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Bills believe they're better prepared for playoffs than 2017

Mon Dec 30 6:44pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer

Players: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Duke Johnson, Tyler Boyd, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen

New York Jets wide receiver Vyncint Smith, center, is tackled by Buffalo Bills' Dean Marlowe, left, and Corey Thompson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, left, drops back to pass under pressure from New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander acknowledges how Buffalo's previous playoff appearance two years ago might have been a fluke.

''That 9-7 team that made the playoffs?'' Alexander said, recalling how the Bills had all the tiebreakers go their way - including Baltimore losing to Cincinnati on Tyler Boyd's last-minute touchdown catch - before sneaking in as the AFC's final seed. ''We probably, talent-wise, shouldn't have been there, but we found a way to get it in.''

This year, the 13-year veteran said, is far different.

''We're legit,'' Alexander said.

How legitimate remains the question as the young and still developing fifth-seeded Bills (10-6) travel to face AFC South champion Houston Texans (10-6) on Saturday.

Though the Bills clinched their playoff spot two weeks ago, and have their most wins since an 11-5 finish in 1999, it's difficult to determine how much Buffalo benefited from a soft schedule.

Buffalo went 9-2 against opponents who failed to make the playoffs, including a 13-6 season-ending loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, when the Bills rested a majority of their starters. Otherwise, they were 1-4 against playoff teams, including a pair of losses to New England, with Buffalo's lone win coming against Tennessee in Week 5.

That didn't deter Alexander from suggesting the Bills aren't afraid of any opponent.

''We're not scared to compete or see anybody in the playoffs,'' he said.

The confidence stems from how the Bills performed down the stretch in both wins and losses. Buffalo raised eyebrows by beating the Cowboys at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and then clinching a playoff berth with a Sunday night win at Pittsburgh.

And the Bills are buoyed by how each of their losses to Baltimore and New England over the past month weren't decided until the final 70 seconds. Both times, the Josh Allen-led offense failed to produce a game-tying touchdown inside the red zone and instead turned the ball over on downs.

The second-year quarterback has made strides in various areas, including winning five games this season with Buffalo trailing or tied in the fourth quarter.

And yet, Allen has overseen an offense that has been held to under 20 points eight times and limited to scoring two or fewer touchdowns 11 times - not including the mean-nothing season finale. Overall, the offense finished 24th in yards gained and 23rd in points scored in the NFL.

The inconsistent production places an emphasis on Buffalo's defense to continue effectively containing opponents. A unit that returned 10 starters from a year ago, finished this season ranked third in the NFL in yards allowed and second in points.

Two years ago, Tyrod Taylor was Buffalo's quarterback, and the offense came up short in a 10-3 wild-card loss at Jacksonville.

The Bills made the decision the following offseason to start over at quarterback by dealing Taylor to Cleveland and accumulate draft picks to trade up to eventually draft Allen with the No. 7 pick.

Allen's performance Saturday will provide an indication of how far the Bills have come in two years - or, perhaps, how far they still need to go.

WHAT'S WORKING

A defense that's allowed just one 300-yard passing game (Ryan Fitzpatrick had 323 yards in Miami's 37-20 loss) this season, while generating 44 sacks - the most by Buffalo since 2014. In a 20-13 loss at Houston in October 2018, Buffalo limited the Texans to a season-low 216 yards offense and sacked Deshaun Watson seven times.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Finishing drives. Buffalo has scored 25 touchdowns on 44 drives inside an opponent's 20, with the 56.8% touchdown rate ranking 17th in the NFL, and ninth among playoff teams.

STOCK UP

Receiver Isaiah McKenzie showed another dimension to his versatility by playing three snaps on defense against the Jets. McKenzie filled in at defensive back after Levi Wallace and Siran Neal were sidelined by injuries. Aside from his role as receiver, he has been used in running situations and plays special teams.

STOCK DOWN

Little used fifth receiver Robert Foster had no catches on four targets in playing a season-high 63 offensive snaps. Sixth receiver Duke Johnson, by comparison, had six catches for 108 yards in his fourth game, and first after being inactive the eight previous weeks.

INJURIES

Coach Sean McDermott had no update on CB Wallace (right ankle) and right tackle Ty Nsekhe (ankle), who were hurt Sunday.

KEY NUMBER

25 - Years since Bills' last playoff victory, 37-22 home win against Miami in AFC wild-card on Dec. 30, 1994. Buffalo has lost its past five postseason games.

NEXT STEPS

It's on to Houston, where Buffalo has lost three straight and is 2-3 overall against Texans.

Player Notes
Russell Wilson Oct 20 7:40pm ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has made each of the five defenses that he has faced 2020 look rather pedestrian on his way to becoming the favorite to claim the NFLs MVP trophy this season. On paper, his matchup Sunday versus Arizona should be another such instance, which is backed up by his gaudy DFS price tag. But gleaning his numbers against the Cardinals over the past two seasons tells a different story; over their last four matchups, he has exceeded the 200-yard passing threshold just once and has not rushed for a touchdown in any of those outings. The Cardinals Defense ranks in the top half of the league in passing yards allowed per game this season (226.5), another notch in the belt of why DFS fantasy managers may want to consider other QB options during Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Keenan Allen Oct 20 7:30pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (back) was last seen dealing with back spasms when he took the field versus the Saints last Monday. Despite that, head coach Anthony Lynn has reiterated that Allen will not be hampered come Sunday versus Jacksonville, a matchup that is set to work in Allens favor due to the 270.7 passing yards per game that the Jaguars Defense is allowing. With the emergence of Justin Herbert as both a downfield threat and consistent pocket passer, Allens season-long fantasy outlook is only on the rise after having averaged 12 targets through his first four games. His recent injury should give DFS fantasy managers pause, but so long as he is given the green light to suit up, season-long managers should consider starting him in most formats where he is rostered.

From RotoBaller

Chris Carson Oct 20 7:20pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson should continue to see an unimpeded path to RB1 duties this Sunday against the Cardinals with both Carlos Hyde (shoulder) and Rashaad Penny (knee) unlikely to suit up. Carson was limited to just eight carries in his most recent outing, but that was primarily due to the nature of the game flow; fantasy managers can expect to see him rack up his usual workload and then some against Arizona. Having amassed three rushing and three receiving scores so far this season, Carson has retained a considerable role in the Seattle offense, with Travis Homer a distant second to cutting into his workload. Carson is a must-start in season-long formats and should have some considerable DFS appeal.

From RotoBaller

Josh Jacobs Oct 20 7:10pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is likely fresh after having his week off, but that wont change the fact that hell be squaring off with the NFLs premier run-stuffing unit Sunday in the form of the Buccaneers Defense. Tampa Bay has yielded an average of just 64.3 rushing yards per contest to begin the year, while Jacobs has amassed an average of 75.4 all by himself. Having carried the ball an average of 21.2 times per game, season-long fantasy managers needn't shy away from Jacobs, but those eyeing him on the DFS market may want to tread lightly. Despite his five rushing scores, Jacobs has yet to compile a 100-yard game on the ground this season after having racked up five such performances as a rookie in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Alvin Kamara Oct 20 7:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara costs a pretty penny in DFS for those fantasy managers who are attempting to slot him into lineups, and with good reason. Kamara is facing off against a Panthers Defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in DraftKings points per game allowed, making him arguably the top running back to target on the slate. Even with Michael Thomas (ankle) scheduled to return to the offense, Kamara should continue to see a sizable role as New Orleans makes the run game a primary focus. Looking ahead, hell face stouter competition in the form of Chicago and Tampa Bay over the following two weeks, yet he still remains one of the premier season-long fantasy assets due to his consistent pass-catching role.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Cowboys Oct 20 6:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is set to make his NFL return Sunday against Washington after he was removed from the commissioners exempt list Tuesday. Dallas immediately added the pass-rusher to its active roster, hoping to reclaim some of the six-sack production that he delivered for the team back in 2018. Gregory had been suspended indefinitely by the NFL in February 19 due to repeated violations of the leagues substance abuse policy, but is now cleared to return to action. Even with the pass-rushing stylings of Gregory in the mix, the Cowboys Defense cannot be counted upon as a fantasy asset after having allowed at least 34 points in each of their last six games. In the best-case scenario, the unit can be used as a contrarian DFS play in hopes of honing in on their sack upside.

From RotoBaller

Carolina Panthers Oct 20 6:30pm ET

Carolina Panthers safety Juston Burris (ribs) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, but is expected to return at some point during the 2020 year. Burris has become an integral part of the Carolina secondary in his first season with the team, playing 100 percent of defensive snaps in four of his first five games. Without Burris in the mix, Jeremy Chinn should see a step up in usage, while Kenny Robinson was signed off of the practice squad and Sean Chandler was brought in from the Giants. With matchups versus the Saints, Falcons, and Chiefs, over the next three weeks, the Panthers Defense provided little fantasy intrigue regardless. The next chance that Burris could rejoin the mix comes Week 10 versus Tampa Bay.

From RotoBaller

Tae Crowder Oct 20 6:10pm ET

New York Giants linebacker Tae Crowder (hamstring) has been ruled out for at least the next three contests after he was placed on injured reserve Tuesday due to a hamstring injury. Crowder delivered the game-winning touchdown during Sundays win over Washington on a 42-yard fumble recovery, and he has compiled 18 tackles over his first five career games. His absence will give the Giants Defense a hole in its depth at the linebacker position, but irrespective of Crowders presence, the unit does not likely merit much fantasy consideration at this stage. The next chance that Crowder has to suit up will be Week 10 against Philadelphia.

From RotoBaller

Marcus Mariota Oct 20 5:10pm ET

The Las Vegas Raiders designated quarterback Marcus Mariota (pectoral) to return from Injured Reserve and also signed former Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving to the practice squad on Tuesday. Mariota was brought in during the offseason to push Derek Carr for the starting gig, but the former Tennessee Titan got hurt before the start of the regular season. The 26-year-old former Oregon Duck should return to being a high-priced backup to Carr when he's healthy enough to return, pushing Nathan Peterman down to No. 3 on the depth chart. Carr has been solid for the Raiders, completing a career-high 73.1 percent of his passes for 1,442 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception through five games in 2020, so it'll likely take an injury for Mariota to see the field before the season ends.

From RotoBaller

Timmy Jernigan Oct 20 4:33pm ET

Denver Broncos DT Timmy Jernigan was released Tuesday, Oct. 20.

From TheHuddle

Kentrell Brice Oct 20 4:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB D.J. Foster (quad) and TE Justin Johnson (ankle) were activated from the practice squad Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 20. OL Rick Leonard was also re-signed to the practice squad. To make room, Arizona released S T.J. Ward, S Kentrell Brice and CB Jalen Davis from the practice squad.

From TheHuddle

MyCole Pruitt Oct 20 4:23pm ET

Tennessee Titans TE MyCole Pruitt was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Oct. 20.

From TheHuddle

Christian McCaffrey Oct 20 4:13pm ET

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle) isn't expected to play in Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints, but he 'has a shot' to play in Week 8 versus the Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL Network's Mike Garofolo.

Fantasy Spin: Garofolo is speculating the Panthers don't want to bring back McCaffrey from a month-long absence to have him play twice in five days and it makes sense. Of course, it would also make sense for Carolina to not put McCaffrey back on the field on a short week (Week 8) and give him even more time to recover from his high-ankle sprain. Fantasy owners should view Week 7 as the last time they'll get to use Mike Davis - presumably for the remainder of the season - barring an in-game aggravation of the injury down the road. McCaffrey will obviously return to the RB1 ranks as soon as he returns to the field.

From TheHuddle

DeSean Jackson Oct 20 4:13pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles OT Jack Driscoll (ankle), TE Zach Ertz (ankle), DT Malik Jackson (quad), RB Miles Sanders (knee) and S K'Von Wallace (shoulder) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 20. S Marcus Epps (rib), WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring), WR Alshon Jeffery (foot), OT Lane Johnson (ankle), CB Avonte Maddox (ankle) and LB Duke Riley (rib) were limited. The Eagles held a walkthrough Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.

From TheHuddle

MyCole Pruitt Oct 20 4:10pm ET

The Tennessee Titans activated tight end MyCole Pruitt and defensive back Breon Borders from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Pruitt will rejoin the 53-man roster and is eligible to play in Week 7 against the Steelers. In his three games with Tennessee in 2020, Pruitt has caught all three of his targets for 17 yards and a touchdown. The team's tight end depth could be tested this Sunday with Jonnu Smith (ankle) questionable due to a mild ankle injury, but even if Smith doesn't play, Pruitt will be a desperation tight end streamer with Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim also fighting for playing time against the undefeated Steelers.

From RotoBaller

Dion Lewis Oct 20 3:53pm ET

New York Giants WR C.J. Board (concussion), DB Adrian Colbert (shoulder) and LB Tae Crowder (hamstring) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 20. DB Darnay Holmes (neck) and WR Darius Slayton (foot) were limited. RB Dion Lewis (hand) practiced in full. The Giants held a walkthrough Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.

From TheHuddle

Christian McCaffrey Oct 20 3:50pm ET

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) isn't expected to play in Week 7 against the Saints, which will be the fifth game he's missed since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2, according to sources. The Panthers are being cautious with their star running back, but McCaffrey is getting closer to a return and he could be back next Thursday against the Falcons. Carolina still needs to activate McCaffrey from Injured Reserve, and from there fantasy managers can monitor his practice status. Continue to be patient with the All-Pro running back, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the majority of fantasy leagues. Mike Davis continues to see a heavy workload in the absence of McCaffrey, and he'll remain in RB1 territory this Sunday against the Saints.

From RotoBaller

Juston Burris Oct 20 3:23pm ET

Carolina Panthers S Juston Burris (ribs) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 20.

From TheHuddle

Dak Prescott Oct 20 3:10pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys sit at 2-4 after a Monday night drubbing at the hands of the Cardinals, and the players are starting to voice their discontent with head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff. An anonymous player said, "Totally unprepared. They dont teach. They dont have any sense of adjusting on the fly." Another anonymous player said that "they just arent good at their jobs." Losing quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle) for the season was a big blow, but Dallas' defense ranks 26th in yardage allowed per game and are dead last in points allowed after six weeks. They have a chance to take control of the weakest division in football the next two weeks with games against Washington and Philadelphia, but this is a situation to watch if things continue to go downhill in Dallas.

From RotoBaller

David Irving Oct 20 2:53pm ET

Free-agent DE David Irving (Cowboys) signed an undisclosed contract with the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

From TheHuddle