In what would have been an unlikely scenario a few months ago, the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars meet in the second AFC Wild Card matchup of the weekend. If you were to tell somebody that the Bills and Jags would be playing here, they would have told you to head right for the psychiatrist. The Bills did it and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
They put an end to the longest playoff drought in North American professional sports. The Bills didn’t do all on their own, they needed help from the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. The Bengals, in improbable fashion, got the win over the Ravens and sent the Bills to the postseason. It was an epic choke job by the Ravens, as all they needed was a win over the underdog Bengals to make the playoffs. The Ravens’ loss was the Bills’ gain.
The Bills must forget about last week and focus on the Jaguars. It would be easy to get caught up in the hoopla of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Andy Dalton saw a bump in donations to his charity after the Bengals beat the Ravens. Bengals’ fans may not care for their team at the moment, but the Bills’ faithful are more than ecstatic with their comeback victory in Week 17. Bills’ fans are still high off reaching the playoffs, but it’s time to shift attention to the Jaguars. Anything less and the Jags are going to take full advantage of the Bills. This is Jacksonville’s first playoff appearance since 2007, and their first divisional title since 1999.
The Jaguars got to this point with a stifling defense that doesn’t give much room to opposing offenses. It isn’t totally because of Blake Bortles, but he isn’t being given some of the credit he deserves. He didn’t light the stat sheet on fire, but Bortles did not cause any trouble, either. Bortles threw 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with 322 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
He has deceptive speed. Not a burner by any means, but he’s more mobile than he looks. Bortles is armed with a talented rookie in the backfield. Leonard Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also hauled in 302 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. The whole team should be given credit for where they are. Let’s get straight to our Bills vs. Jaguars pick in the AFC Wild Card Round below.
Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Betting Odds:
vs. Jaguars -8.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Bills vs. Jaguars Pick:
The Bills earned a 22-16 win over the Dolphins last week to set-up this meeting with the Jaguars. Their defense came up big late, as Jordan Poyer picked off a ball following a successful onside recovery by the Dolphins. The Bills’ defense struggled early because of injuries, but they started to come around. In their last six games, the only team to score more than 25 points was the Patriots.
Besides the Pats, they allowed an average of 12 points per game. Jacksonville is not the New England offense. They ultimately allowed 22.4 points per game overall, with the Patriots and Saints skewing those numbers. Remove those two offenses and the Bills gave up 19.3 points per game.
Buffalo may be without a key cog on offense in this one. LeSean McCoy enters as questionable after injuring his ankle in the season finale. He will likely play against the Jaguars, but he is going to be playing hobbled. Do not expect him to be at 100% in this game. McCoy is the focal point of the Bills’ offense, so it might be tough sledding against the Jacksonville defense. Tyrod Taylor must make plays against a defensive unit that ranked 2nd overall, with 286.1 yards allowed per game. They’re 1st against the pass, giving up only 169.9 passing yardage per game.
I think the 44 points the Jaguars allowed against the 49ers was a wake-up call. The 44-33 loss may have been a blessing in disguise, as they got a bad game out of the way before the playoffs. The Bills’ defense should be able to make some plays here and there, but my concern with them is on the offensive side of the ball. Behind McCoy is Mike Tolbert.
Tolbert is a veteran in the twilight of his career. He rushed for just 247 yards and a touchdown. Buffalo is going to feed McCoy, but how effective do we expect him to be against this Jags’ defense on the road? If McCoy struggles, the Bills are left with an old and slow Tolbert. They will be limited with what they want to do on offense without a healthy Shady. I expect the Jaguars to win this one in methodical fashion. The Jaguars will punch the Bills in the mouth on the ground. Buffalo ranks 29th against the run, allowing 124.6 yards per game. Look for a big outing from Fournette, as he leads the Jags to a 11-14 point win.
PICK: JAGUARS -8.5 (-110)