Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills' wild-card playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Field Sunday:
1. Ride that emotional wave that began in Miami all the way through Jacksonville.
The Bills did more than simply receive a postseason berth last Sunday. They ended a 17-year playoff drought in the most dramatic fashion possible. Minutes after turning what was amounting to an easy victory into a game whose outcome dangled in doubt until the final seconds, they gathered in front of a television to watch Andy Dalton deliver a fourth-down-and-a-prayer touchdown pass to punch their playoff ticket.
The Bills have been on an incredible high ever since, tapping into the euphoria of a community and a fan base that felt a giant weight lifted from its collective shoulder. They need to let that enthusiasm and energy carry them as far as it can, because it has the capacity to allow them to play at a higher level than their 9-7 record and limited overall talent and less-than-overwhelming statistics say they can.
2. Force Blake Bortles into mistakes.
As hard as the Jaguars might try to keep their quarterback from having to carry the weight of the offense on his passing arm, they can't do it for an entire game.
Bortles will need to make some third-down throws and challenge the Bills' secondary deep at times. That's when safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are going to have to do what they do best — disguise coverages and entice Bortles to put the ball in places where he shouldn't so that they and their fellow defenders have optimal chances for interceptions.
Hyde and Poyer excel at convincing opposing quarterbacks they're seeing two-deep zone when the coverage is actually man-to-man and vice versa. Bortles also isn't the best when it comes to making accurate reads.
The Jaguars' game plan will include plenty of short and intermediate passes, and Bortles will frequently be looking to check down. The Bills will look to minimize those opportunities with a combination of pressure and tight underneath coverage by their safeties and linebackers.
3. Take advantage of the Jaguars' tendency to allow big plays through the air.
The Jaguars do a great job of generating pressure and getting sacks; they ranked second in the NFL in the regular season with 55. They're excellent at intercepting passes; they ranked second in the league in the regular season with 21.
But they have a flaw, as reflected by the 12 plays of 40-plus yards they've allowed.
The Jaguars occasionally will leave huge holes in their secondary, because they trust their defensive backs to play man-to-man coverage most of the time and won't adjust when a receiver runs an outside route and a tight end or running back trails on the same route, usually wide open, on a shorter pattern. Tight ends Charles Clay and Nick O'Leary should have ample opportunities to make plays.
Tyrod Taylor will have to be every bit as effective as he was against the Dolphins and consistently connect with those open targets. He'll need to use his mobility to the fullest to extend plays and/or take off for chain-moving runs.
4. With or without LeSean McCoy, find a way to exploit the NFL's 21st-ranked run defense.
McCoy will likely push as hard as he can to return to the field a week after exiting the Dolphins game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. How close he'll be to his normal self remains to be seen. So, too, does the amount of time he'll actually stay in the game.
Still, the Bills must be able to rely on their ability to run and remain as persistent as they can with their ground attack. Their offensive line should win its share of one-on-one battles and open holes, whether they're for McCoy or the two-headed alternative plan at running back: Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert.
Murphy has fresh legs and has shown that he can be explosive. Tolbert's power running might be exactly what the Bills need against an opponent that has issues being stout up front.
5. Make the most of a huge edge in special teams.
The Jaguars' special teams are bad. The Bills' aren't spectacular, but they're good enough.
Stephen Hauschka's mostly reliable kicking takes a bit of pressure off of the Bills' offense, because in what figures to be a tight and low-scoring game, it can work on getting into field-goal range rather than pressing too hard to reach the end zone.
Colton Schmidt's punting also will be vital on a day when field position figures to be a major factor.
The Bills' kick-coverage units not only should be able to do their part when it comes to minimizing returns, but they're also good at forcing turnovers. And takeaways tend to cause great momentum shifts in the postseason.