Share this article

print logo

Jerry Sullivan: Scoreboard watching after a snowy Bills win

Column as I see 'em, Week 15:

I imagine a lot of Bills fans, having thawed out from that remarkable snow game at New Era, settled in to watch the Sunday night affair and root for the Steelers to snap the Ravens' three-game winning streak and put a crimp in their playoff hopes.

They got their wish, and maybe the best game of the NFL season. The Steelers blew a 14-point lead, fell behind by 11 in the second half, then rallied for nine points in the final 3:29 to nip the Ravens, 39-38, and wrap up the AFC North title with three weeks to go.

There has been some unsightly offense in the league this season, but this was an absolute treat. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger completed 44 of 66 passes (both career highs) for 505 yards, becoming the first man to throw for 500 yards in a game three times in his career.

Antonio Brown had 11 catches for 213 yards, giving him 627 yards in his last four games and 1,509 on the season. Le'Veon Bell had 125 scrimmage yards and three TDs. Tight end Jesse James had 10 catches for 97 yards. Alex Collins had 168 scrimmage yards in a losing effort.

Until the comeback, an amazing streak was in jeopardy. Going back to their first year of existence as the Pirates in 1933, the Steelers had been 215-0-2 when leading by 14 points or more at home. But with injured teammate Ryan Shazier as inspiration, they rallied back.

Of course, Bills fans were more interested in seeing Baltimore drop into a four-way tie with the Bills, Chargers and Chiefs at 7-6 for the AFC's sixth-best record. At the moment, ESPN figures the Bills hold the edge for the second-wild card spot, based on potential tiebreakers.

This is the time of year when I begin looking at the NFL's tiebreaking procedures, which is sure to addle the brain. You have to examine head-to-head (the first tiebreaker), conference record, record against common opponents (if there are four) and strength of victory.

Bills Day After: Wild-card visibility remains low

If you start projecting out ties among multiple teams at 9-7, it gets pretty complicated. If the Bills wind up in a three-way tie with the Chiefs and Ravens, the Chiefs have the edge on strength of victory. If it's the Ravens and Chargers, that actually benefits the Bills.

In the case of a two-way tie at 9-7, the Bills would beat the Chiefs on head-to-head and lose to the Chargers. So you don't even know who to root against at this point, because it depends on what happens with other teams — including the Titans, who are in play at 8-5.

You might be better off rooting against Tennessee at this point. They play the Rams and Jaguars after this week's game with the Niners, so they're in real danger of losing two more, especially with Marcus Mariota playing poorly. The Ravens, on the other hand, finish at the winless Browns this week, then home against the Colts and Bengals.

The Bills' best chance, of course, is an unlikely run to 10-6. Even then, there are no guarantees with four other teams capable of winning 10. As always, they'll need help. And you can't count on every team coming through the way the Steelers did Sunday night.


He was overshadowed by Roethlisberger's heroics, but the Chargers' Philip Rivers continued his red-hot passing as the Chargers routed Washington, 30-13, to continue their rise toward a possible AFC playoff spot. LA has won seven of nine after an 0-4 start.

Rivers was 18 of 31 passing for 319 yards and two TDs, leading the Chargers to scores on their first five possessions for the first time since 2011. In a four-game win streak, which began with a 54-24 blowout of the Bills, Rivers has completed 69 percent for 1,348 yards, with eight TDs and no interceptions.

On Sunday, he passed Warren Moon on the all-time yardage list and is ninth with 49,444. He also joined Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as the only QBs to pass for 3,500 yards 10 years in a row. LA has a huge AFC West showdown on Saturday night in Kansas City.

The Chargers are trying to become the second NFL team to start 0-4 and make the playoffs. The other team to do it? The 1992 Chargers, who went 11-5 and won the West with Stan Humphries at QB after starting 0-4. That team lost, 31-0, in the AFC division round to Miami, which went on to lose to the Bills in the title game.

This Chargers team should remind fans of another Buffalo squad. Like the Chargers, the 2004 Bills started 0-4, got to 3-6, then found their stride. Those Bills got to 9-6, then lost the finale. It'll be interesting to see if the Chargers hold to the pattern.


Chiefs coach Andy Reid took a bold, principled stand with his team in a four-game tailspin against the Raiders. He benched cornerback Marcus Peters, his team's best defensive player, for his petulance a week earlier in a loss to the Jets: Tossing a penalty flag in the stands, walking off the field despite not being ejected, and standing on the sidelines in socks when returned.

The Chiefs won, 26-15, holding Derek Carr to 211 yards passing and picking him off twice. KC shut out the Raiders until the fourth quarter, when they put up two garbage scores. It was the Chiefs' biggest win since they started 5-0 and looked like the class of the AFC.

There were also reports that Peters had gotten into an argument with a coach on the way to the airport after the loss to the Jets, in which the KC defense gave up 38 points and 488 yards to an ordinary Jets offense.

On Monday, Reid told reporters that Peters had been reinstated. "He’s back,” Reid said. “The suspension is over and now he’s back in and ready to roll. That’s the way I’m going to handle it and that’s the way he’ll handle it. For whatever wrong took place, he paid that price and now he’s back and I expect nothing but the best for him."

Reid has to be hoping that Peters is on top of his game when Rivers and the Chargers come to Arrowhead for Saturday night's nationally televised AFC West battle.


Is He Owned? This week's featured fantasy guy is Dallas running back Rod Smith, who had 160 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' 30-10 win at the Giants. Smith had six carries for 47 yards and a TD, along with five catches for 113 yards and an 81-yard TD.

Smith, who was undrafted out of Ohio State in 2015, signed with Seattle as a free agent in 2015. The Seahawks waived him in October and the Cowboys picked him up. He played mostly special teams until recently, when Ezekiel Elliott began serving his six-game suspension.

Elliott is out for one more game, so Smith could be a nice pickup if you need help in a fantasy playoff game. Alfred Morris is still the featured back, but Smith is bidding for more touches and could have another big day next week against a soft Oakland defense.

Smith, who is not to be confused with the Rod Smith who holds the Broncos' career receiving records, has four TDs in his last three games. But he's owned in only 27 percent of ESPN leagues. If I wasn't so deep at running back, I'd go after him.

Stats Incredible: The Steelers and Ravens have split the last dozen games in their rivalry. During that time, the aggregate score is 275-275 ... T.J. Yates, who left on an injury settlement after struggling as the Bills' backup quarterback last summer, threw for two TDs in Houston's loss to the Niners ... Keenan Allen's record streak of three straight games with 10 catches, 100 yards and a TD came to an end. But Allen had six catches for 111 yards against Washington, becoming the first Chargers with four straight 100-yard receiving games since Wes Chandler in 1982 ... The Falcons have won four of five to get to 8-5. Let's not forget they were 7-5 a year ago, then won six in a row to reach the Super Bowl ... Here's an addendum to a earlier note when I mentioned that five Bills had 200 yards receiving in a game. I only included the regular season, so I left out a big one: Eric Moulds had 240 yards against the Dolphins in a wild-card game on Jan. 2, 1999. It's still an NFL record for receiving yards in a playoff game.

There are no comments - be the first to comment