There might not be a better matchup on the Week 15 NFL schedule than the second-to-last one: the Buffalo Bills against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Other games might offer more offensive juice or pit division rivals against each other, but you'd be hard-pressed to find two teams with as many similarities as the AFC foes set to square off on Sunday night.
Separated by just a game in the conference standings, both Buffalo and Pittsburgh are positioned to claim a wild-card spot. Both move the ball relatively unconventionally, at least in the sense that their quarterbacks are hit-or-miss material. The Bills' Josh Allen has flashed elite playmaking ability, particularly with his legs, despite bouts of inaccuracy and turnovers; the Steelers' Devlin Hodges has replaced Mason Rudolph's check-down tendencies with a gunslinger mentality, albeit with a limited role guiding a ground-heavy attack. And on defense -- well, that's both clubs' bread and butter, with the Bills and Steelers sharing top-five placement among the NFL's best overall defenses as well as in pass coverage.
Suffice to say, things could be low-scoring when Buffalo travels to Steel City for their Week 15 showdown, but that doesn't mean things will be unexciting. A victory would go a long way for either side as the Bills (9-4) look to keep pace with the New England Patriots in the AFC East and the Steelers (8-5) look to solidify their wild-card standing out of the AFC North, not to mention continue defying expectations for Mike Tomlin's year without Ben Roethlisberger.
As we gear up for this crucial AFC clash, here's a look at a few key matchups, some information on how to tune in, plus a prediction for how Sunday night's showdown will shake out.
How to watch
Date: Sunday, Dec. 15 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
TV: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Bills WR John Brown vs. Steelers CB Steven Nelson
Buffalo can't expect to break too many big plays against a stout Steelers defense, but the one guy who's consistently stretched the field for them is Brown. Nelson, meanwhile, hasn't recorded a single interception in his debut Pittsburgh season, but he's also been lauded by local media as a shutdown corner in the making, an obvious victory from the Steelers' 2019 free-agent haul. If Nelson is able to blank Brown, Allen will be forced to settle for the shorter stuff or extend plays himself, which only naturally could lead to more suffocation or takeaways from Pittsburgh's D.
Bills OT Cody Ford vs. Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Ford garnered high praise after taking on a bigger role at right tackle at the end of November, but he's got a tall task in front of him on Sunday night. Several players make this dominant Steelers defense tick right now, but for a guy who's now logged 12.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons, Watt is criminally underrated. The former first-round pick has at least two QB hits in six of his last eight games, and before Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals, he'd gone nine straight games with at least a half-sack. He's the real deal, and if he gets in Allen's face on a consistent basis, that could obviously cause problems.
Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds vs. Steelers RB James Conner
Buffalo is killer against the pass, but the Bills can be had on the ground. Fortunately for them, if Conner (questionable, shoulder) even suits up, he's probably not going to be 100 percent. And the Steelers have really counted on the ground game to take pressure off Hodges. Edmunds, who leads Buffalo with 97 tackles on the year, is the kind of guy who can single-handedly disrupt Pittsburgh's game plan if he's on. If the Bills are somehow able to force Hodges into throwing more than he needs to, they'll be in supreme position to pull out the victory.
The Steelers are rightly favored in this game, albeit by only a couple points. They've quietly been one of the most solid teams in the conference, and their defense is more than capable of keeping them in any game, anywhere. Seriously. It's been that impressive. They're built to stick around with someone like the Bills, who also have an occasionally brilliant D but are prone to giving the ball away. But something says Sean McDermott's squad will have just a little extra juice coming off a close loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and unpredictable as he may be, Allen probably gives you just a little more than Hodges. It'll be tight, and it'll be fun, but Buffalo's just a little bit better.
Pick: Bills 16, Steelers 15