The Buffalo Bills hit the road as they take on the Broncos in Denver on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo has to be happy that the Patriots' 11-year reign atop the AFC East has already officially ended, but a win would clinch the Bills' first division title since 1995.
These two teams met last year in Buffalo with the home team winning 20-3. Josh Allen threw touchdown passes to Cole Beasley and John Brown with Devin Singletary chipping 106 rushing yards in the win. The Broncos had Brandon Allen at quarterback and he produced only 82 passing yards.
Buffalo (10-3) is rolling since its bye week with three straight victories. Last week, the Bills beat Pittsburgh 26-15 at home on "Sunday Night Football." Stefon Diggs continued to prove to be one of the best offseason acquisitions, racking up 130 receiving yards and giving the Steelers' secondary fits, particularly in the third quarter. Diggs has been the No. 1 wide receiver this team has been missing. Meanwhile, the defense made the stops it had to and harassed Ben Roethlisberger all game long, forcing him to throw two costly interceptions, one of which was returned for a momentum-swinging touchdown.
The Broncos also are feeling good after last week's 32-27 road win over Carolina. Drew Lock tossed four touchdown passes and finished with just six incompletions (21-of-27 for 280 yards). Two of those TDs went to KJ Hamler, his only two catches of the game (that totaled 86 yards). The much-maligned defense did what it had to do, sacking Teddy Bridgewater four times and coming up with a few key stops (Panthers were just 6-for-14 on third down), despite giving up 370 total yards. Overall, Denver has lost four of its last six games but two of those were by no more than seven points.
Buffalo at Denver
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Bills -6
Three Things to Watch
This just feels like a flat spot for the Bills who are coming off a huge win this past Sunday night at home against Pittsburgh. The week before that they had the Monday night spotlight against the 49ers, a game they won 34-24. It's also a flat spot because the Patriots are up next on Monday night and you know this team would love to put the final dagger in their division rivals. Two of Buffalo's last three contests are on the road. It's not a terrible spot for the Broncos, who haven't been officially eliminated from the playoffs yet but face tough odds to get there. They just finished a stretch of four of six games away from home and now get the Bills, Chargers and Raiders in their last three games. To its credit, Denver doesn't seem like a team ready to pack up for the offseason, but between injuries and COVID-19 protocols, the Broncos are likely to be short-handed on Saturday.
2. Un-Locking Drew
It's been an interesting season for the second-year quarterback from Missouri. He enters this game with a 57.3 completion rate for 2,198 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has missed three games due to injury, but he's coming off his best performance of the season with four touchdown passes and just six incompletions against Carolina. That game also snapped a streak of seven straight with at least one pick. In two games this month (at Chiefs, at Panthers), he's completing 65.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and just two interceptions. Lock has an intriguing group of WRs with the aforementioned Hamler joining fellow rookie Jerry Jeudy and the underrated Tim Patrick. This trio has its share of growing pains but the potential is clearly evident. It'll be interesting to see how Buffalo schemes against these wideouts, particularly how lockdown cornerback Tre'Davious White will be deployed. For the season, the Bills rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to passing defense (243.9 ypg, 19th). They do have 12 interceptions (vs. 21 TD passes allowed) so Lock will need to be careful when he throws the ball. More of the load may be put on Lock with running backs Melvin Gordon (shoulder) and Phillip Lindsay (hip) both listed as questionable on the injury report.
3. Establish the run
Josh Allen has had an amazing season for the Bills, but it feels like he does better when there is a threat of a run game. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have accounted for a little more than 900 rushing yards, but the duo averages a collective 4.2 yards per carry. Allen is second on the team in rushing with 350 yards and his six touchdowns on the ground are more than half of the team's total (10). Denver is 27th against the run, allowing 131 rushing yards per game so the opportunities will be there Saturday to get the running backs going.
This feels like a flat spot for the Bills. In some ways, this game will tell me more about them than almost any other. Drew Lock is very capable of taking advantage of an unfocused Buffalo bunch. It'll be "warm" with temps around 42 degrees at kickoff not that it would be a factor with Buffalo in the first place. I'm going with the outright upset here as Denver beats the Bills, denying them a chance at securing the AFC East title.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Bills 20
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.