Lamar Jackson has set the NFL world on fire, but the Buffalo Bills have to be pleased with their 2018 first-round pick at quarterback.
Josh Allen was a pick that was debated for months. He was a physical marvel, but not very productive at Wyoming. Accuracy was a big problem. He had a huge arm, but picking him was a bet on his development, and Buffalo took Allen No. 7 overall.
The Bills are winning that bet so far. Allen had a promising rookie season and has been even better this year. He and the Bills face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
The Bills are 9-4 and the Steelers are 8-5. It’s a big game in the AFC wild card race. The Bills are in great shape for a playoff spot for many reasons, one of which is their second-year quarterback.
Josh Allen developing nicely
Allen did some good things his rookie season, and most notably he was a much better runner than advertised. He still completed just 52.8 percent of his passes. There were many remaining questions heading into this season.
Allen has improved across the board as a passer. He is completing 59.6 percent of his passes. His touchdown rate is way up and he has cut his interception rate nearly in half. His passer rating was 67.9 last season and 85.8 this season. Most quarterbacks improve from year one to two, and Allen has taken some big strides.
Allen is far from a finished product, but he has played very well. Allen has 2,737 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has 439 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns, so he’s still a threat there too.
It’s hard to deny that Jackson, the 32nd pick and likely MVP, is the gem of the 2018 class. But the Bills’ pick worked out pretty well too.
Bills, Steelers in playoff hunt
Fueled by a strong defense, some improved weapons, Allen’s development and a favorable schedule, the Bills have looked like a playoff contender almost all season.
The Steelers have taken a different route. They lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. Replacement Mason Rudolph was benched for undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have missed time. And still, the Steelers would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Coach Mike Tomlin has done an impressive job.
The Steelers are led by an aggressive, big-play defense. It will be on Allen to keep the Steelers’ defense from turning the game with some big plays and helping out Hodges and Pittsburgh’s offense.
It will be a good pre-playoff test for the Bills. The Bills haven’t clinched a postseason spot but look pretty safe, and their exciting young quarterback is a reason they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports: