The Denver Broncos were poised to pull off a huge upset last week, as they raced out to a 20-0 lead over the Minnesota Vikings. Then, they blew the lead and managed to find a way to lose, ultimately falling 27-23. This week, they come to Orchard Park to face the Buffalo Bills. With a loss, Denver will essentially be eliminated, and with a win, they will keep their minuscule playoff hopes mathematically alive.
Which players will we be watching this week? Here’s our list.
QB Brandon Allen
The other quarterback named Allen in this match-up has been a mixed bag in two starts this year. He was excellent against the Cleveland Browns, completing 12-of-20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He was decidedly “meh” against the Vikings, completing only 17-of-39 passes for 240 yards, throwing one touchdown and one interception. Both teams are middle-of-the-pack passing defenses, with Cleveland ranking 18th and Minnesota 19th in yards allowed. Buffalo is ranked third against the pass, so Allen will face a big challenge this weekend. If the Broncos can keep him out of a negative game script by establishing the run, he will be more effective; running well will also open up the play-action game. Allen’s success will go a long way towards determining how successful Denver is on Sunday.
RB Phillip Lindsay
The undrafted free agent has outplayed his teammate with a first-round pedigree, fellow second-year man Royce Freeman, for two years now. Lindsay is a dynamic threat out of the backfield, as he is an excellent receiver as well as a fantastic rusher. He’s averaging five yards per touch this season, and he is a clear focal point of the Broncos’ offense. Lindsay averages 13 carries and 3.5 targets per game, so Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds will need to be wary of his presence on Sunday.
WR Courtland Sutton
Buffalo had better plan to shadow Sutton with Tre’Davious White, because if he ends up matched up with Levi Wallace, this could be a disaster. Sutton is big, fast, and physical, and he has had a great season so far. He has 49 catches on 79 targets for 805 yards and five touchdowns. In the last two games, Brandon Allen has targeted him 17 times, and Sutton has ten catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. He’s also run the ball twice for 13 yards, and last week he even completed a 38-yard pass. Sutton is a great athlete who needs to be neutralized in order for Buffalo to come out on top.
EDGE Von Miller
One of the league’s best pass rushers will line up across from a rookie tackle this week, as Cody Ford is expected to take all of the snaps at right tackle with veteran Ty Nsekhe injured. Miller has five sacks this season, which is low for a player of his caliber, but with teams constantly sending two and three blockers at him, he still has the ability to wreck an opposing game plan. Miller also has 11 quarterback hits and six tackles for loss on the season. The Bills would be wise to send help Ford’s way to deal with Miller, perhaps by using tight end Lee Smith as a second tackle to neutralize Miller. Smith only played seven offensive snaps last week as the Bills went up-tempo, but he may be a bigger part of this week’s plan out of necessity, because containing Miller should be Buffalo’s first priority on offense.
CB Chris Harris
The veteran corner continues to demand respect—he’s only been targeted 40 times in coverage this year, but he’s given up plenty of big plays this season. On those 40 targets, Harris has allowed 26 completions for 470 yards, an average of 18.1 yards per catch. Quarterbacks have a 111.5 rating throwing at him this year, which is way up from his norm. If Harris finds himself matched up against either John Brown or Robert Foster, the Bills could have some chances to make some big plays. Working the play-action game and some double-moves could lead to disaster here, so Harris will have to be assignment-sound in order to prevent the Bills from making huge gains through the air.