The regular season has ended, and the Buffalo Bills are on to the Miami Dolphins for the wild card round of the AFC playoffs. Buffalo handled business versus the New England Patriots, winning 35-23 in an emotional rollercoaster of a game. Not only did the Bills prevent the Patriots from making the playoffs, but also clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC in the process.
Normally, the Bills would be at an immediate disadvantage due to lengthy injury reports, but this wasn’t the case in Week 18. There were zero players ruled out ahead of the game, while the Patriots were without a few players at key positions.
It’s a tradition like no other, but since it’s Week 18, let’s say it one final time for the regular season: let’s take a look at this week’s snap counts and see what Buffalo did differently to bring them over the top.
Bills offense snap counts (59 snaps)
The offensive line has had its fair share of struggles this season, but knowing the Bills’ injury troubles, having all five linemen register 100% of snaps is very promising — especially as they enter the playoffs.
It’s no surprise to see wide receiver Gabe Davis (80%) lead in terms of snaps out of that group, but the proactiveness to get the ball to wide receiver Stefon Diggs (76%) was noticeable, and will be instrumental to the team’s success in the playoffs. Diggs was involved early and often, with quarterback Josh Allen looking for him in the end zone on multiple occurrences. Drops are still hindering the true potential of the passing attack, but keep in mind: the Bills have wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley on their practice squad available for call-up, and they’ve been known to be dependable options for Allen in the past.
Hold on everyone! It’s happening! It only took 16 games, but running back James Cook finally out-snapped Devin Singletary, 33 to 24, respectively. Cook has slowly but surely carved out a more prominent role in the Bills’ offense, but was never unable to dethrone Singletary. However, Singletary fumbled against the Patriots, and Cook got the nod for the rest of the crucial plays. Knowing Buffalo, this means nothing, and Singletary will dominate the backfield snap share again next week.
Bills defense snap counts (68 snaps)
With Damar Hamlin placed on IR, safety Dean Marlowe (100%) stepped up in his absence as the single-high safety. The near-even split between cornerbacks Dane Jackson (57%) and Kaiir Elam (43%) continues to be tested all the way into Week 18, but for the Elam truthers out there, next week should be a big Elam day. Elam logged a ton of snaps when Buffalo last played Miami due to his speed and quickness to keep up with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see head coach Sean McDermott roll with him again. This secondary is the single biggest weakness of the team, and if the Bills do fall in the playoffs, this will likely be the reason.
Defensive tackle Da’Quan Jones (74%) continues to impress for being “just a random offseason signing,” while Ed Oliver (69%) has been generating consistent pressure from the interior. Since Von Miller went down with an ACL injury, the pressure off the edge was going to be one of the biggest developments for this team’s future and, so far, it’s gone well. Edge rusher Greg Rousseau (63%) totaled one sack, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits, and while he was quiet against the Patriots, Shaq Lawson (59%) has been playing well of late.
Bills special teams snap counts (26 snaps)
- 23 snaps, 88%: TE Quintin Morris, FB Reggie Gilliam
- 21 snaps, 81%: CB Siran Neal, RB Taiwan Jones, LB Tyler Matakevich, LB Tyrel Dodson
- 18 snaps, 69%: FS Jaquan Johnson, LB Tyrel Bernard
- Others: CB Cam Lewis (15 snaps, 58%), RB Nyheim Hines (9 snaps, 35%)
There is only one thing to talk about when it comes to special teams: kick returner Nyheim Hines. This was obviously a very emotional game for Bills players and fans, but all that worry was gone just 20 seconds into the game when Hines housed the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Considering it was the first kickoff return touchdown in three years and three months, this was already an emotional moment — but Hines decided to do it again. I don’t know, Bills Mafia. That sounds like destiny to me.