NFL Game of the Week: Bills vs. Steelers
There’s been many high-flying matchups in the Game of the Week column in recent weeks, but in week 15 game comes a change of pace. The 9-4 Buffalo Bills visit the 8-5 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football, in a game with big AFC playoff ramifications written all over it.
Buffalo enters this crucial game sitting just a game behind the 10-3 New England Patriots, with a date in Foxborough the following week. The Bills have been in a strong position for an AFC Wild Card berth for much of the season, but a win over Pittsburgh can give them a chance to get even with the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East. Taking the division from New England is a nearly impossible task year-to-year, but in 2019 the Patriots have what appears to be a very stoppable offense, so it is certainly possible for the Bills to pull it off.
The Steelers are also locked in the Wild Card race in the AFC, competing directly against the Bills if they don’t take the AFC East, with the Titans also in the mix for a playoff berth behind the resurgence of Ryan Tannehill. Pittsburgh's season once looked lost with Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury and the inconsistent availability of weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, but head coach Mike Tomlin has put together a great defense that ranks fifth in total yards allowed. Devlin Hodges has stepped in at multiple points throughout the season, and the undrafted quarterback from Samford has played smart, complimentary football.
The two teams are similar in quite a few ways. They aren’t anything impressive offensively, but they have won football games this season by playing disciplined on both sides of the ball and limiting their own mistakes, while punishing their opponents for theirs. Josh Allen is improved as a passer from his rookie season, but uses his running ability to keep defenses honest when the passing game isn’t totally clicking.
The standout units in this game are the elite defenses. Both teams ranked near the top of the league in points and yards allowed, and neither unit has a particular weakness against the run or the pass, making it hard for opposing play callers to choose where and how to attack them.
The Steelers are a two-point favorites in a game where the two teams probably couldn’t be more evenly matched. The projected point total is at 36.5, a healthy number for old-school NFL fans who enjoy physical games with more punts and big hits from the defense.
The game may not be shaping up to be the flashiest of primetime games that the NFL has featured this year, but that just means each big moment will have even more impact. For every punt this game will likely have, there are almost certainly going to be just as many riveting turnovers or exciting defensive plays that can make this a game worth watching all the way through. I think the Bills get a big play late from John Brown or Allen on the ground to set up a game winning field goal, but this one should be close for the duration.
Prediction: Bills 20, Steelers 17
Jeremy Ganes is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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