Ohhhh yeahhhh. I'm all in! The fates wouldn't go through all that trouble getting the Bills into the playoffs just to have them flop out in one game, would they? No way. THE BILLS RUN BEGINS.
Buffalo Bills (9-7) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10-6)
Excited to watch this game. Excited to see if Tyrod Taylor can take over. With LeSean McCoy's uncertain status, Taylor will need to channel his inner Russell Wilson against the league's top secondary and pass rush. Remember that officiating fiasco in Seattle last year, which overshadowed Taylor and Robert Woods ballin' out for the Bills? Taylor used his legs effectively, while pushing the ball downfield in a manner at odds with the Bills' stock dink-and-dunkage. Of course, Buffalo can throw all the none-yard outs the world has to offer if Blake Bortles serves up a pick-six, or a couple of short fields on errant throws. Yeesh. So, on that note, Leonard Fournette will be quite important for the Jags. Unfortunately, his performance has been middling -- at best -- of late. Over his last five games, Fournette's rushing totals have read 25, 57, 101, 48 and 69 yards -- at a lowly 3.23 yards per tote over that span. Jacksonville's defense, which has allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL this season, might have to carry these Jags to a win. (Something the suffocating unit's certainly capable of.)
Jaguars 20, Bills 17
The Bills have been able to cover up their 29th-ranked run defense this season when they have been able to force turnovers, and Blake Bortles presents the best opportunity for Buffalo to pull off an upset. Bortles is 8-0 this season when he does not throw an interception but 2-6 when he does. The Bills are 8-3 when they force at least one interception and 5-1 when they force at least two. The Bills have three defenders -- safeties Jordan Poyer (5) and Micah Hyde (5), as well as cornerback Tre'Davious White (4) -- in the top 12 in interceptions this season, and if those players come up big, the Bills can steal a possession and win a low-scoring game.
Bills 16, Jaguars 13
MDS's take: The Bills and Jaguars were the only two teams in the league that didn't pass the ball more than they ran it in 2017. (Buffalo had 487 runs and 476 passes, Jacksonville had 527 runs and 527 passes.) So I expect a run-heavy ballgame, probably low scoring and possibly determined by a defensive or special teams touchdown. The Jaguars' defense should be able to hold the Bills in check, especially with LeSean McCoy injured, and Jacksonville should take this one.
MDS's pick: Jaguars 16, Bills 7.
Florio's take: If the "good" Jaguars show up, this should be a laugher. If the "bad" Jaguars arrive at EverBank Field, the Bills could be securing a third game against the Patriots. But Jacksonville has one thing Buffalo doesn't — Tom Coughlin. And Coughlin will make sure that everyone knows what it takes to have success in January.
Florio's pick: Jaguars 24, Bills 14.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are clearly the more talented team in this matchup.
LeSean McCoy's status in this game is critical because the Buffalo Bills don't have many playmakers on either side of the ball. McCoy is Buffalo's premier playmaker. He helps out the defense by controlling the clock, and he helps out quarterback Tyrod Taylor by opening up bootlegs and play action.
Even if McCoy is 100 percent healthy, I have a hard time believing Buffalo will consistently move the ball on the Jaguars defense. Jacksonville has two elite cornerbacks, and that means the Jaguars won't feel bad about letting either go one-on-one all game. This, in turn, allows the defense to do more creative things in coverage and with the front seven.
Ultimately, the Jaguars should be able to contain the run game and shut down those bootlegs and play-action passes.
The Bills defense is sound, and the secondary doesn't screw up assignments often. Coach Sean McDermott always has his guys prepared for the schemes they're facing, and Buffalo makes it difficult for opposing teams to get chunk plays.
This could make things dangerous for Jacksonville because the Jaguars passing attack is predictable. If Blake Bortles sees one-on-one coverage, he's going to throw a fade down the sideline. If he doesn't have one-on-one, Buffalo can expect the shallow cross. Those are Jacksonville's biggest pass plays, and if the Bills can take those away, they'll make life hell for Bortles.
Barring an unbelievable game from McCoy or a bevy of turnovers from Bortles, I have a hard time seeing Jacksonville losing this game. The Bills run defense is suspect. Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars offensive line are going to have stretches of dominance—at least enough of them to get the win.
Jaguars 23, Bills 13
The Bills haven't been in the playoffs since 1999 and the Jaguars haven't been involved since 2007. This is the Drought Bowl
Jaguars 20, Bills 7
The Bills end the NFL's longest postseason drought, making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Jaguars, who limp into the playoffs as losers of their last two games, haven't been in the postseason since 2007.
Both teams have been wildly inconsistent, but the most reliable unit has been the Jaguars defense. The Jags were second in total defense and had the NFL's top pass defense in 2017. Though Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been careful with the ball, he might have a tough time against the "Sacksonville" pass rush.
The Jaguars have won five straight at home while the Bills were just 3-5 on the road. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, despite being terrible on the road, has seven touchdowns without an interception in his last three home games.
Jaguars 20, Bills 17