bills hold a slight advantage with an 8-7 all-time record against the Jags. The Bills also have an all-time record of 4-3 in Jacksonville. However, the only playoff matchup between these two teams was an AFC Wild Card game back in 1996 that saw the Jaguars upset Buffalo 30-27. The Bills have won 3 of the last 4 meetings, including their matchup last year by a score of 28-21.
Buffalo (9-7) comes into this playoff game riding a wave of momentum, breaking a 17 year playoff drought, and looking to keep the good vibrations rolling along. They will play against their former coach Doug Marrone who ditched the Bills in 2014. He took over the Jaguars HC position this year. Additionally, Buffalo will go against their former first round DT Marcell Dareus who they traded to the Jaguars during this season.
The Jaguars (10-6) have a home record of 6-2 and look to crush the Bills excitement. Jacksonville comes into this matchup losing 2 straight games and are showing signs of vulnerability on offense and defense. They hope to rebound this weekend and win as expected over the #6 seed.
The Jaguars opened as a 7.5 point favorite. The spread has gone up to 9 points since the opening. The Over/Under opened at 40 points and has come down slightly to 39.5 total points.
The Bills come into this game loose and playing with “house money.” They were expected to finish as one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, but ended up having a winning record. They were expected to miss the playoffs for an 18th straight year, but got in on a miracle. Now, those same experts expect Buffalo to lose as does Vegas who think the Jaguars will win by double digit points.
Not only will Buffalo cover the 9 points, but if Shay McCoy plays to his full potential then I believe the Bills will win the game outright. If he doesn’t play then I still believe they will keep the game to within single digits.
McCoy finished the regular season 4th in the league with 1,138 rushing yards. That’s 4 spots higher than Jags’ RB Leonard Fournette who finished 8th with 1,040 yards. Shady also had 59 receptions for 448 yards and 2 TDs. Fournette had 36 receptions for 302 yards and 1 TD. On the year, Leonard had 10 total TDs to Shady’s 8 total TDs. But, McCoy had more yards from scrimmage and is a bigger threat out of the backfield.
Both defenses give up a lot of yards on the ground. Jaguars finished 21st at 116.3 ypg and the Bills finished 29th at 124.6 ypg. Whichever team can establish the run and get more production out of their top RB will have a huge advantage this weekend. And, it will be needed because both teams have inconsistent quarterbacks that will face difficulties this weekend against the opposing defense. .
The Jaguars finished with one of the top defenses in the league and that was largely due to their pass defense which finished 1st in allowing only 170 net passing ypg. Buffalo was 20th at 231 net passing ypg. Jacksonville finished 2nd with 55 sacks compared to Buffalo at 29th with just 27 sacks. The Jaguars were 2nd with 21 interceptions and the Bills were tied for 6th with 18 interceptions.
I believe the Bills have the advantage at the QB position despite Taylor playing against a tougher defense. Bortles threw for more yards and TDs than Taylor did this year, but Tyrod has better numbers in other major QB categories. Taylor had less turnovers than Bortles with 4 INTs and 4 fumbles compared to Blake who had 13 INTs and 9 fumbles. Taylor is more of a running threat with 427 rushing yards and 4 TDs compared to Bortles with 322 rushing yards and 2 TDS. Tyrod was also a more efficient QB with a 62.6 completion percentage, 56.4 QBR, and an 89.2 Rating. Bortles finished with a 60.2 completion percentage, 55.5 QBR and a Rating of 84.7. And this was Bortles best season of his career. While Tyrod had a down year compared to his career best numbers last year.
I believe that the Jaguars will smother the Bills receivers all game long and put pressure on Tyrod. However, he will be able to make more throws on the run and pick up those crucial first downs with his legs than Bortles. I also believe he will do a better job managing the game than Bortles. I believe Blake will make more mistakes and turn the ball over a few times. If McCoy doesn’t play, then Taylor has nothing to lose and can go out there and have fun, which is another advantage over Blake.
The signs are pointing to McCoy playing and it’s an understatement at how important this will be. McCoy’s participation will be the difference between winning and losing.
Buffalo is 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games, 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games against the AFC South, and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games at Jacksonville. The Jaguars are 3-5 ATS in their last 8 games when favored by 3.5 to 9.5 points, 8-12 ATS in their last 20 home games, and 4-6 ATS in home games where the total is between 38.5 and 42 total points. The Road Team is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 head-to-head games and the Underdog is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings.
With all of that said, I like Buffalo in this game. I believe the combination of Taylor and McCoy will outperform the duo of Bortles and Fournette. Buffalo has the secondary to shut down the Jaguars receivers and should be able to match the output from the Jaguars secondary. The key for the Bills defense this weekend is getting pressure on Bortles. If they can do that consistently, then they will have a lot of success this week. Look for Taylor and McCoy to combine for 150 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns and the Bills defense to force more turnovers than the Jaguars. I like Buffalo to get revenge on their former head coach and to win this game by a score of 23-20.