So just what do we take away from the Bills 35-13 win at Chicago? The game was closer than the final score, the Bills took too many dumb penalties, Josh Allen had a sub- par (for him) game and Stefon Diggs had 2 catches for 26 yards.
But it was really impressive for many reasons, as the Bills showed the signs of a mentally tough and physical team ready for crunch time.
The Bears aren’t good. However, they lost by only 5 points to the high flying Eagles just the week before. Bears young qb Justin Fields, already over 1,000 yards rushing for the NFL’s best rushing team, was just under 100 against the Eagles.
The Bills held Fields to his NFL worst day, with 11 yards on 7 carries. That’s it. Fields also had a poor day passing, but with wind chills below zero and heavy gusting winds that’s understandable.
Allen won’t use that as an excuse, but he clearly wasn’t as accurate as usual with under 200 yards passing and two interceptions, including one in the end zone. Allen also ran one in, and the 3 TD’s put #17 in the record books. His 75th overall touchdown pushed him ahead of Dan Marino for most TD’s in his first five seasons in the history of the NFL.
No question this is also great news to West-Herr Automotive Group, Nike, Frito-Lay, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, Hyundai, Tommy Armour Golf and New Era.
The fact that Allen had an off day, for him anyway, and the Bills still won by 22 points, is encouraging. He doesn’t have to be perfect for the Bills to win, at least against teams the Bills are favored to beat.
But Allen will have to be nearly perfect for the Bills biggest game of the season a week from tonight at Cincinnati, where the AFC’s top seed will probably be decided. The Bengals have won 7 in a row behind talented Joe Burrow, who has a healthy receiving corps again, while the Bills have reeled off 6 straight to improve to 12-3, a game ahead of Cincy. The Chiefs are also 12-3 but the Bills have that tie breaker with the earlier win at Arrowhead.
The early Vegas line has the Bills a 1 ½ point road favorite, and no question the Bengals will use that sign of disrespect as a motivator. Like that will really matter.
Maybe the most encouraging sign for the Bills at crunch time, is the success of their overall running game, which started late in the Miami game when the weather turned into a snow globe.
Against the Bears, the Bills rushed for 254 yards, with Devin Singletary and James Cook splitting most of that. Both broke TD runs beyond the red zone, which was important under the extreme conditions.
But another thing we learned is that a mostly healthy Bills defense can be pretty good. Earlier this year they held both Derick Henry and Nick Chubb under 2 yards a carry. Against the Bears Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver, Shaq Lawson and AJ Espenesa bullied the Bears up front. Cornerback Tre White continues to round into pre injury form. Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds and Jordan Poyer are also the healthiest they’ve been since October.
This matchup against the Bengals at Cincinnati has been getting bigger every week, with both teams red hot, getting healthier, and oh by the way owning wins over the Chiefs.
The long range weather forecast shows us some quite mild temperatures for December in southern Ohio, so hopefully we’ll see this game played on a fast track. Allen vs Burrow is the headline, but turnovers and special teams will likely decide the game at the end.
Although we can’t expect Allen to be perfect for every game, it’s game like this where his true value is determined. Mahomes has the ring and Burrow just missed one.
So far in his career, Allen has played his best football on the big stage, and I fully expect that to happen at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati a week from today.
Bills win it 32-27.
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