ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Indianapolis Colts need all the defensive firepower they can get in today's 2020 postseason opener against one of the best — and hottest — offenses in the National Football League.
Defensive firepower, you say? How about your All-Pro defensive tackle and your starting strong safety?
DeForest Buckner, who was labeled as questionable coming into today's Wild Card Matchup against the Buffalo Bills due to an ankle injury, is officially active for the game, as is safety Khari Willis, who missed last Sunday's 2020 regular season finale with a concussion.
Those who are inactive for the Colts (11-5), the AFC's No. 7 seed, today include defensive end Ben Banogu, quarterback Jacob Eason, tackle Will Holden, wide receiver Dezmon Patmon, tight end Noah Togiai and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
Buckner and Willis will be counted on to make major contributions against a Bills offense that set all kinds of franchise records on the offensive side of the ball in 2020.
In all, Buffalo (13-3), the No. 2 seed in the AFC, ranked second in the league in total offense (396.4 yards per game), second in scoring (31.3 PPG), second in passing offense (288.8 YPG) and first in third down conversions (49.7 percent).
Josh Allen, the Bills' third-year MVP candidate at quarterback, completed 396-of-572 passes (69.2 percent) for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns to 10 interceptions on the year, while Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the NFL with 127 receptions and 1,535 receiving yards, adding eight receiving touchdowns.
» Buckner suffered his ankle injury in practice on Dec. 17, but has been playing through it since. He played more of a limited role in that week's win over the Houston Texans (but still had three sacks that day and was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week). He's returned to his usual role the last two weeks against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars, however, logging two sacks in last Sunday's regular season finale against Jacksonville. On Friday, Buckner was named an Associated Press First-Team All-Pro selection after finishing the year with 58 tackles (37 solo), 10.0 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks (a Colts franchise record for a defensive tackle), three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Among NFL defensive tackles, he ranked in the top-five in tackles (fourth), solo tackles (second), tackles for loss (tied-third), sacks (second) and forced fumbles (tied-third).
» Willis suffered a concussion in the Colts' Week 16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and did not play last Sunday in Indy's Week 17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was estimated as a full participant in the Colts' first two walkthroughs this week, however, and on Friday head coach Frank Reich said he had officially cleared the league's concussion protocol. The second-year Michigan State product has been a solid all-around contributor in the Colts' secondary this season; in 14 games, he collected 85 total tackles (three for a loss) with 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hits, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), six passes defensed and one forced fumble.