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6 things to watch in the AFC wild card playoff race and Bills-Colts this weekend

Posted Dec 8, 2017

With a 6-6 record, the Bills are still in the thick on the AFC wild card playoff race heading into week 14. Find out who Bills fans should root for in other games around the NFL this week.

We’re down to the final four—four games left for the Bills in the 2017 regular season—two at home, then two on the road.

Regardless of tiebreakers and outcomes of other games, the number one priority for the Bills now is to take care of their own business—win their own games.

Here are some notes to keep an eye on this weekend as the Bills get set to host the Colts:

1. SCOREBOARD WATCHING

The jumble that is the AFC wild card playoff race will keep Bills fans busy during and after Sunday’s matchup with the Colts.

Most important games

Oakland (6-6) at Kansas City (6-6) – Sunday at 1:00 pm (CBS)

What to root for:  Bills fans should root for the Raiders for two reasons:

- 1. Los Angeles holds the tiebreaker over Oakland, so a Raiders-Chargers tie for the top of the AFC West would be a benefit to Buffalo (Bills hold the tiebreaker over Oakland)

- 2. A Kansas City loss will help push their first-round pick (which the Bills own) up the draft board next spring.

Redskins (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) – Sunday at 4:05 pm (CBS)

What to root for:  Rooting for L.A. is the way to go since they own the tiebreaker over the Bills. The best possible scenario is for the Chargers to win the West, clearing them out of the Wild Card race.

Baltimore (7-5) at Pittsburgh (10-2) – Sunday at 8:30 pm (NBC)

What to root for:  Baltimore will face Pittsburgh for their usual slugfest. A Baltimore loss benefits Buffalo since the Ravens are one game ahead of the Bills in the standings. This looks to be the toughest game left on Baltimore’s schedule. They finish at Cleveland, before returning home to play Indy and Cincinnati.

2. SECOND CHANCE FOR PETERMAN?

If Tyrod Taylor cannot go on Sunday, it could be a much needed second chance for rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman against the Colts. Head coach Sean McDermott said the starting quarterback decision will come down to game time.  If Peterman gets the start, he’ll be looking to bounce back from his first NFL start three weeks ago, and the five interceptions against the Chargers that ended his day after one half.

Peterman told reporters during the week his confidence has remained high since that game despite the outcome of his first NFL start.

“I think it’s always stayed high, that’s the thing,” Peterman says. “You get a lot of advice as a quarterback that the most valuable thing you have is your confidence. It definitely helped to get out there again and kind of be able to complete some balls and things like that on this past game, but my confidence has always stayed high.”

For what it’s worth, Colts Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino says they’re preparing to face either Tyrod Taylor or Nathan Peterman. “If Peterman plays, he plays,” Monachino said Thursday.

3. END THIS DROUGHT FIRST

It’s time to find the end zone for the Buffalo offense. They haven’t scored a touchdown since Zay Jones first quarter touchdown in Kansas City two weeks ago.

That’s 19 consecutive offensive possessions without a touchdown for Buffalo, the longest active streak in the league. Denver is next with 15 straight drives without a TD.

4. CALLED UP TO THE SHOW

The Bills made two promotions from the practice squad to the active roster this week. They signed DE Cap Capi and WR Brandon Reilly to the 53-man roster Tuesday.

Capi was just put on the practice squad a couple of weeks ago, but Reilly’s been with the Bills since the spring, one of the undrafted rookies the team signed after the draft.

He impressed during the preseason leading the team in catches and reception yards. Reilly says he was discouraged when he didn’t make the final cut, but happy to stick around on the practice squad. And his promotion to the roster has been popular in the Buffalo locker room.

“Great story. Phenomenal story,” Head Coach Sean McDermott said this week. “A great example of when you do things right, work hard, and bust your tail every day. I think not only myself but the rest of the team is excited about having Brandon up, because he’s worked so hard. He’s earned it.”

Reilly told The John Murphy Show earlier this week he spent his three months on the practice squad working as hard as he could.

“A lot of work goes into it,” he said. “Nothing comes easy. When I started, I started from the bottom when I came out of high school. I just always had that mentality-keep working and don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out the first time.”

5. BRISSETT LEARNING ON THE FLY

The Colts have become accustomed to on-the-job training under center this year. Jacoby Brissett will be making his 14th NFL start this Sunday.

Indy acquired Brissett on September 2nd in a cutdown day trade with New England. So, he’s still learning the Colts offense—and it often shows, especially when he holds the ball too long and takes sacks.

Brissett has been sacked an NFL high 47 times this season. That’s already the franchise record for most time sacked in his first season with the team, and there’s still four games left on the schedule.

It could be a bit of a sack dance for both teams Sunday. Indy has had its’ quarterback sacked on 12-percent of their passing plays this year, the worst record in the league. The Bills are third. Buffalo QBs have been sacked 9 percent of the Bills pass plays.

6. TOUGH LUCK FOR INDY

It’s been a season long struggle for the Colts at quarterback, with Scott Tolzien starting the first game, and Brissett starting the next 11. The reason, of course, is the slow recovery from offseason shoulder surgery for Indy’s franchise QB Andrew Luck.

He’s reportedly in Europe undergoing rehab on his surgically repaired shoulder. And even though there was hope that Luck might return sometime this season, those hopes have been dashed. There’s been some speculation Indy might be interested in entertaining offers for Luck when the season ends; ready to start over at the QB spot.

Not so, says longtime NFL writer Stephen Holder, who covers the team for the Indianapolis Star.

“I see no indication that anything will change in terms of Andrew Luck’s future with the Colts,” Holder said this week, in an appearance on The John Murphy Show. “I think they’re committed and I know Andrew Luck is committed.”

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