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

Bills Respect Tua-less Dolphins

After all the Bills have been through this season, just about every NFL expert has already moved the Bills into the Divisional Round of the playoffs even before they take the field against the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium Sunday.

 

How hard can it be, right? The Bills were already 10 point favorites in their Wildcard playoff game, and that line jumped to 13 ½ when we learned Tua Tagovailoa would not play.  This is actually a relief, because most of us cringe at the thought of Tagovailoa going down with another concussion.

 

Rookie Skyler Thompson, a 7th round draft pick, will start at qb with backup Teddy Bridgewater available despite a dislocated pinky finger on his throwing hand.  Thompson is a good athlete with a strong arm, but this is a tough spot for him against a Bills defense that is getting healthier each week.

 

It’ll be awhile before NFL players everywhere will take injuries for granted.  Only now that Damar Hamlin is home and expected to fully recover from his cardiac arrest in Cincinnati just under 2 weeks ago can the Bills focus on the task at hand.  Number 3 will still be a part of the Bills mindset Sunday.

 

The Bengals have a similar must focus situation, as they are 9 ½ point favorites over the Ravens, a jump of 3 ½ points when we learned Lamar Jackson won’t play.  Yes, there’s a lot of speculation out there about Jackson not trying very hard as he looks for a huge payday, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  He has a knee injury that just isn’t getting better quickly enough.

 

Already the rumors are flying that Tom Brady might be lured a bit further south in Florida after this season, as the Dolphins face a lot of important decisions going forward. 

 

So if the Bills and Bengals both win as expected, it sets up a monumental meeting in Orchard Park in the Divisional Playoff round.  The Bills have won 7 straight  and the Bengals are now on an 8 game winning streak. The Bengals, interestingly, seem to be the media darling right now even though the Bills played a tougher schedule and have a NFL second best 169 point differential. The Chiefs, as we all know, sit out this weekend with a bye, but should KC and the Bills keep winning, the AFC Championship game will be held in Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium Sunday January 29th at 6:30pm.  And yes, it’s a dome.

 

But a lot will happen before then.

 

Those of us who’ve been around awhile know that virtually anything is possible in the NFL.  Pro golfers miss 2 foot putts every now and then.

 

While Tagovailoa is easily the most worrisome injury for the Dolphins, who finished a topsy-turvey 9-8 season to squeak into the playoffs, the Fins have others. However, speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle can break a long one at any time if Skyler has time to throw.

 

So how will the Bills approach this?

 

The obvious expectation is that they won’t use designated runs for Josh Allen unless absolutely necessary.  But with low 30s and some sunshine expected, Allen will throw it plenty and mix in James Cook and Devin Singletary to keep it honest.

 

The steadiness of Allen is underappreciated imo.  Despite a ton of injuries and other distractions, Allen’s season numbers are almost identical to a year ago.  Does he try too hard at times?  Well, yeh. That’s who he is. One number that isn’t good is 29 interceptions over the past 2 seasons, the most in the NFL.  But in the playoffs, he’s Superman.  He’s thrown 14 TD passes with exactly ONE interception, which is an all time NFL record for TD to INT ratio. He’s still dealing with elbow and ankle injuries, but he’s one tough dude.

 

The bigger the stage, the better he is, and the Bills lofty goals will ultimately be decided by his play. Stefon Diggs will still be his #1 go to guy, and #2 Gabe Davis must be more consistant. Tight end Dawson Knox will also be more of a focal point.

 

Slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie is questionable with a hamstring, but expect Cole Beasley to get some targets. Jamison Crowder is now activated but won’t play against the Dolphins.

 

Defensively the Bills are getting healthy.  Von Miller won’t be back, but All Pro safety Micah Hyde is also active and practicing and might be out there if the Bills keep winning.

 

The Bills veteran leadership is all over the younger players about the importance of this game. The Dolphins have played the Bills tough twice and that could well be the case again, and the dreams die quickly with a stumble here.

 

It won’t happen.

 

Bills win it 31-13.

 

EdK

ekilgore120@gmail.com

 

        

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