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Top 7 storylines to follow for Bills vs. Colts | Week 11

Micah Hyde (23) knocks down the Hail Mary pass to seal the win for Buffalo. Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts, Super Wild Card Game, January 9, 2021 at Bills Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert
Micah Hyde (23) knocks down the Hail Mary pass to seal the win for Buffalo. Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts, Super Wild Card Game, January 9, 2021 at Bills Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert

In the last two weeks the Bills and the Colts have both played the Jets and the Jaguars. The Colts won both matchups, while the Bills split. The two play each other in Week 11 as they face off for the first time since Buffalo beat them in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last season.

Here are seven storylines to follow leading into Sunday.

1. Playoff rematch

The last time the Bills played the Colts, the game ended in a dramatic finish. With four seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Colts trailing by three, Colts QB Phillip Rivers tossed up a Hail Mary in hopes that he could win the game. Too bad safety Micah Hyde was there to knock the ball down and end their journey in the playoffs so the Bills could continue on with a Wild Card win in their pocket.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen had an efficient game completing 26 of 35 (74.3%) passes for 324 yards. Allen threw for two touchdowns, rushed in for one and finished with a 121.6 passer rating. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs also racked up 128 receiving yards from six catches.

Going into that game the Bills offense averaged 31.3 points per game (2nd in the NFL) and the Colts averaged 28.2 points per game (9th in the NFL). On defense, Buffalo allowed an average of 23.4 points per game (16th) and Indianapolis allowed an average of 22.6 points per game (tied for 10th).

The only category that's changed a lot from last year is the Bills scoring defense. On offense, the Bills are currently averaging 31.1 points per game (2nd) and the Colts are averaging 26.8 points per game (8th). On defense, Buffalo is allowing an average of 15 points per game (1st) and Indianapolis is allowing an average of 23 points per game (13th).

While the Bills played a great game against the Colts last year, head coach Sean McDermott isn't focused on carrying anything from that win into Sunday's game.

"What happened in last year's game will have no effect on this year's game," McDermott said. "Last year's team was last year's team and this year's team is this year's team. And they're a good football team, well coached by a guy that a lot of Bills fans respect and adore for what he did here in his time in Buffalo. Frank's (Reich) a class act in everything he does and I know he'll have his team prepared."

2. Is Buffalo's offense back on track?

The Bills went from putting up their lowest point total in 2021 in Week 9 to scoring their most points this season in a win against the Jets.

Funny how the script can flip in just one week, right? This is what we hear from coaches and players every week, it's a week-to-week league and on any given day, any team can win.

But scoring 45 points doesn't just happen out of nowhere. And the stats show the Bills have had a pretty powerful offense since the start of the season. Their +145 point differential is the best in the NFL and ties for Buffalo's biggest point differential in franchise history through nine games.

Week 10's win against the New York Jets showed Buffalo can be successful in the air and on the ground. Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for 366 yards and the running backs averaged 5.8 yards per carry - that's a strong performance.

So can we expect this type of domination from the offense this week and the following weeks?

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll explained it's not as easy as just carrying successful things from one week over to the next week. Each week they face a different team, which means they'll have to create a different plan for how that defense will try to stop the Bills.

What matters is their consistency in how they prepare and execute that plan every week.

"Ultimately it comes down to executing whatever you've planned for that particular week," Daboll said. "And that's really what we try to focus on each week. You can't get too far ahead of yourself. You can't get too down if things aren't perfect. I think that's what we try to do in terms of the leadership group is to stay consistent, stay authentic, communicate well. And then, each week you kind of start building back up."

3. Stopping Jonathan Taylor

Buffalo's defense has a tough task this week—stop the NFL's leading rusher.

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is in good company as he is tied for the most rushing yards with Derrick Henry. The two each have 937 rushing yards through 10 weeks. Taylor also has nine rushing touchdowns (3rd in the NFL), averages 5.8 yards per attempt (2nd among running backs) and has 54 rushing first downs (1st).

The last time the Bills faced a big threat in the run game they allowed 143 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns to Derrick Henry. But overall, Buffalo has been successful at stopping the run by only allowing an average of 83.9 rushing yards per game (3rd).

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows they can't solely focus on stopping the run because the Colts have weapons in the passing game as well.

"When you're playing one of the top-ranked teams in the league as far as explosive plays, both in the passing game as well as in the run game, it creates a dilemma to a degree as you're trying to figure out how to deal with an excellent running back who is having a terrific season, but yet they've got a couple receivers that can make plays down the field," Frazier explained. "It's a challenge. We'll have to work real hard as a staff to come up with a plan to slow this offense down and hopefully minimize the number of explosives that they get."

4. Takeaways a plenty

The Bills and the Colts combine for 45 total takeaways. That's a lot. Buffalo has 24 (most in the NFL) and Indianapolis has 21 (2nd). Their turnover differential numbers are also close. The Bills are +14 (1st) and the Colts are +11 (2nd). They each have 10 turnovers.

Similar numbers are fun to point out, but that's not the only point to make here. Having such close numbers in these specific categories means this is where the game could be won. The Bills coaching staff believes finishing in the plus in turnover differential and winning the takeaway battle really plays into who wins the game.

In Buffalo's loss to the Jaguars, they finished minus in turnover differential by committing three turnovers and only grabbing one takeaway. After that game, Leslie Frazier explained the importance of getting takeaways.

"We really would've liked to match those takeaways that they got," Frazier said after the loss. "We felt like that's the area where we fell short. We pride ourselves on taking the ball away. We finished minus-2 in the turnover differential and that's the thing that kind of gnaws at all of us that we didn't come away with more takeaways."

5. Could the Colts make a run in the AFC?

The Colts started the season 1-4 and since then have won the last four of five games.

It's all about getting hot at the perfect time, right? Could the Colts be doing just that?

They're certainly heating up right now and have seven games left in the regular season with a Week 14 bye. After their win against the Jaguars, head coach Frank Reich made a case for his team and the run they can make in the AFC.

"There's a lot of good teams in the AFC but no one's just taken over, so why can't it be us? Why can't the Indianapolis Colts take over right now? That's our mindset," Reich said. "Why can't we take over? So, if we're going to do it, we got to prove it this weekend in Buffalo against a very good football team."

The Colts are currently second in the AFC South with a 5-5 record. The Bills are second in the conference, while the Colts are 10th. We will see who moves up or down in the rankings after Sunday.

6. Can Buffalo keep this streak alive?

Keeping a good record at home is important. You want to win in front of a home crowd who helps create a winning atmosphere.

Since taking over in Buffalo, Sean McDermott is 24-12 at home. In his last two seasons he's 10-2 at home.

This Bills currently have a six-game win streak going for home games in November. Pretty odd but this dates back to Week 12 in 2018 when the Bills beat the Jaguars 24-21.

In 2019, the Bills beat Washington and the Broncos at home in November. Last season, Buffalo beat the Patriots, Seahawks and Chargers at home.

If the Bills win on Sunday against the Colts, they'll keep their home win streak alive in November.

7. Colts debut on Hard Knocks premiere this week

If you want a sneak peek of Indianapolis, we've got you covered. Pencil in the premiere of Hard Knocks featuring the Colts on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET.

It's the first-ever in-season version of Hard Knocks and the show will take you inside how the Colts prepare for each opponent and what an NFL season looks like.

You can watch on HBO or HBO Max. For more information, click here.

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