Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts: First round playoff preview, predictions

Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after throwing a touchdown pass during the second half against the New England Patriots. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after throwing a touchdown pass during the second half against the New England Patriots. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /
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Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) stiff-arms Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. /

Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts: Quarterback Matchup

Colts starting quarterback Philip Rivers is no spring chicken. The bolo tie-wearing, trash-talking father of nine turned 39 this season, and is set to become a free agent at the end of the year. For a man who has hinted at retirement before and explicitly laid out his plans for life after football, this feels like the last ride.

Although Rivers is exhibiting the loss in arm strength and lag in throw power that all aging quarterbacks not named Tom Brady experience, he’s got an innate feel for sussing out opposing defenses. Rivers can check-in and out of plays at the line at a level only matched by his other senior contemporaries in the league, as even with just shy of 7,000 Bills fans in attendance, Rivers should be able to control the line of scrimmage.

Much has been made of Rivers’ decline, but the Colts are still a top-half team in terms of passing yards per game. Much of this yardage comes on short passes and underneath throws that will task the Bills’ linebackers with shutting out passing lanes and making sound tackles.

The questions with Rivers lie with his split-second decision-making. A statue in the pocket, his inability to improvise has led to issues with interceptions that helped usher him out of Los Angeles. Rivers has cut his interception total in half from 20 to 10 this season but made an ill-advised throw against Pittsburgh on a first down that potentially cost them the division. Point being, the elder statesman can be forced into an error or two if pressured.

On the other hand, Josh Allen seems to invite interior pressure, just so he can throw another stiff arm to add to his growing collection. The Wyoming product’s ascendance in 2020 has been nothing short of remarkable.

Over the course of three years with the Bills, Allen has taken the one glaring weakness in his game and all but eliminated it. Coming out of college, the words “raw” and “inaccurate” were on the lips of every prognosticator. All Allen’s done to answer the doubters is improve on his completion percentage by 11 points and refined his once-raw physical attributes to a tender medium-rare.

It helps that he’s gotten a new weapon or two to play with. Stefon Diggs officially locked up the NFL receiving crown last Sunday, proving that he’s worth the once-thought-to-be steep price the Bills paid for his services. John Brown also returned to action against the Dolphins in Week 17, further fortifying a receiver room that features the underrated Cole Beasley and rising rookie Gabriel Davis, as well as new signee Kenny Stills.

The next item on the agenda is that first career playoff win. If Allen can deliver that, there’s no telling how high his star will rise in the City of Good Neighbours.