Sun Jan 5 3:06pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) tries to throw a pass as he is tackled by Houston Texans' Whitney Mercilus (59), A.J. Moore Jr., right, and Vernon Hargreaves III (28) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Buffalo Bills center Mitch Morse (60) walks off the field after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Buffalo Bills running back Patrick DiMarco (42) kneels on the sideline after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is sacked by Houston Texans linebacker Jake Martin (54) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Josh Allen expects he'll be carrying the weight and pain of his first playoff loss for the foreseeable future.
Standing at a podium in the Buffalo Bills' field house on Sunday, the second-year quarterback looked and sounded as dejected as he did 15 hours earlier, following a 22-19 overtime loss in an AFC wild-card game at Houston.
''I won't be over this until we start playing again,'' Allen said. ''I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to use it and I'm going to grow from it. This will be a chip on my shoulder until we start playing again.''
He and the Bills have plenty to be unhappy with following a game in which Buffalo unraveled by squandering a 16-0 lead over the final 16 1/2 minutes.
Allen, who scored a touchdown receiving on a pass from John Brown in the first half, was erratic in the second half.
Over the final two quarters and overtime, the second-year player went a combined 11 of 26 for 133 yards with a lost fumble, nearly lost another one on an ill-advised lateral attempt, and was sacked three times. Allen particularly looked panicked attempting to scramble out of trouble and was penalized for intentional grounding on third-and-13 from the Houston 28 with 1:41 remaining.
The outcome, and the way Buffalo collapsed, put a dent into what had been a feel-good season in which the young and developing Bills showed signs of progress in winning 10 games for first time since an 11-5 finish in 1999.
With a majority of the team's core group of starters returning, the challenge becomes transforming the hard lessons learned into something positive.
''I think you have one of two ways to do it,'' center Mitch Morse said of how Buffalo responds. ''You can kind of dig a hole and crawl in it. Or you can kind of learn from it.''
Though the Bills made their second playoff appearance in three years, a majority of the players on this year's team were newcomers as part of a major overhaul under coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane.
Their vision was freeing up many of the bloated payroll issues they inherited in 2017 and rebuilding the Bills on a foundation of youth. Beane then used his newly created salary cap space to supplement the roster with established veterans last offseason.
Among the additions were veteran running back Frank Gore, who sees the Bills' potential despite the loss in Houston.
''This team has a lot of young talent, and I think they've put themselves in a position to be the top dogs in this division for a number or years,'' the 36-year-old said. ''I'm telling you, Buffalo, they're in a good hands, man.''
Gore, who completed his 15th NFL season, said he believes he can still play but will take time to determine whether he intends to play next season.
Fourth-year defensive end Shaq Lawson, who had a career-best 6 1/2 sacks this year, told The Associated Press he is leaning toward testing free agency with his rookie contract set to expire.
''See where it goes, but, I mean, you've still got to find out what's right for you, where it takes you,'' Lawson said, without ruling out the possibility of re-signing with Buffalo. ''I like Buffalo ... but at the end of the day I still want to see what's out there.''
Including Lawson and Gore, the Bills have 12 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. The group includes starting defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who had a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks.
One player not returning is linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who has already announced he's retiring after 13 seasons.
The Cleveland Browns took a break in their coaching search Sunday, and are scheduled to meet with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll either Monday or Tuesday, a person familiar with the meeting told The AP.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meetings are private. Daboll, Cleveland's offensive coordinator under Eric Mangini in 2009-10, was initially scheduled to meet with the Browns on Sunday.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the team's search committee have already interviewed four candidates: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Cleveland is expected to meet with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the coming days after New England was eliminated following a loss to Tennessee.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
The Bills have the talent, but currently lack the know-how of consistently winning games in the clutch.
It's a deficiency apparent in Allen, who unraveled too often over the final quarter of the season with games on the line. And it also covers a coaching staff, which appeared panicky with its play-calling and time management.
Against Houston, Buffalo all but ignored its running game in the second half having Gore and rookie Devin Singletary combine for nine carries.
Another curious decision was having rookie receiver Duke Williams get 10 targets and play 56 snaps - five more targets and two more snaps than Cole Beasley, Buffalo's established No. 2 receiver - despite playing just his second game in 10 weeks.
The hope is, the young players and staff are better prepared from this experience.
With plenty of salary cap space for a second consecutive offseason, the Bills have an opportunity to address more needs to complement their roster.
The first priority is adding a downfield receiving threat after Williams and Robert Foster failed to establish themselves. Though Brown is a speedster, he and Beasley were mostly used as slot and mid-range receivers.
Another priority is adding a running back to provide a one-two punch alongside Singletary after the 36-year-old Gore showed signs of age.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Ryquell Armstead hasn't appeared in a game this season as he's been on the NFL's COVID-19 list since training camp. It now appears that Armstead is done for the rest of 2020, as complications from the disease have led him to be hospitalized twice. Armstead's case is a reminder that COVID-19 is a serious illness with long-term health effects for many who get it.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins (ankle/concussion) is out for a third consecutive game on Sunday when the Texans face the Packers. With Akins sidelined, Darren Fells will once again serve as the primary tight end. He's caught eight passes for 142 yards and two scores in the last two weeks without Akins and should be considered a high-end TE2 play this week.
One name to keep an eye on at the trade deadline: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III, who was a healthy scratch again in Week 7. Ross was targeted five times in Week 1. Since then, he's appeared in just two games, with no receptions. The former first round pick is clearly not in the long-term plans for the Bengals and has reportedly been pushing for a trade.
Carolina Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (knee) is active for Week 7's game against the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Samuel had been listed as questionable on the injury report but was able to participate in all three of the team's practice sessions during the week on a limited basis. However, he is not a recommended fantasy option this afternoon because of his lack of involvement in the Carolina offense.
The New York Jets will get two players back on Sunday. Quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder) returns after a two-game absence, while wide receiver Denzel Mims (hamstring) is expected to make his NFL debut. Neither player is expected to be much of a fantasy asset on Sunday, though Mims could see plenty of targets with Jamison Crowder (groin) out, making the rookie an interesting emergency play in deeper leagues. Darnold will start over Joe Flacco, who is droppable if you still were holding onto the veteran in re-draft.
With tight end Austin Hooper (appendicitis) out, the Cleveland Browns are expected to start rookie Harrison Bryant at the position over David Njoku. Bryant becomes an interesting TE2 play for fantasy managers who need a streamer at the position, and while his ceiling is fairly low, he does offer some decent upside in full PPR leagues. The team clearly believes in him more than they do Njoku.
New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder (groin) has been declared inactive for the Week 7 game.
Fantasy Spin: Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios likely will serve as the top three receivers for the Jets this week, but fantasy players should avoid all three in their leagues.
New York Jets QB Sam Darnold (shoulder) is officially active for the Week 7 game.
Fantasy Spin: Darnold is back in the lineup after missing a few games but will be without his top receiver. He should be avoided in all standard leagues, and fantasy players in two-quarterback leagues may be able to find a better option.
Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins is inactive again in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, which means Kyle Allen and Alex Smith will serve as the team's quarterbacks once again. Haskins's time in Washington appears to be done at this point, as he can't even crack the active roster on game days at this point. With the trade deadline coming up, don't be shocked to see the team move Haskins for whatever they can get.
The Washington Football Team have declared DE James Smith-Williams, LB Casey Toohill, QB Dwayne Haskins, LB Thomas Davis, OT Geron Christian, WR Isaiah Wright and WR Robert Foster inactive for Week 7.
The Houston Texans have declared WR Keke Coutee, OT Charlie Heck, CB John Reid, TE Jordan Akins and LB Peter Kalambayi inactive for Week 7.
The New Orleans Saints have declared DE Malcolm Roach, SS D.J. Swearinger, OT Derrick Kelly, WR Michael Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, OG Nick Easton and CB Ken Crawley inactive for Week 7.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (calf) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Jones had been trending down all week, and Jamaal Williams will slide in as the starting running back on Sunday. Williams is a low-end RB1 option due to Houston's defensive struggles, as they're allowing the most rushing yards per game to opposing teams. We could also see some A.J. Dillon, though Williams is the player to go to for season-long and DFS managers looking for a Jones replacement.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (knee) is officially active for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Samuel's been a versatile player for the Panthers, seeing work as a receiver and a running back, though from a fantasy perspective, his production hasn't been consistent enough to make him more than a deep-league flex option at this point. His return could cut into Mike Davis's carries a little, as well as Robby Anderson's targets.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones is not a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline, according to sources.
Fantasy Spin: Jones has dealt with injuries this season but has posted at least 137 yards in two of his four games in 2020. He is one of the better receivers in the NFL when healthy and should be a weekly starting option.
New York Jets QB Sam Darnold will not be moved before the trade deadline, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Darnold is returning to the lineup after being sidelined but does not have a lot of weapons to work with in the passing game. He should be considered a low-end No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
The Detroit Lions have declared QB David Blough, WR Quintez Cephus, CB Desmond Trufant, OG Logan Stenberg, RB Bo Scarbrough and SS Miles Killebrew inactive for Week 7.
The Green Bay Packers have declared RB Aaron Jones, OT David Bakhtiari, QB Jordan Love, RB Tyler Ervin, DL Tyler Lancaster, CB Kevin King and S Darnell Savage inactive for Week 7.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery is on the trade block leading up to the trade deadline.
Fantasy Spin: Jeffery has not been able to play yet this season and there is no timetable to return. He could be traded in the next week but does not have a lot of fantasy value.
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan is not a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline, according to sources.
Fantasy Spin: Ryan has thrown 11 touchdowns in six games this season and has one of the better receiving corps to work with on offense. He can be considered a low-end No. 1 quarterback most weeks and can be a bye week replacement over the next few weeks for fantasy players.