There is no strategic or logistic benefit to winning this game.
The Buffalo Bills are locked into the fifth seed for the AFC in the 2019 NFL playoffs and the result of Sunday’s game cannot change that in any way. As such, this article takes on a different and unusual light. The endgame associated with any strategic move becomes more about preparing for the playoffs and the psychological benefit to winning than securing a playoff berth or bettering positioning within it.
I have been very vocal all week about my disagreement with the coaching staff on playing Josh Allen in this game. The probability and effect of a potential injury to the Bills’ starting quarterback is greater than the probability and effect of any potential growth or development he might show against an aggressive defense with nothing to play for in a logistically meaningless game.
Beating a division rival and sending Gang Green fans into the 2020 offseason with a bitter taste in their mouths would feel good for Bills Mafia though. How can Buffalo make sure they win this game but also prepare for the Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the playoffs? I have some thoughts...
Try a different strategy against pressure
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers and again versus the New England Patriots, the Bills came out early on offense with the idea that if they were pressured with Josh Allen’s kryptonite (Cover 0), they would respond with heavy formations utilizing both Patrick DiMarco and Lee Smith and max protect in the attempt to give Allen time.
That is now a tendency.
One of the last things Buffalo wants going into the Wild Card round is for the opposing defense to know exactly how they will choose to defend something that has given them issues all year. Having such a simple weakness in and of itself is problematic; having a “solution” that doesn’t work all that well but is highly prevalent should make bells and whistles and all manner of alarms sound off in the head of the coaching staff as they prepare for their western trek next weekend.
Spreading the field out and putting the best skill position players on the field allows Josh Allen to not only better see the pressure coming. but also enables for the potential of big plays via yards after catch on shorter throws. This is the week to use tendency breakers like slants with Duke Williams, Texas routes out of the backfield with Devin Singletary or even Cole Beasley, or even the lower percentage fade route.
Not only does this give the Bills the opportunity to try out some different things in a game where losing is no issue, it also forces next week’s opposing defense to account for potential avenues and options of beating Cover 0 that they may not have seen on tape up to this point in the season. It’s win-win for a winless situation.
Jamison Crowder is good practice for Julian Edelman
The Bills got hurt by Julian Edelman last week. Early in the game it was on third down until the Bills elected to double him. After that, he beat the defense on earlier downs and got good yards after catch even while being hurt. Jamison Crowder is not Edelman and Sam Darnold is not Tom Brady, but taking this opportunity to employ different strategies against a capable slot receiver who is targeted heavily as part of the offense would be wise.
Taron Johnson will likely need help against better slot receivers and Crowder is one of them. Letting Johnson have leverage in his defense knowing that he has help through an inside bracket from Matt Milano or Jordan Poyer would provide valuable assistance for running those same coverage in the event the Bills see the Patriots again this year in the playoffs. The Bills could also experiment with putting Tre’Davious White in the slot, something he has not done very much this year. If they’re going to elect to play starters in this game, now is the time to try things to get them on tape for the opponent as well as themselves.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan for Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” every week on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!