Week 15 offered a glimpse of what we all hope to see come playoff time — a slew of games decided in the last second, and a touch of tough, cold weather football.
In Pittsburgh, 2019’s most unheralded Sunday night flex pitted two of the more mentally-tough, smash mouth teams against each other.
Behind (you guessed it), their defense, the Bills (10-4) upended the Steelers (8-6), 17-10, to put Sean McDermott’s bunch in the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
Buffalo has had some success on offense behind the improved Josh Allen, who threw the game-winning score to Tyler Kroft on a third-and-goal scramble in the clutch.
But it was the game-turning play of top-tier cornerback Tre’Davious White that changed the game. With the contest tied up late, White intercepted “Duck” Hodges for a second time, returning the ball 50 yards deep into Pittsburgh territory to set up the aforementioned Bills score.
White is a part of the holy trinity of cornerbacks at the moment. Led by New England’s Stephon Gilmore, who had two interceptions — one pick-six — versus the Bengals on Sunday, the group also includes the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey, and White.
Along with White, Buffalo has an underrated safety duo in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who are both versatile enough to move around the formation and cover different types of pass catchers.
The front seven, led by the talented young Tremaine Edmunds at middle linebacker features a veteran group of castoffs like Lorenzo Alexander, Jerry Hughes and Star Lotulelei, who have been magnificent for the franchise in upper New York.
With the Patriots struggling, and the AFC South teams showing some inconsistency, the conference is liable for a shakeup after the Ravens and Chiefs.
Even a win in New England next week would not give the Bills the AFC East lead literally, but it may metaphorically.
After a bevy of close finishes that shook up the playoff race, there are now two weeks left of possible mayhem for football fans to indulge on during the Holiday feast.
Could the Bills take down the mighty Patriots in New England on Saturday>
NFL MVP RACE
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens. With five touchdown passes on Thursday, Jackson all but ended this MVP race. The award is his.
2. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. While the MVP award might have evaded Wilson, the NFC’s No. 1 seed is still up for grabs. I bet I could tell you which one he covets more.
3. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers. The home loss to Atlanta was a road bump but Garoppolo has still had a fine season.
4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans. Watson shook off a few costly mistakes to lead Houston on an ever-important road victory at division rival Tennessee.
5. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs. Statistically, Mahomes has had another fine season in a shortened stretch, but it’s the defense that has given the Chiefs recent Super Bowl hopes.
Next up: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers, Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
THE BETTER HALF
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-2) (Last week: 1). The Ravens should win in Cleveland to secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-3) (Last week: 2). The last-second loss to the Falcons was a bummer, but they’re still two wins away from the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Not much has changed.
3. New Orleans Saints (10-3) (Last week: 3). The Saints will need to keep pace with three other 11-win teams in the NFC with a win over the Colts tonight.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) (Last week: 4). Here come the Chiefs, with their much-improved defense.
5. New England Patriots (11-3) (Last week: 5). The offense may be beyond help in 2019, but if they can just find half of a rhythm, likely DPOY Stephon Gilmore and the defense may be able to lead New England to yet another Super Bowl.
6. Seattle Seahawks (11-3) (Last week: 6). Seattle regained the NFC West’s top spot on Sunday, but their Week 17 matchup with the 49ers will still decide the division.
7. Green Bay Packers (11-3) (Last week: 7). The Packers haven’t looked too sharp as of late, but they’ve been winning.
8. Minnesota Vikings (10-4) (Last week: 8). That was a beatdown of the Chargers — 39-10, with seven turnovers forced in a road victory. Impressive.
9. Buffalo Bills (10-4) (Last week: 11). The Bills are back in the playoffs. What a great story.
10. Houston Texans (9-5) (Last week: 13). Houston’s up-and-down behavior exhibits the wild AFC South to a tee. They’d be a worthy champion of the division.
11. Tennessee Titans (8-6) (Last week: 10). The goal line drop-turned-interception that wasn’t Ryan Tannehill’s fault, changed everything. Now, they face a tough two-game stretch (vs Saints, at Texans) in which they’ll need to win at least one game to even have a chance at the postseason.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) (Last week: 12). They just don’t have the offense to truly compete, but Mike Tomlin and the defense still has them in position to grab the AFC’s No. 6 seed.
13. Dallas Cowboys (7-7) (Last week: NR) If the Cowboys can play like THAT, then they can hold their own with anybody. Will they keep it rolling in Philly next week? Their season depends on it.
14. Los Angeles Rams (8-6) (Last week: 9). Their second beatdown loss in front of a national crowd in the past month should end their season. Time to regroup for 2020.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7) (Last week: 15). The Buccaneers have been one of the more exciting teams to watch this season.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) (Last week: NR) Another last-second victory keeps the Eagles on par with Dallas. Now, they’ll host Dallas with the NFC East on the line.
Next up: Indianapolis, Chicago