Coming off a week which saw them get a miracle to lock up their first playoff appearance in over 15 years, the Buffalo Bills will look to continue their momentum in their wildcard weekend clash against the AFC South-winning Jacksonville Jaguars (1:05 PM ET Sunday on CBS).
In the winter of 1999, Family Guy debuted on FOX, Bill Clinton was acquitted in his impeachment proceedings, and the Bills found themselves on the losing end of the Music City Miracle game against the Tennessee Titans. In front of a crowd of over 66,000 strong, the Bills took a one-point lead with just 16 seconds left on the clock. However, the lead wouldn’t stand as the Titans pulled off an absolute shocker, successfully getting down the field on a lateral to win the game.
This was the last time the Bills were in the postseason and it is certainly a memory the team and their fans would like to replace. Once again, the wild card game will be the setting as Buffalo, which is only in the postseason thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals playing spoiler over the Baltimore Ravens, takes on Jacksonville in what, on paper, could be the most lopsided matchup of this year’s postseason.
Road to the Postseason: Buffalo
Starting the season 5-2, with wins over the Denver Broncos and playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons, the Bills saw their seemingly strong playoff chances dashed, following a three-game losing streak that occurred throughout the month of November. In addition to those losses, the Bills went on a stretch which saw them lose four of five.
The Bills managed to finish their season 3-1 however with two huge wins over divisional rival and fellow competitor for that final wildcard spot, the Miami Dolphins.
These two victories put Buffalo in a great position to lock up a playoff spot but they still needed some help in the form of the Bengals defeating the Ravens.
Baltimore had the edge and would have taken the spot with a win in their final regular season game but the Bengals had other plans. With just 44 seconds left, Andy Dalton completed his best pass of the season – a 49-yard touchdown to Tyler Boyd on 4th and 12 – which sealed the fate of the Ravens. Cincinnati won 31-27 and Bills fans celebrated the end of their 17+ year drought, the most of any of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues.
Road to the Postseason: Jacksonville
Starting their season with an impressive road victory over AFC South rival, the Houston Texans, the Jaguars traded wins and losses for the first seven weeks of the year. This led up to the team’s bye in week eight, which was followed by an extremely strong second half of football.
The Jaguars won the first three out of the bye and six of their first seven before losing back-to-back to end their season. The standings in the division stayed close, especially with the loss to the Titans in week 17, but ultimately, Jacksonville had a one-game lead over their nearest opponent and used that to book their first trip to the postseason in just over a decade.
Much of this was due to Blake Bortles, fourth year quarterback out of UCF. Bortles had a decent year, hitting a career high 60.2 percent of his passes while also throwing for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Good Bortles/Bad Bortles
Bortles was a huge piece to Jacksonville being able to reach their first postseason but he also could be the reason the team makes an early exit.
With a lead, Bortles was spectacular, totaling a 107.3 passer rating and 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio. However, when asked to bring his team back from a deficit, Bortles has been merely pedestrian. He has a passer rating below 75 and just nine touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions.
Bortles had moments of greatness this year but he also had some pretty bad outings especially at the end of the season. As mentioned earlier in the preview, Jacksonville lost each of their last two games and this is in large part because of a regression from the 25-year-old Bortles, who seemed to play more like his 2016 self. Fans will remember that season because Bortles was absolutely awful.
Jacksonville are pretty clear favorites with the US sportsbooks’ betting lines for this game but it all depends on which Bortles takes the field for Sunday’s wild card game. If the young QB can channel his performances from when he was at his best this season, the Jaguars could be the NFL’s surprise playoff team and could make a deep run. If not, there is every reason to say that the Bills have a chance to pull off the upset.
Will McCoy Play?
Like the Jaguars, Buffalo’s postseason life depends on the play of their top star, running back LeSean McCoy. Actually, not just the play but also his health because McCoy is listed as questionable for the game after being a limited practice participant on Friday.
The nine-year veteran, McCoy had another strong season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. He’s been a huge asset to Tyrod Taylor in the passing game as well, catching 59 passes (which led the team among all position players) for just under 450 yards.
As a dual-threat in the offense, McCoy’s role to the Buffalo offense as well as their chances to go on any sort of deep playoff run, is of the utmost importance. McCoy accounts for over 31 percent of his team’s offensive production this year. Whether it is the run or the pass, the offense goes through the veteran back.
With a healthy McCoy, Buffalo pose much more of a realistic threat than without, especially given they will be facing the league’s 21st ranked run defense in Jacksonville. If McCoy’s ankle sprain doesn’t heal up by Sunday though, the Bills might as well kiss their playoff chances goodbye,
Our Preview’s Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars Betting Picks & Predictions
The Jaguars finished the regular season second in sacks, interceptions and points allowed per game. Their defense is incredibly formidable and didn’t earn the nickname “Sacksonville” for nothing. On that side of the ball, Jacksonville doesn’t need to worry. While offensively, the team has vastly improved, there are still some areas that the Jaguars fall short in and if the Bills are to win, it will be because they exploit the opposing offense. So here are the Bills vs Jaguars predictions of this NFL game betting preview:
- Ultimately the Bills need a lot to go right for them to pull off the upset and they aren’t off to a good start with McCoy’s ankle. Take the Jaguars to cover the deficit posed by the bookies’ spread. Bet on Jacksonville -8.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline. Most other firms have the spread at 9pts.
- As for the total points to be scored in the game, this preview’s pick is to bet the under 39.5 points @ -112, again with BetOnline, because the other USA-facing betting sites have that spread a half point lower.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.