Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville
Sunday January 7th, 18:05 GMT
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These two sides don't get to the play-offs that often. It's been a 10 year hiatus for the Jags, 18 years for the Bills. So both will be desperate to perform.
Shady should play
And that desperation ensures LeSean McCoy will take to the field for Buffalo. 'Shady' is the fulcrum of the Bills offense and without him there's no game here. He'll play, whatever pain his ankle might have, and he'll likely play a lot. Whether in front, or behind, the Bills will feed McCoy. Be aware though that McCoy's up against a very good Jags defense, who will be waiting for him.
Bortles a liability
Jacksonville, or 'Sacksonville' as fans call them, have certainly impressed on defense this season. Second in the NFL for sacks made, they also had the second most interceptions. All round, we're talking about the best defense in the NFL and a turnover machine. So how did the Jags just lose to Tennessee and the 49ers then? Well that will be the Bortles effect. Quarterback Blake Bortles threw five picks across those games, and has the ability to undo all the good work done by his defense. He's also a turnover machine, but the kind that no team wants.
Quick start crucial for Jags
This next stat explains how important grabbing an early lead is for the Jaguars. Every home game where the Jags have led after the opening quarter - they went on to win. Every home game where the Jags trailed after the opening quarter - they went on to lose. So if you fancy the Jags, you have to fancy them to lead early.
Get in front, and Jacksonville can boss the game - ploughing out the hard yards and running down the clock with running back Leonard Fournette. Should the Jags fall behind though, and have to turn to Bortles to save them, then that's where things fall apart. The Bills, with a +9 turnover differential for the season, are almost as good at stealing possession as the Jaguars. The more throws Bortles has to make, the greater the chance that the Bills win.
Fournette to batter Bills D
The chances are though, Bortles won't need to do much. Jacksonville have the NFL'S best run-offense and Leonard Fournette should hammer away at the NFL's 29th ranked run-defense until it collapses. This game is tailored made for Fournette, who is built for durability and simply hammering away at the opposition. And I can't see how the Bills D-Line will suddenly find a way to stop the run, having failed to do so all season. Fournette will get a lot of carries and should break threw for a few big gains. He'll also be the go-to guy near the goal line, with head coach Doug Marrone unlikely to risk giving Bortles much to do near the end zone unless he has to.
Bills look blunt
Tyrod Taylor will be the man tasked with keeping the Bills in touch. But having been benched earlier in the season, Taylor's hardly brimming with confidence. He's also actually shy of throwing the ball (never good for a QB). When under pressure, Taylor's default move is to tuck and run. And against 'Sacksonville', that could result in him eating a lot of turf. It's not like Taylor has a lot of options to throw to anyway. McCoy gets a lot of looks around the line of scrimmage. It's kind of sad though to when a team's top receiver is a tight end with less than 600 yards and just two touchdowns. None the less Charles Clay should be Tyrod's first target once Buffalo start chasing the game, and he should put up Buffalo's biggest receiving numbers, albeit in vane. Kelvin Benjamin was signed to be a deep ball threat. But with just one touchdown and 30 yards a game from his six outings for the Bills, it's hard to rely on him to suddenly come good.
Jacksonville should run all over the Bills. And if you fancy them to win, then it's worth taking them to lead early. Fournette should get big yards and a score. Clay looks the pick of the Buffalo receivers. Look out for the Jags sticking to their run game and eating up the clock though, so the total could well be low here.