1 - Confidence in Shady’s supporting cast
We likely won’t know LeSean McCoy’s status for today’s game until an hour and a half before kickoff. Buffalo’s running back is questionable for the Wild Card matchup with Jacksonville, but the Bills are encouraged with the RBs behind McCoy on the depth chart.
“Yeah, my confidence is still there. I saw it in Mike [Tolbert] and Murph [Marcus Murphy] last week in Miami,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “That’s really been the approach of our team all season long - preparing 63 guys and the next man up. We’ve done a good of that to this point.”
When McCoy went down early in the second half last Sunday, Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert showed why they’re serviceable backups. They each averaged over five yards per carry. With Murphy recording seven carries for 41 yards, and Tolbert tallying seven carries for 39 yards.
Murphy heads into today’s game coming off the biggest workload of his three-year career. Last Sunday, he set single-game highs in: receptions (two), longest reception (five yards), receiving yards (seven), rushing attempts (seven), longest run (25 yards), and rushing yards (41).
“I think just how electrifying he is. His quickness is rare. He’s been really gifted with that and you can just see that, that burst that he brings,” said Zay Jones. “For him to step up and make some of those plays is really awesome for our football team.”
Murphy and Tolbert proved they’re capable of filling in, but McCoy’s irreplaceable. He has the fourth-most rushing yards (1,138) in the league and leads the Bills in receptions (59). It would be immense if McCoy gets the nod for Buffalo’s first playoff game since 1999.
“I definitely want him to be out there, but I want him to be out there as himself. I know it’s tough to play through an injury and I know he wants to be out there,” said Tyrod Taylor. “It’s our third year together, and since we got here, a goal of ours was of course to win a championship, but first and foremost to get to the playoffs. We were able to do that this year, him being a big part of it. Definitely want him out there, but like I said, I more so just want him healthy.”
2 - Why baffling Bortles will be imperative
The Jaguars, led by their rushing attack, have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Though, in games where they’ve lost this season, it's come from the hands of their quarterback, Blake Bortles.
“Yeah, man. [It’s a] really good offense,” said safety Jordan Poyer. “The running game is really strong and Blake started making some good decisions.”
Jacksonville’s ground game ranks first in the league, averaging 141.1 yards per game. That part of their offense has been consistent, but they’ve shown some inconsistencies in the passing game.
Bortles has thrown 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season, which is a decent campaign for the fourth-year QB. The Jaguars finished 10-6 in the regular season. He was great in those 10 wins and subpar in the six losses.
In the team’s 10 victories, he threw 16 TDs and only three INTs. While in their six defeats, he threw just five TDs and 10 INTs.
It’s obvious that if Bortles struggles, the Jaguars struggle. He’s thrown at least one INT in each of the team’s losses this year. For the Bills, they rank sixth in INTs (18) and ninth in takeaways (25) this season.
Buffalo’s secondary will want to keep Bortles out of the end zone. In Jacksonville’s six losses, he averaged less than one passing TD per game. That’s a category that favors the Bills. They’ve ruled the red zone, only allowing 14 passing TDs all season, which was the second-fewest in the league.
If the Bills can contain Bortles and intercept him at least once, they’ll likely have a good shot of winning this Wild Card matchup.
“He understands that when the ball is in the air, we like to go get it so we’re going to have some opportunities,” said Poyer. “I think, to be able to make plays with the football, we’ve got to come in there with the right attitude and be able to stop the run."
3 - Dalton becomes Bills fan following donations
Today, the Bills are playing their first playoff game since 1999. Someone who’s a big reason behind that is Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Buffalo won their game in Week 17, so all they needed was Cincinnati to beat Baltimore to clinch a playoff berth. Miraculously, Dalton connected on a last-minute touchdown that notched the win for Cincinnati. Since then, Bills fan have returned the favor to the Bengals QB by donating to his foundation.
“The company that helps us run our foundation, Prolanthropy, reached out to us and said, ‘You all have no idea how much we’re getting from Bills fans,’” said Dalton on the John Murphy Show. “Literally I think we were getting at least 10 donations a minute. The outpouring of support for our foundation has been unbelievable.”
On Thursday, Dalton took to Twitter with an update on how much they’ve received from Bills fans. He announced that from 14,000 donors, they received over $315,000.
Dalton’s expressed his gratitude towards Buffalo multiple times throughout this past week. He shared with Cincinnati’s WLWT why he’s cheering for the Bills over the Jaguars.
“I’ll definitely be rooting on the Bills. I never would’ve thought I would cheer for the Bills,” said Dalton. “But because of their fans, because of what everyone’s been doing, we’re definitely rooting for them.”
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