Both teams find themselves pushing for a Wild Card spot as the Buffalo Bills face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15. Game time is set for 8:20 EST on Sunday, December 15 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.
Current odds list the Steelers as 2-point favorites at home with an over/under of 36.5 points. Click here to get betting lines and game previews of every Week 15 NFL game.
The Steelers have turned into one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this year. They started the year 0-3 and are now on their third different starting quarterback of the season. Yet, they have won seven of their last eight games to put themselves in the middle of the playoff race. Winning the AFC North is out of the question with the Ravens clinching last week. But the 8-5 Steelers are currently in possession of the second Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff picture.
That being said, hanging onto that Wild Card spot will be easier said than done over the final three weeks of the season. Both the Texans and Titans are 8-5, so the team that doesn’t win the division will be involved in the Wild Card race. The Browns, Raiders, and Broncos are also standing by in hopes that the Steelers collapse late in the year, so it’s important for Pittsburgh to keep winning. It’s worth noting that this is their final home game of the season. There will be no guarantees with road games against the Jets and Ravens, making this a must-win game for the Steelers.
Of course, the Bills are also one of the biggest surprises in the league this year. Few people could have guessed that they’d be 9-4 at this point in the season. Despite coming up short against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens last week, the Bills are in good shape to at least secure a Wild Card spot. Buffalo is also just a game back of the Patriots in the AFC, so a division title is also on the table.
While they’re close, the Bills are not in the playoffs just yet. On the heels of last week’s loss, Buffalo now has back-to-back road games with the Steelers and Patriots. Losing both games could be devastating for their playoff chances, especially since Pittsburgh would jump ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Ideally, the Bills would get at least a split of these two games. Considering their history against New England, this week’s game against the Steelers might be their best chance to get a win.
Despite being 5-1 on the road this year, I’m a little bullish on Buffalo in this game. The only win they have against a team that currently has a winning record came against the Titans before they made their quarterback change. I think they belong in the playoffs, but I’m not all the confident about the Bills beating a hot Steelers team on the road. I’ll lean toward Pittsburgh to win by a field goal and cover.
My suspicion is that quarterback Josh Allen is holding Buffalo back. Allen is able to make plays outside the pocket, which can make him difficult for opposing defenses to face. But he’s just not there as a passer. Despite some modest improvement, he took a huge step backward last week against a quality Baltimore defense, connecting on just 17 of his 39 passes for less than 150 yards. That doesn’t fill me with optimism for a primetime game against another good defense.
To make matters worse, leading receiver John Brown has faded lately, being held under 40 receiving yards in three straight games. The Buffalo passing game is already somewhat limited, and if Brown isn’t a threat down the field, there’s not much Allen and the Bills can do through the air. The task doesn’t get any easier this week against a Pittsburgh defense that is giving up less than 15 points per game over their last five games. The Steelers are also apt to get after the quarterback, potentially exposing a Buffalo O-line that’s conceded 10 sacks over the last two games.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers are starting to get healthy. Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are expected to play against Buffalo after sitting out last week. Having those two back will be huge for quarterback Devlin Hodges. He’s obviously not a long-term answer at quarterback, but the Steelers are finding ways to win with him. If nothing else, Hodges has been efficient, completing 75% of his passes over the last two weeks. There’s no reason to think that can’t continue this week with Smith-Schuster and Conner returning to help out.
More than anything, I’m expecting this to be a close, low-scoring game. However, an over/under of 36.5 points is a little too low for my liking. Instead, I’ll lean toward the Steelers to survive by a field goal. As long as Hodges continues to be steady and avoid big mistakes, Pittsburgh’s defense should be good enough to survive against a limited Buffalo offense. This game won’t be pretty, but I think the Steelers will win and cover.