NFL: Playoff Team Previews

AFC: Buffalo Bills

The Season So Far

The Buffalo Bills had a very strong start to the season thanks to their Defence. They opened the season 5-1 before dropping a game to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. Sitting at 8-3 entering Week 13, they have started getting everything going on both sides of the ball.

The first half of their season saw them garner a lot of attention for their dynamic and Defence, allowing just 15.2 points per game before their loss to the Eagles. Even the New England Patriots struggled against them, and Buffalo had chances to win the game. However, the Offense was struggling to put up points, as they were managing just 20.2 points per game in that same span.

Since then, they have been marginally better on Offense, and allowed fewer than 13 points on average, aside from the game against Philadelphia. The Bills may lack a tiebreaker currently against the Patriots, but are 2 games clear over the other AFC Wildcard teams.

How They Could Win It All

Although they may be second in their division, the Bills have 3 very winnable games remaining, which would secure their place in the playoffs. On top of that, getting a win against the Patriots would remove the tiebreaker, and an additional loss by the Patriots could open the door for the Bills to win the division. Doing all of this would then allow them a home game, which would give them a major advantage over most teams, especially if the elements play a factor.

The Defence has been one of the best in the league all season, with strong play at all levels. The Offense started slow, but has been finding its feet over the last few weeks. Quarterback Josh Allen has quietly amassed 387 yards running the ball, placing him third among all QBs behind Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. The Bills are fifth in the league in rushing, and chew up a ton of clock in doing so. This feeds their Defence, who can concentrate on shutting down opponents in the passing game looking for quick scores.

The Bills know exactly how they can win games, and their style suits cold weather and snowy environments. They have looked capable of beating almost any team at times, especially allowing such few points. Continuing to improve on Offense and taking some of the pressure off the Defence makes them a huge threat in January.

The Achilles’ Heel

Of course, despite the success on the ground, the Bills are 24th in passing yards per game. Josh Allen hasn’t consistently found his receivers, and seems to lack a true #1 target. Teams with strong secondaries, such as the Baltimore Ravens and Patriots, would be able to stack the box and force Allen to beat them through the air. And the Bills will have to beat at least one of them to make the Super Bowl.

While they may have the third best Defence in terms of points and passing yards allowed per game, the Bills are 14th against the run. With a large number of playoff teams being among the best in the league at rushing the football, this is a weakness that could be exploited by opponents. If the Bills remain vulnerable on the ground, and they can’t win through the air on Offense, their flaws are almost certainly fatal.

NFC: Seattle Seahawks

The Season So Far

In theory, the Seattle Seahawks are the third best team in the NFC based on their record. They sit at 9-2, holding a one game lead over the nearest wildcard team, and three games more than any others. Two wins will guarantee them a place in the playoffs, although they have 5 very tough remaining matchups.

Seattle have continually improved as the season has gone, especially on Defence. Aside from their loss to the Ravens and win against the Eagles, they have scored over 20 points in every game. Most importantly, they have found ways to win close games, which is something the best teams do. Just ask the Detroit Lions, who failed to win those close games early in the season, and have been in freefall since.

How They Could Win It All

With their QB Russell Wilson playing at an MVP level, Seattle are the only team to beat the San Francisco 49ers this season. Although it was a tight overtime game, they got it done coming from behind. With another game still to come, albeit in San Francisco, the Seahawks could still win their division. The Seahawks’ Offense is 5th in the league in yards and 7th in points per game. Significantly, it is a balanced Offense, making it tough for most Defences to close them down for entire games.

Although statistically not among the league leaders, the Seahawks are starting to come together on Defence. They have one of the highest amounts of turnovers in the league for the season, and are one of the better teams at defending the pass. Continuing to make plays like this and putting the ball in the hands of the Offense is how Seattle have won games, and will keep winning games.

The Achilles’ Heel

For all their successes, however, the Seahawks are yet to provide a truly dominant win. They have looked barely competitive for stretches in games, especially against the Ravens and 49ers. Winning games by small margins is a dangerous way to live in the NFL – if the 49ers had managed to kick either of two Field Goal attempts, they would still be undefeated.

The Defence also has struggled in many areas. They are struggling to record sacks, and haven’t consistently stopped the run. Furthermore, relying on turnovers means that some games will be out of their hands. Offenses that secure the football, which is what the Ravens and New Orleans Saints did in Seattle’s two losses, will keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands and him off the field. They may have the confidence that they can beat anyone on their day, but Seattle are walking a thin tightrope in their methods.

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