The best game on the Week 14 schedule is the Sunday night clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills in a potential playoff preview. On the road, the Steelers are 3-point favors in what will be an empty Bills Stadium with the over/under for the game listed at 48 points.
As we all know, the Steelers are coming off their first loss of the season, losing to Washington last week despite taking a 14-0 lead. Despite the setback, Pittsburgh holds a two-game lead atop the AFC North and is tied with Kansas City for the best record in the AFC. Of course, their division title and hopes to land the top seed could be threatened by a second straight loss, so there’s some pressure on the Steelers to bounce back quickly.
The Bills also find themselves at the top of the standings in their division. Buffalo is one Hail Murray away from a six-game winning streak, bouncing back from that improbable loss with back-to-back 10-point wins. However, Miami is just one game behind them, so the Bills can’t afford to have a let-up if they want to be the team that ends New England’s reign in the AFC East.
Back to the Top
After a few sluggish games in the middle of the season, Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is rounding back into the MVP form he showcased early in the season. Last week, Allen connected on 32 of his 40 passes against San Francisco for 375 yards and four touchdowns. If he continues to play at that level, the Bills will be a legitimate threat in the playoffs. Of course, the Buffalo rushing attack remains a wild card, as the Bills have been inconsistent running the ball all year despite a few promising games from Devin Singletary over the past month.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh defense will be the biggest test that Allen and the Bills have faced this year. The Steelers have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, and the 23 points they conceded against Washington was the most any team has scored against them since November 1. With an outstanding run defense, the Steelers are a threat to make the Bills one-dimensional, which could be problematic with the Pittsburgh defense amassing 44 sacks and 16 interceptions over 12 games.
On Big Ben’s Back
Speaking of one-dimensional, that’s one fear the Steelers have every week. Outside of a win over the lowly Jaguars, the Steelers have struggled to run the ball in recent weeks. They couldn’t even do much on the ground against the Bengals or Cowboys. As a result, Ben Roethlisberger has been forced to throw the ball over 50 times in consecutive games. He’s also thrown at least 40 passes in six of his last seven games. The silver lining is that Pittsburgh’s wide receiver corps is far more versatile than it was a year ago.
On the other side, the Buffalo defense could create problems for the Steelers if they don’t run the ball. The Buffalo secondary can create turnovers, especially since Tre’Davious White can blanket one of Pittsburgh’s receivers on every play. That also opens the door for the Bills to do more blitzing on Roethlisberger, who isn’t as mobile as he used to be.
Not So Fast
In a way, last week’s loss could be a blessing for the Steelers. They can forget about being undefeated and just play. If neither team ends up running the ball effectively, the Steelers may have a slight edge behind the more experienced Roethlisberger and a superior defense. Bet on Pittsburgh as 3-point underdogs on Sunday night.