The Buffalo Bills trounced the New England Patriots 38 – 9 in Foxboro on Monday night, signaling the official end to the Pats dynasty since 2000. In the midst of all the celebrating and excitement Western New York was feeling there was a cause for concern. In the fourth quarter, Bills’ star slot receiver appeared to injure his left leg after making a cut during his route. He came off the field and was seen hobbling on the sideline. This was confirmed at yesterday’s presser by head coach Sean McDermott when he said Beasley was listed as “week to week” with a leg injury. Beasley had been an integral cog in the Bills’ wide receiver corps this season. He has 82 catches for 967 yards, which are both career highs and looked poised to go over 1000 yards for the first time in his nine-year career. It now seems likely that he will miss the Bills first playoff game this year and perhaps the biggest reason why Buffalo should rest their starters against their season finale against the Miami Dolphins. Here are some others.
The Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers both stand at 12 – 3 heading into the last week of the regular season and have each clinched their respective division championships. The Bills hold the #2 seed in the AFC playoff lineup due to the victory over the Steelers in week fourteen. The implication being if Pittsburgh wins and the Bills lose their final games, Pittsburgh takes over the second seed. It seems that is not a main concern for Pittsburgh as head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday that he would be resting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and starting backup Mason Rudolph. This lends the belief that he will be resting his other high-profile starters as well.
Pittsburgh’s final game is against AFC North division foe Cleveland. The Browns lost to the bottom dwelling New York Jets last week. It was in tragic fashion as Baker Mayfield fumbled the ball on a fourth and one at the Jets 16-yard line trailing by seven with just over a minute left. That loss now has the Browns fighting for their playoff lives. They still control their own destiny though and will clinch a spot if they beat the Steelers on Sunday. This is a most important game for the Browns who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. Cleveland is home and are more than talented enough to beat the Steelers backups.
#2 Seed Not Crucial
The NFL playoff picture this season still has a lot of drama heading into the final week with only half of the 14 teams having secured their spot. In the AFC only three have their ticket before the weekend’s final games. Depending on the outcomes, the Bills can be facing five potential first round opponents. This unknown lends no time for advanced preparation against their wildcard matchup. With the Kansas City Chiefs having the conference’s only bye, the second seed would secure two home playoff games, providing they advance. The third seed would have to travel to the second seed’s home field in a scenario where they both advance. Since both Pittsburgh and Buffalo can only fall to the three seed this means the Steelers would have to come to Buffalo or vice versa. With very limited or no fans this season, the home field advantage is much less of a factor as crowd noise is not a concern. Traveling to Pittsburgh would be a short trip and the weather similar to what it will be like in Buffalo. While there are still benefits to playing at Bills Stadium, it shouldn’t make a difference to travel.
The Bills are streaking and are playing as well as anybody in the NFL right now and have been for the past month. With the potential of not having Beasley, they need to take the cautious approach to ensure that’s the only main player they’ll be without. We shall see if coach McDermott follows Tomlins’ lead and takes a passive approach, letting other teams have a more favorable chance at Buffalo’s playoff path to the Super Bowl.