The Buffalo Bills under Sean McDermott & Co. have had a knack for being streak-busters. Another can end on Saturday as they head to Denver to take on the Broncos.
If the Bills (10-3) do beat the Broncos (5-8), an AFC East title winning banner can be hung at Bills Stadium for the first time since 1995. Some players on the team, including quarterback Josh Allen, weren’t even born yet in ’95.
Is Saturday the time? We’ll get to that in our prediction at the end, but on your scroll down there, here are seven things to watch for (& that prediction) ahead of Week 15’s Bills-Steelers meeting:
Levi Wallace #39 of the Buffalo Bills. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
The Bills have 11 turnovers in their past five games, a great turnaround for their defense as of late. Having said that, the Broncos give the ball away at will this year. The Broncos lead the NFL with 29 giveaways, four more than the next closest team (49ers), and their turnover differential of minus-18 is eight worse than the next closest team (Eagles). Watch for the Bills defense to capitalize on this.
Bills in the red zone
Bills receiver Stefon Diggs (Gannett photo)
When the Bills get into the red zone against the Broncos, things could get interesting. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is good there... and actually has been his entire NFL career. Notably, he's never turned the ball over in the red zone. But Denver's defense is the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL in the red zone despite their record. Who wins this battle on Saturday?
Drew Lock's passes
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
In terms of yardage, Denver quarterback Drew Lock didn't have his best-career game last week. But what he did in the Broncos' win was complete passes better than ever. Instead of forcing the ball down field as he's known for, he took what the defense gave him and that translated. He completed a season-high 78 percent (21/27) of his passes. So by watching Lock's passes... literally watch how far he throws it vs. the Bills.
LB snap counts
Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
After spending time on injured reserve (pectoral), linebacker Matt Milano returned to the Bills' lineup two weeks ago. In each game, he's been on a "pitch count" or split with AJ Klein. Last week, it did have an increase, so what's that rotation look like in Week 15? Milano caused some havoc in the Steelers' backfield on Sunday. Maybe he even plays every snap as he typically does when healthy.
Do both Broncos RBs play?
Broncos running back Melvin Gordon. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into Saturday, both Broncos running backs, Melvin Gordon (shoulder) and Phillip Lindsay (hip) are listed as questionable. Last week both played, but they were still limited all week in practice. They have a change-of-pace setup in their backfield like the Bills and Buffalo still hasn't been picture-perfect vs. the run this season... better recently, though.
No. 2 cornerback split
Bills cornerback Josh Norman (Gannett photo)
Usually all four starters in the secondary for Sean MCDermott's defense will play every single snap in games, pending health. Is that the route taken vs. the Broncos? For the first time, we saw a rotation between Levi Wallace and Josh Norman last week vs. the Steelers. Norman played slightly more, but both played well.
Shredded up secondary
Bills quarterback Josh Allen. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)
The Broncos have an injury bug that refuses to leave their cornerback room. Here’s the list of how many issues they have at cornerback as of late via Broncos Wire:
Duke Dawson (torn ACL)
Kevin Toliver (torn ACL)
Essang Bassey (torn ACL)
Bryce Callahan (foot, on IR)
AJ Bouye (suspended)
Dawson and Toliver were actually placed on injured reserve this week, too. Because of all of this, there's no reason Bills quarterback Josh Allen shouldn't have a massive game. The same can be said for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Due to these injuries, guys like Nate Hairston and Will Parks could see extended playing time for Denver.
Prediction: Bills 31, Broncos 13
This could be a tough weekend to be a Broncos fan. But hey, at least that means it'll likely be a great one to be a Bills fan? The injury issue at cornerback for the Broncos is one that can't be ignored. Buffalo has a group of excellent receivers, namely Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, that have proven they can move the chains with short-to-intermediate range passes. That'll keep the ball away from safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, who actually are very good, but they can't do everything alone. Additionally, with the way the Bills have taken the ball away on defense as of late? Matt Barkley might be snapping the ball by the end of this one.