Colts vs. Bills: NFL Wild Card odds, preview, and pick
One of the craziest regular seasons in NFL history has concluded, ushering in a playoff format that is equally bizarre for NFL traditionalists. With seven teams from each conference making the playoffs, opening week will provide us back-to-back triple-headers.
The first game to kick things off will take place Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET as the seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts head north to take on the second-seeded Buffalo Bills.
Sat, January 9 2021, 6:05 PM
The Bills have been money against the spread
The Bills enter at 13-3 straight up and are the division winners of the AFC East. They were a league-leading 11-5 against the spread and are opened as 7-point favorites against the Colts. The Colts enter at 11-5 straight up but just 8-8 against the spread. They lost a tiebreaker to the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South Division title, and thus have earned this trip to Buffalo instead of getting to play at home against the Baltimore Ravens.
Allen made great strides in third season
For the Bills, things start with their young quarterback, Josh Allen, who has made a tremendous leap from his first two years in the league. As a rookie, Allen completed just 52.8% of his passes and had a 3.8% interception rate. Now in his third-year with the Bills, Allen completed 69.1% of his passes with just a 1.6% interception rate.
Allen finished the season third in CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) behind only presumptive MVP Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson, who built a strong lead earlier on this season. Allen can also use his legs effectively, which helped him rank fourth among all quarterbacks in expected points above average with the ball in his hands.
Diggs and Beasley are a dynamic duo for the Bills
Allen benefits from the immensely talented Stefon Diggs, the league’s leading wide receiver this year. While Diggs is a deep-threat that averages 12.2 yards per catch, Allen also has veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley to serve as a safety outlet under duress. Beasley complimented Diggs with 89 receptions and 967 yards. In all, the Bills had six receivers that accumulated at least three touchdown passes, indicating they are able - and willing - to spread it around depending on what’s available to Allen.
Beasley suffered a knee injury in Week 16 against the Patriots, and while Josh Brown has been re-activated from the COVID-19 list and Kenny Stills is expected to join the roster, Beasley’s health status will be important to watch.
Rivers has been reborn in Indianapolis
For the Colts, they are winning games in what could be called an old-school way. They have a strong defense, a great offensive line and power running game, and a veteran quarterback. After toiling away for years on disappointing San Diego Chargers’ rosters, Phillip Rivers has seen a resurgence this year as he has played behind one of the better offensive lines in the league. It can be argued that sacks are a quarterback stat, but it certainly helps to have help up front, and Rivers has taken the second-least amount of sacks in 15 years.
Indianapolis benefitted from a weak schedule
While the Colts looked at their best in midseason wins against the Titans and Packers, they don’t have an impressive resume overall. They benefited from a weak schedule, and while rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has given them a power running game to lean into tiring defenses with, they actually come in 25th in the league in yards per rush attempt. The Colts have developed a bad habit of playing Jekyll and Hyde football, looking good for one half and mediocre for the other. Against a team the caliber of the Bills, that is a habit they must break very quickly.
Looking at the futures odds, it is quite clear that bookmakers don’t believe the Colts are a championship-pedigree team while the Bills as the No. 2 seed are the obvious second option to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Will the Bills cover the spread against the Colts?
The Bills have the better quarterback, better weapons, and a better defense led by a tremendous secondary. They have won nine of their last 10 games with the only loss coming on a Hail Mary by Arizona, and are playing as well as any team in the NFL. The Bills will also be pleasantly greeted by just under 7,000 screaming Bills Mafia fans, a first for this season. Enjoy your seat, Bills fans, and enjoy moving onto the second round.
Score prediction: Bills 31, Colts 21