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NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Week 1 | NFL: Week 8

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
Chase Claypool Oct 29 1:30am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool has been successful on the traditional go route in the team's offense in the last few weeks. Entering Week 6, Claypool was targeted at the third-highest rate among wideouts on go routes -- six catches on 20 targets for a 30 percent rate. His percentage has dropped to 18.4 percent since then, showing that the Steelers continue to send him deep frequently. Pittsburgh has found success on passes of 10-plus air yards when targeting Claypool, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a completion percentage of 50 and a 3:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio when targeting Claypool for 10-plus air yards. The rookie has been the team's most efficient deep threat so far, but he's proven he can be a boom/bust WR3/flex with upside after catching seven passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5 and then going for one catch for minus-two yards in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Christian McCaffrey Oct 29 12:50am ET

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) arrived to practice on Tuesday with a red non-contact jersey on, but he then took it off and put on a regular jersey. It signals that he at least got in a limited practice on Thursday, which could put him on track to return from Injured Reserve and play against the Falcons. The 24-year-old do-it-all back hasn't played since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2, and fantasy managers will need to check back before game time on Thursday to see if he's been activated. It's hard to imagine the Panthers throwing him out there if he's not ready, so McCaffrey should be returned to all starting lineups if he's active. Mike Davis has been the workhorse back in his absence and might have just one more week of RB1 upside. He'll revert to being a McCaffrey handcuff once the Stanford product returns.

From RotoBaller

Tevin Coleman Oct 29 12:40am ET

The San Francisco 49ers opened their 21-day practice window for running back Tevin Coleman (knee) and tight end Jordan Reed (knee) on Wednesday. Both players are still on the team's Injured Reserve, so they're not listed on the official injury report leading up to Week 8 against the Seahawks. If they make it through the week without any setbacks, there's a chance they could be activated from IR and play on Sunday. With both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. on IR as well, Coleman would return to a backfield currently occupied by Jerick McKinnon and rookie JaMycal Hasty. It's time to add Coleman if he's available in your league, although he'll be a risky starting option this week if he returns, as he'll be at risk of being eased back in. McKinnon and Hasty are both low-end RB2/high-end RB3 backs this week if Coleman isn't ready to return. Reed would simply be a backup to George Kittle and wouldn't have any standalone value.

From RotoBaller

Greg Olsen Oct 29 12:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen had a down game in Week 7 and could be on track for another poor performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are allowing an average of just 5.1 fantasy points per game to the tight end position. On top of that, Olsen doesn't get an overwhelming amount of volume. He has just 22 targets on the year, which is fifth on the team, and it's less than half of what wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalfhave seen. If Olsen can get into the end zone, he could be worth the lineup spot, but that is far from a guarantee. He's in the TE2 conversation this week.

From RotoBaller

Seattle Seahawks Oct 29 12:10am ET

The Seattle Seahawks Defense has struggled mightily through the first six games of the season, and you should still be avoiding them in Week 8. The San Francisco 49ers offense has played well over the last couple of weeks, and the Seahawks are still dealing with a number of injuries in their secondary, including star safety Jamal Adams (groin). The 49ers offense takes care of the ball and Seattle still can't generate much of a pass rush. Until that changes, you should feel comfortable finding other defensive options to put into your lineups.

From RotoBaller

Jason Myers Oct 29 12:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers hasn't been the top fantasy option at the kicker position this season, but he's certainly been on the streaming radar because of the offense he's in. He's playing with one of the best offenses in football, and they're giving him plenty of opportunities to score. However, this week he could make a bigger leap because of the matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are third in the NFL in terms of red-zone touchdown percentage. They have given up plenty of yards to opposing offenses, but they have been tough on teams once they enter the red zone. Seattle can score with the best of them, though. Either way, Myers could have a big game as long as quarterback Russell Wilson continues to play at an MVP level.

From RotoBaller

Deebo Samuel Oct 29 12:00am ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel is averaging just 2.3 air yards per target this year. In comparison, tight end George Kittle averages over six air yards per target, while rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk is averaging over 11 air yards per target as the team's preferred downfield weapon. Samuel makes his money by catching short passes and doing damage after the catch. Entering last week, the second-year wideout averaged 9.1 yards after the catch per reception in his first season and a half, which is tops among receivers since 2019. He's done that to the tune of 215 yards after the catch in four games this year. Samuel is expected to miss the next two games, however, due to a hamstring injury. Aiyuk and Kittle should be even busier in Samuel's absence, with Dante Pettis potentially serving as the underneath pass-catcher on short routes.

From RotoBaller

Alvin Kamara Oct 28 11:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has become the focal point of the team's passing offense with wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) out since Week 1. Emmanuel Sanders also missed the Week 7 game after going on the COVID-19 list. Kamara leads the league in target rate (35.6 percent) on his 149 total routes run, with a good chunk of those being screens (43). He's run more than twice as many screen routes as the next closest player on the list. Kamara has been targeted on 19 screens, catching 16 passes for 139 yards. His 448 yards after the catch go to show why the Saints star running back is a must-start, high-end RB1 each and every week, especially for as long as Thomas continues to sit out.

From RotoBaller

D.K. Metcalf Oct 28 11:30pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf had a brutal Week 7 against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but he's poised for a bounce-back performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. He's gone over 90 yards in five out of six games this season and he's scored a touchdown in four out of his six games. Metcalf's combination of size and speed makes him a handful to cover for the majority of cornerbacks. The 49ers are a tough matchup because they're the sixth-best defense against the wide receiver position in terms of fantasy points allowed. He likely won't be in the WR1 conversation, but Metcalf is a solid WR2 play for the week in Seattle's high-scoring offense.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Lockett Oct 28 11:30pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett put up one of the most spectacular performances we'll see all year in Week 7, and he'll be looking to put up another great performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. Lockett operates primarily out of the slot, and that's where he can do some serious damage. While the 49ers outside cornerbacks have been playing well, slot corner Jamar Taylor has been struggling through the first two months of the season. Lockett leads the team in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and catch percentage. With the volume he receives, he's a WR1 for the week, regardless of the matchup.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Oct 28 11:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (foot) did not take part in practice on Wednesday. The Bengals continue to say that Mixon is day-to-day, but everything else points to him being week-to-week and highly questionable for Sunday's matchup with the Titans. As of now, there's a good chance that Mixon will be questionable for Week 8, but continue to monitor his practice status the rest of the week. If he cannot suit up, Giovani Bernard would see the lion's share of the backfield touches and would present fantasy owners with RB2 value as a plug-and-play option, especially if you also own Mixon. Bernard ran the ball a season-high 13 times for 37 yards and also caught all five of his targets for 59 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss to the Browns.

From RotoBaller

Phillip Lindsay Oct 28 11:20pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol and did not practice on Wednesday. An independent neurologist is expected to determine whether Lindsay will be able to play in Week 8 against the Chargers. As of now, consider him questionable to face the Bolts on Sunday, making him an extremely risky RB3/flex option in PPR leagues. He's played in just three games this year due to turf toe that he suffered in the season-opener, but the 26-year-old has ran for 5.2 yards per carry on his 39 rushing attempts. The Chargers have allowed just four total touchdowns to RBs this year, so Lindsay isn't all that attractive, especially if he plays and shares touches with Melvin Gordon III. Gordon will have obvious RB2 upside if Lindsay is forced to miss yet another game.

From RotoBaller

Mark Ingram Oct 28 11:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II (ankle) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Ingram injured his ankle in Week 6 and had the Week 7 bye to heal up, but he's still in danger of missing his second straight game. A questionable tag could be coming this weekend against the Steelers, a team that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this year. Ingram will need to get in at least a limited practice either Thursday or Friday to have a shot at playing, but he'll be a low-upside RB3/flex if he's active. Some combination of rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards would work out of the Baltimore backfield if Ingram can't go.

From RotoBaller

Russell Wilson Oct 28 11:10pm ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is currently second in scoring on the year and he'll be looking to keep rolling in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. He's averaging over 30 fantasy points per game through six games and he's surrounded by outstanding weapons. The 49ers are going to be a tougher test than he's faced recently, as they're allowing 16.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, which is tied for the eighth-best mark in the league. With the pace that Russ is playing at, though, you can't afford to bench him and he's still a solid QB1 option for the week.

From RotoBaller

Leonard Fournette Oct 28 11:03pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette was tabbed as the 'nickel' back for head coach Bruce Arians, as he is expected to play in hurry-up and obvious passing situations. The role is a big reason he played more snaps in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders, supplanting RB LeSean McCoy from the role.

Fantasy Spin: Ronald Jones is the bellcow back for the Bucs, but that's right now. The tailback picture has changed all season, and will continue to change. Jones is a decent RB2 in most fantasy formats, while Fournette is more of a low-end RB2 or flex fantasy option in PPR formats, with lesser appeal in standard play.

From TheHuddle

LeSean McCoy Oct 28 10:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeSean McCoy did not play any snaps in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders, as RBs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette are solidly entrenched as the top two backs. If the Bucs elect to dress only three backs, McCoy or RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn might be inactive in Week 8.

Fantasy Spin: It hasn't taken long for McCoy to go from perennial high-round fantasy selection to role player worth using in deeper leagues to completely unusable Shady can be left to the waiver wire in all but the very, very deepest fantasy leagues at this point.

From TheHuddle

Dontari Poe Oct 28 10:23pm ET

Free-agent DT Dontari Poe was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, Oct. 28, after failing to find a trade partner for him. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the released had nothing to do with Poe being the only player to kneel during the national anthem ahead of games. 'When you're 30 pounds overweight and you're not doing anything about what's keeping you from performing well on the field, there is no reason to get into the other stuff,' Jones said. 'We have a platform here but the platform on the football field has a high standard, and (Poe) was not up to the standard. He needed to correct that and he did not. I'm going to leave it at that.'

From TheHuddle

Antonio Brown Oct 28 10:23pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown arrived at the team's facility Wednesday, Oct. 28, and head coach Bruce Arians liked what he saw from the veteran receiver in his first day at the team's facility. 'He looks fantastic,' Arians said. 'I think we had really good conversations today, he and I. He was in the meetings and everything and he's working with Anthony Piroli and the strength staff. He looks in great shape and ready to go next week.'

Fantasy Spin: Brown is wrapping up an eight-game league suspension for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. He is worth stashing away in most fantasy leagues, as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been gimpy all season, it seems. If Brown can stay healthy and keep his head screwed on straight, he could be a tremendous addition for fantasy owners at this juncture.

From TheHuddle

Los Angeles Rams Oct 28 10:20pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been playing good football all year, and they have the potential for another strong game in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are starting rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the first time, and the Rams defense will be aggressive to try and force him to make mistakes. They have an advantage in the trenches with a defensive line that's sixth in sacks and sixth in adjusted sack rate. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are 15th in sacks allowed this year. If the Rams can generate a turnover or two, they can be a solid option for the week.

From RotoBaller

Carlos Hyde Oct 28 10:12pm ET

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (hamstring) is nursing a hamstring injury, but head coach Pete Carroll said the injury is 'not major'.

Fantasy Spin: Wait to see if Hyde is able to practice in full Friday before officially plugging him back into your fantasy lineup. Chris Carson is a game-time decision due to a foot injury, and Travis Homer is nursing a knee ailment, so Hyde could be the most effective fantasy back if he can get healthy. If not, DeeJay Dallas might be looking at a significant role.