Each year about this time we talk about the team you don't want to face in the playoffs. You never include the No. 1 seed because, well, of course. And typically you pick the fifth or sixth seed because they got their wild-card spot by playing well in December.
Forget the Ravens. Forget the Bucs. The team you don't want to play in January is the Buffalo Bills.
With all due respect to the Packers, the AFC's No. 2 overall seed may very well be the second-best team in the NFL.
The Bills crushed the Dolphins 56-26 in a game Miami needed for their playoff hopes. And maybe we didn't see a 30-point win coming, but it's in line with what the Bills have been doing to teams in recent weeks.
Buffalo has had a top-five scoring defense since Week 12. If not for the Hail Murray they would have finished on a 10-game win streak dating back to before Halloween.
And then there's Josh Allen. The third-year franchise quarterback has, in consecutive weeks, set the Bills single-season records for passing touchdowns and passing yards.
What I love most about the Bills is that they aren't even letting teams hang around. Since that Week 10 loss to the Cardinals, not a single team has finished within a possession of the Bills.
I go back to that Week 6 loss to the Chiefs. Head coach Sean McDermott picked his poison and let the Chiefs' run game beat them up so that Patrick Mahomes wouldn't. Kansas City rushed for 245 yards and Mahomes passed for 225 yards. But with about 5 minutes left in the game and down 23-17, the Bills forced a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble that would have given the Bills the ball at the Kansas City 31.
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They would have had a chance to take the lead against the Chiefs there. But instead, the replay showed Edwards-Helaire's knee was down just before the ball came out. Mahomes took the Chiefs down for the field goal and that provided the final margin of victory.
Allen is a better quarterback today than he was then. The defense is playing far better ball. And after sweeping the Patriots and beating the likes of the Seahawks and Steelers, the Bills now know how to win big games.
Buffalo's 24 years without a playoff win is the third-longest active drought in the NFL. We should anticipate that drought ends next weekend, and I believe they'll get to their first AFC Championship Game since the 1993 season.
More Week 17 Notes
- The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to need to invest a top-64 draft pick on a quarterback this spring. They tried to get away with stealing Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 draft and there's been little to inspire confidence that he can captain this team when Ben Roethlisberger is unavailable. Couple Roethlisberger's injury history and it's a no-brainer that the Steelers need to devote capital to this position in the coming months.
- Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of 1,000-plus rushing yards. Do you understand how crazy that is?
- Xavien Howard picked off his 10th pass of the season, something that hasn't been done since 2007. This league protects quarterbacks and receivers, and so it's more difficult than ever to intercept passers. Entering Week 17, the interception rate was at a post-merger low of 2.15%. Howard should add an All-Pro honor to his Pro Bowl honor from this season.