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The Way I See It... From the Desk of Ed Kilgore

Weather Again Factor in Bills at Bears

You know December is always going to be iffy as the NFL regular season winds down, and especially for the Bills, who actually feel they have an advantage in cold weather for home games in Orchard Park.


Finally some other city gets the weather attention.


Not so much last week in a close call against the spirited Miami Dolphins, but this week potentially horrible weather in Chicago must be dealt with by both the Bills and the Bears, who won’t be phased as they play in outdoor Soldier Field right on Lake Michigan.


Although the brunt of an enormous storm system will be east of Chicago by Saturday’s 1 o’clock (12pm CDT) game, temperatures around 11 or 12 degrees and gusting winds will have an effect on the football and how to get it into the end zone.  Hopefully the 6-8 inches of snow expected will be cleared from the natural grass field by kickoff.


Although the Bears are an NFC opponent, the 11-3 Bills really need to win this game over the 3-11 Bears to realistically reach their goal of a 1 seed in the AFC.  The Bills are 8 point road favorites and the Bears have lost 5 straight, but the weather is usually a great equalizer.


That’s especially true in this game, which has all the earmarks of a “trap game”.


Bears QB Justin Fields is a better running version of Lamar Jackson.  He’s already rushed for over 1,000 yards as the Bears have the NFL’s top rushing offense.  Looking at a couple recent Bills games, that’s not a good thing at all. Missed tackles and blown assignments must be fixed.


While Josh Allen is becoming more and more accurate in the passing game, even in windy conditions, this could still be a challenge similar to the game against the Patriots last season. Gusts of 40-50 mph are expected in the Windy City, where they play right next to Lake Michigan.


Bills DC Leslie Frazier focused on the passing game against the Packers and most recently the Dolphins, at the expense of allowing surprising big chunks of yardage on the ground.  The Bills were ok with the trade off, and it worked.


The plan against Fields and the Bears will probably be just the opposite. Fields is a scary and efficient runner, who also has a strong arm. But the team with the #1 rushing offense is also dead last, #32 in the passing game.  The Bills will come up with something to at least contain Fields and make him beat them with the pass.


You know Allen is going to throw the ball no matter what.  That’s a given.


But as scary as this is, I’m also quite certain he’ll have to run the ball more than any of us, especially the coaches, would like to see. If this game was meaningless in terms of playoff standings, that could be different, but the 1 seed is different. First, you get a bye, watching everybody else play.  Right now that would mean the Chiefs and Dolphins in KC.  Then, you win two home games and you’re in the Super Bowl. Not easy, but quite doable.


Allen, as we all know, is a competitor, and if third and short or third and goal situations arise, there’s a good chance he’ll tote the football.  This is especially true in the Red Zone, where the Bills have been terrific while the Bears D has struggled to get stops. Still, you can’t put any player in a bubble, and the risk is always there for injury. 


Does anybody want to tell Josh not to take off if he sees an opening?


Me neither.


Because KC’s remaining 3 games are all expected wins, the Bills know they probably have to win this game, and then win at Cincinnati a week from Monday night, and then beat the Patriots at home. The Pats will be out of the playoff hunt by then, which doesn’t mean they’ll simply show up.


But we’ll worry about that later.


The Bills certainly can’t afford to look past the Bears, and they know it.  Center Mitch Morse is out with a concussion, but backup Ryan Bates is back thankfully.


The Bills do have a couple D linemen questionable, but they’re pretty healthy, including linebacker Matt Milano, who was surprisingly snubbed in Pro Bowl voting this week.  Allen, Morse, wr Stefon Diggs and strong safety Jordan Poyer made it.


The Eagles had 8 players named in the NFC.


To wrap up, I found it really interesting that when Fields was asked if he’d watched Allen play earlier this week, his quick answer was “not really”.


Is it just me, or is that worth one raised eyebrow?  Maybe two?


I think Allen will make Fields notice, as the Bills win it 24-10.





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