Share this article

print logo

Pregame primer: 5 things to watch when Bills host Colts

If the Buffalo Bills have any hope of being a playoff team, they need a win Sunday.

The 3-9 Indianapolis Colts have nothing to play for. While it may not feel like it after a stretch that has seen the Bills get blown out four times in five games, the team still has a fighting chance at the postseason, even if it will need some help. If the Bills get to 9-7, the New York Times' playoff simulator gives them a coin-flip chance (48 percent, to be exact) to end a 17-year playoff drought.

Here are all the details you need for the game, plus five things we'll be watching for:

• TV: CBS. Announcers: Spero Dedes (play by play), Adam Archuleta (color analyst).

• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).

• Series history: Bills lead, 36-31-1. The former division rivals have played just five times since 2003, with the Bills winning the last matchup, 27-14, on Sept. 13, 2015.

• Bills injury report: Out: G John Miller (ankle). Questionable: OT Seantrel Henderson (back), QB Tyrod Taylor (knee), DT Kyle Williams (groin), CB Leonard Johnson (knee), LT Cordy Glenn (foot/ankle). Colts injury report: Out: WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), CB Rashaan Melvin (hand), TE Darrell Daniels (hamstring). Qustionable: CB Chris Milton (neck), OL Denzelle Good (illness), C Mike Person (ankle).

• Point spread: The game is off the board at some sportsbooks because of the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bills, but the website footballlocks.com has Buffalo as 4-point favorites.

• Did you know? Bills tight end Nick O'Leary and Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett were teammates at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. They helped lead the school to a state championships in 2009.

• Next up: The Bills wrap up the home portion of their schedule when the rival Miami Dolphins visit New Era Field on Dec. 17.

Here are five things to watch against the Colts:

1. Who plays quarterback? Obviously No. 1 on the list. Coach Sean McDermott on Friday said it would be a "game-time decision" whether the team goes with Tyrod Taylor or rookie Nathan Peterman. My hunch is that Peterman gets the start. Taylor didn't get much practice time in this week, and while coach Sean McDermott downplayed the importance of that at this point in the season, Taylor's mobility is critical to his game. If it's compromised, starting Peterman is a logical move. I'm not convinced McDermott ever wanted to go back to Taylor after benching him in the first place, but had no other choice after Peterman failed in such spectacular fashion in Los Angeles. Giving Peterman a chance to get some of his confidence back against the league's worst passing defense would be an added benefit of him starting Sunday.

2. Can Kelvin Benjamin get going against a young secondary? The Bills' No. 1 receiver should return to the lineup after missing two games with a knee injury suffered on the first series of the game against the Chargers. The Colts are playing three rookies at cornerback in Nate Hairston, Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson, while the other two healthy players at the position are second-year veterans Chris Milton and D.J. White. Those five players have a combined four games of NFL experience. Getting a good look at Benjamin over the final four games of the season will be important for the Bills. The Bills need a touchdown in the worst way. They haven't scored in their last 19 possessions, which is an embarrassing number.

3. Can E.J. Gaines keep it going? First-round draft pick Tre'Davious White gets more of the attention on the other side, but Gaines has quietly put together a solid first season with the Bills when he's been healthy. The Colts feature a big-play receiver in T.Y. Hilton, who is averaging 19.3 yards per catch and has 11 catches of 25-plus yards. Gaines did a nice job last week against a similar deep threat in the Patriots' Brandin Cooks, and will need to duplicate that effort. Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett has a passer rating of 119.6 on attempts of 20-plus yards, which is fourth in the NFL.

4. Can Eddie Yarbrough give the pass rush a boost? The Bills put 2016 first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson on injured reserve this week after he hurt his ankle in Week 13 against New England. That will elevate Yarbrough into a starting role. The Colts have given up an NFL-high 51 sacks this season. Yarbrough has eight quarterback hits this season, including four in the last three weeks, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus. While Lawson did a good job against the run this season, his pass rush was lacking at times. In that sense, Yarbrough may actually provide an upgrade.

5. Will Shady hit 20? The Bills are 5-0 this season when running back LeSean McCoy reaches 20 carries. No matter who plays quarterback, a commitment to the running game will help the offense get into a rhythm. The Colts' run defense ranks 13th against the NFL, one of the few bright spots for them in what has been an ugly season.

 

Story topics: / / / / / / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment