Two teams battling for Wild Card positioning and playoff berths—and two of the league’s toughest defenses—showed up at Heinz Field and both displayed why they have earned such respect. Buffalo and Pittsburgh are ranked third and fourth in total team defense this season, second and seventh in fewest points allowed. Both are top ten teams in takeaways. With an offense ranked in the bottom handful of the league, Pittsburgh was starting its third quarterback of the season in rookie Devlin “Duck” Hodges, who was without star receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
In addition, running back James Conner was making his first appearance in a month due to a shoulder injury and was hoping to not be rusty. Buffalo’s success has had more to do with a stout defense and a complimentary offense, and they too are ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards and scoring. With a 36.5 over/under entering the game, this was not destined to be a shootout.
Coming off a subpar week against Baltimore, Josh Allen performed noticeably better, but his stats were still mediocre against the stout Pittsburgh defense; Allen went 13-for-25 for 139 yards, with one interception and one sack, plus a few balls batted down at the line. On the positive notes, he threw one touchdown and ran in for another, rushing seven times for 28 yards total. His quarterback rating was 65.3, just a few points better than last week. Devin Singletary carried 21 times for 87 yards and is closing in on 1,000 scrimmage yards for his rookie season. Singletary also coughed up the ball twice, once losing it to the Steelers.
John Brown was the lone standout receiver, catching seven balls on 10 targets for 99 yards. On defense, standout defensive back Tre’Davious White picked Hodges twice. Jordan Poyner added a pick and a fumble recovery while Levi Wallace also had an interception. The defense gave up two hundred yards of passing to Hodges and only fifty rushing yards, and sacked Hodges four times.
Allen Throws and Runs for a TD as the Bills Hit the 10-Win Mark for the First time in Two Decades
On their first defensive set of the game, DB Tre’Davious White strong-armed an interception on a deep pass from Hodges, but the offense could not capitalize. Field position, however, helped as Pittsburgh’s punter shanked a 22-yarder setting up Allen at the Steeler 40. After losing yardage on a sack, he converted a fourth-down pass to keep the drive alive and took the ball in from the one-yard line at the start of the second quarter. Pittsburgh responded with a field goal, and few series later, picked an Allen throw off the fingers of Cole Beasley, returning it deep into Buffalo territory. Pittsburgh fumbled away that opportunity on a direct snap fumble to Conner who recovered and handed it to Deontae Johnson, who fumbled again for a Bills’ recovery.
The Steelers scored to take the lead to open the second half, and Singletary fumbled the ball away on the ensuing drive. A few punts later, White picked his second pass of the day and set up a Buffalo field goal to tie the score. Halfway through the final stanza, Allen found Tyler Kroft in the end zone for the winning score while Poyer and Wallace’s interceptions kept Pittsburg from retaliating.
Bills Odds to Capture the AFC East as They Hit the Road to New England
New England is a 6.5 point home favorite as the Bills plan to travel to Foxboro for a Saturday showdown. Buffalo is +235 on the money line and the over/under is set at 37.5. The Patriots righted their ship against the ill-fated Bengals, following losses to division leaders Texans and Chiefs. Buffalo hopes that the Patriots’ revived offense is more a product of Cincinnati’s lack of talent; New England has struggled on offense for the second half of the season. Should Buffalo upset New England, a week 17 win and another Patriot loss would give the Bills the AFC East crown.