Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills Wildcard Best Bet
The Indianapolis Colts take on the Buffalo Bills in an AFC Wild Card playoff game on Saturday at Bills Stadium. It's a good matchup between two teams that saw a lot go their way this season. With first-year QB Philip Rivers, a surging run-game, and a stout defense, the Colts won 11 games and stand out as an interesting X-factor in the AFC. The Bills, with the growth of Josh Allen and the rest of an up-and-coming roster, streaked to 13 wins this season and the 2-seed in the AFC. Who can move on to the next round?
Both Teams are Hot
You tend to give a playoff team a little more credit if they ended the season on a high note, and both teams here were able to. With a 56-26 win over Miami in week 17, the Bills won 6 straight games to end the season. If not for that Hail Mary loss to the Cardinals, they would have won 9 games in a row. The Colts won four of their last five to get to 11-5. And if not for the huge comeback win a few weeks ago by Pittsburgh, they would have five straight wins entering the postseason.
Why the Colts are Dangerous
They have a balanced offense with a good offensive line and a very experienced quarterback in Rivers. The run-game has been clicking, with a late-surge by Jonathan Taylor, who is really cooking right now. Other backs like Nyheim Hines are also valuable weapons who do damage aerially. A resurgent TY Hilton has become a nice target for Rivers, who also works well with other talented ball-catchers like Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman, Jr., Mo Alie-Cox, and others. It's not the most-thrilling offense, but they average 28 points a game and are pretty consistent.
A lot of Indy's hopes are tied up in their defense and the notion that maybe they help curtail the Bills offensive juggernaut. In their favor is a run-stop that is among the tops in the league. They are thick up-front and can put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The secondary can be very disruptive, registering many turnovers this season, including a quartet of pick-sixes. But with Allen's aerial flair this season, the leaky state of the Indy secondary looms as a big matchup problem in this game, as injuries have rendered this a soft-spot on the team.
The Bills Air-Game
Whereas the Colts are more of a competent well-rounded team, they lack that extra dimension that the Bills have with their passing-attack. And when that air-game is countered by a secondary, that isn't always up-to-snuff. It takes on an even larger air. Allen is a real thoroughbred, making full use of an improved receiver crew, headed by Stefon Diggs, who was fantastic this season, leading the league in receiving yards with 1535. Allen has all the tools, a diamond arm with a good set of wheels to navigate around the field. The Buffalo run-game is only so-so, making them a little one-dimensional, but they make up for it with the way they commandeer their aerial-game, with short passes taking the place of a run-game to some extent. Allen has a full toolbox with Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Cole Beasley (questionable), John Brown, Isaiah McKenzie, Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and others. It's an offensive formula that has delivered almost every time this season.
That Extra Gear
In games like this, having that extra gear counts for a lot. The Colts are unquestionably a competent team that is solid across all areas. And if Taylor can see his recent form manifest in this heightened context, the Indy offense can step it up a notch. But with Allen and the high-flying nature of their offense, the Bills have that one standout element that gives them the real ring of a contender, a team where you can at least fathom them doing big things. I'm not sure Indy is in the same boat.
- Get more details: Indianapolis at Buffalo Wild Card Match-up Stats
Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills Wild Card Game Prediction
Even the most-ardent Bills backer would have to admit the Colts have a certain indefinable quality that could make them more of a handful than what you see on paper. Between the coaching staff and Rivers, there's a lot of IQ and experience on that sideline. If something about the Bills is off, the Colts will pounce. I just think the Bills' story as a rising contender is more-complete, something that has been building the last few years and really starting to culminate into something major. How far they go remains to be seen, but I see them getting out of this with the win and cover on Saturday.