Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is having a tremendous season, by all accounts. In leading the Bills to an 11-3 record and their first division title since 1995, he’s proven he can be the team’s first true franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. He’s played so well that, with two weeks remaining in the season, he has the third-best betting odds to win the MVP award. MVP! In the remaining weeks of the season, Allen is on pace to completely rewrite Buffalo’s passing record books—passer rating, completion percentage, and total touchdowns are already in the bag, for instance. Allen would need four passing touchdowns and 360 passing yards in the final two weeks of the season to own franchise records in those categories. At his current pace: that’s practically a done deal.
That is, except for one wrinkle.
Thanks to a Pittsburgh Steelers loss on Monday night, the Bills are now the AFC’s second seed—a lofty position that means home-field advantage until the Conference Championship game, as well as a guarantee that they wouldn’t meet the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs until that point. With a win and a little help this week, the Bills would lock down the number-two seed, regardless of what happens in Week 17. In other words, an opportunity to rest their starters before the playoffs begin (and to prevent further injuries).
Resting their starters, though, means Allen’s season ends after 15 games. And as good as he’s played, his chances of throwing for 360 yards and four touchdowns against a Bill Belichick defense (even one without Stephon Gilmore) are low—he’s only had two games like that this season.
So here’s a thought experiment:
Say the Bills have locked up the second seed, but Allen still needs two touchdowns and 120 passing yards to own every single-season Bills passing record. Would you play the starters against the Miami Dolphins until Allen has his records, which might take until halftime, and then sit them for the rest of the game?
Or would you sit the starters from the beginning, sacrificing those individual records for the sake of the team?
Does your decision change if Allen only needed a single touchdown and 70 yards? That might only require a drive or two.
Or how about this: Say that Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers both lose their next games with poor performances, while Allen takes down the New England Patriots with another showcase game on Monday Night Football. The Bills would barely be in contention for the number-one seed (requiring an extremely unlikely series of events), but what if he’s now fully in the MVP discussion? Would you play the starters, knowing that the top seed in the conference is very unlikely (but mathematically possible), and see if Allen can eviscerate the Dolphins once again?
What scenario, if any, would convince you that the Bills should play their starters in Week 17, even if they’ve already secured the second seed in the conference? Discuss below!