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Mark Gaughan: Hold onto your seats, Bills' season about to get intense

Mark Gaughan: Hold onto your seats, Bills' season about to get intense

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Bills Colts

Bills quarterback Josh Allen celebrates a wild-card playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 9, 2021.

Fasten your seatbelts.

The comfortable games are over for you, Buffalo Bills fans. Stress-free fourth quarters do not await you.

Starting this Sunday against Indianapolis, the odds are the Bills will be playing tight, hard-fought games for the next month.

“A good game to watch is the game we played last year, and it was it was tight throughout that game,” said receiver Stefon Diggs, referring to the Bills’ 27-24 wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis. “You know, we made some plays. ... So for us, we just got to prepare the right way, and go in with the mindset of things, that it’s going to be tight.”

PlayAction is new to The Buffalo News' extensive NFL coverage. Each week, Mark Gaughan, who has covered the league throughout his 38 years at The News, distills X's and O's and strategy relating to how the Bills match up with their next opponent. All in about two minutes.

Obviously, the Bills are stepping up in class the next month, with games against the Colts (5-5), Saints (5-4), Patriots (6-4) and Buccaneers (6-3).

They’re also unlikely to keep dominating as much defensively as they have through most of the first nine games. This is no knock on Leslie Frazier’s unit. We’re not suggesting in the least that it is overrated. The shellacking of Patrick Mahomes six weeks ago was real, and it was spectacular.

But the flood of turnovers the Bills have been creating is likely to slow down.

The Bills have 24 takeaways in nine games, a pace that would give them 42 for 16 games. That’s more than any team in the past nine years. Does that alone mean the turnovers will diminish?

No, but the next four teams the Bills play don’t give the ball away very often.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz ranks No. 2 in the league in interception avoidance. New Orleans has the third-fewest giveaways in the league. New England is famous for not beating itself, and Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones has just one interception his last four games. Tom Brady is the No. 4 QB in NFL history at avoiding interceptions.

The next month will test the Bills’ ability to play solid football in all three phases. How good is this Bills team? We’re about to find out.

The Colts are sitting at .500 and haven’t really beaten anybody this year. Their wins are over Houston, the Jets, Miami, Jacksonville and an up-and-down San Francisco team. But the Colts have a bunch of tough losses – two to Tennessee, one to the 7-3 Rams and one in overtime to Baltimore in which the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson played one of the great games of his life.

Indianapolis returns most of the roster from its 11-5 team of last season. Let’s not forget the Colts outplayed the Bills by most measures last January in Orchard Park. They outgained the Bills, dominated field position and dominated time of possession. The No. 1 reason the Bills won was because Josh Allen put on his Superman cape and was the best player on the field.

“I’m not going to lie, it was painful to watch that game on tape again this week,” Colts coach Frank Reich told Buffalo-area media on a conference call Wednesday. “It was painful, yet it was also encouraging. We went on the road against one of the hottest teams in the NFL in one of the hardest stadiums to play at a very difficult time of year and had a really good chance to win the game.”

The Colts are better than the Bills on the offensive line, at running back and at defensive tackle. The Bills are better at quarterback, receiver and overall on defense.

It should be a great game.

All of this isn’t to paint a bubble-bursting picture for you, the jersey-clad reader wearing blue-and-red colored glasses.

For the next three games, without a doubt, the Bills have the best quarterback on the field and the most explosive offense. For the next month, the Bills’ defense can go toe to toe with the excellent defenses on the other side of the field.

Last year the Bills were 6-1 in one-score games. So far this year, they’re 0-3. They’re due to win some close ones.

Bills coach Sean McDermott talked about the mindset he wants in the locker room after the home win over Miami three weeks ago.

“Tight margins,” McDermott said to the players gathered around him. “We’re comfortable when it’s tight, I know that.”

They’ll need to be.

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Bills/NFL writer

Gaughan's insight is featured in the "PlayAction" video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.

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