2020 Colts Preview: Colts/Bills, Wild Card Round

The Indianapolis Colts (11-5) earned their ticket to the playoffs the hard way. Now the AFC's No. 7 seed travels to Orchard Park, N.Y., trying to make some noise in the Wild Card Round against one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the No. 2-seed Buffalo Bills. Check out the official game preview.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have made the dance — they might as well bust a move while they're there.

The Colts (11-5), the No. 7 seed in the AFC, on Saturday travel to take on the No. 2-seed Buffalo Bills (13-3) in their 2020 Wild Card Round matchup at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. ET.

The Colts earned their ticket to the playoffs the hard way. They actually started the day last Sunday on the outside looking in when it came to the AFC playoff picture, but it was the Bills' victory over the Miami Dolphins, coupled with Indy's Week 17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, that clinched the No. 7 seed for the Colts, who earned their most wins in a regular season (11) since 2014. Offensively, the Colts took care of the football (fifth-fewest turnovers in the NFL), protected the quarterback (second-fewest sacks allowed) and had a good mix of explosive pass plays (97 of 15-plus yards, the seventh-most in the NFL) and explosive run plays (66 runs of 10-plus yards, the 10th most in the league). Defensively, the Colts had one of the best big-play units in the NFL, as evidenced by their four defensive touchdowns and three safeties caused (both first in the NFL), and they also were one of the best teams against the run.

The Bills, meanwhile, are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL. Winners of six straight to end the regular season, Buffalo has a very well-rounded team led by an MVP candidate at quarterback in Josh Allen (396-of-572 passes [69.2 percent] for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns to 10 interceptions), the NFL's leading receiver in Stefon Diggs (127 receptions for 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns) and an opportunistic defense that can get after the quarterback (second in the NFL in hurries and batted passes) and create turnovers (fourth in the NFL in takeaways). The Bills in 2020 also led the NFL in kickoff return average (27.6).

So what all should we be looking for when this thing kicks off? Here is the official game preview.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Saturday, Jan. 9, at 1:05 p.m. ET
  • Orchard Park, N.Y.; Bills Stadium
  • TV: CBS — Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Charles Davis (color) and Evan Washburn (sideline)
  • Other radio: Westwood One Sports — Josh Sadak (play-by-play), Ross Tucker (color)
  • Colts Official App (*Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.)
  • Colts.com mobile website (Safari browser ONLY)
  • Yahoo! Sports mobile browser or app
  • Click here for MORE WAYS TO WATCH.
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, click here.
  • Local radio: Colts games can be heard in Indianapolis on 93.5, 107.5 and 1070 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM, plus the desktop version of Colts.com with Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color), Larra Overton (sideline) and Bill Brooks (pregame/postgame analyst) on the call.
  • National radio: Fans can listen to the live local call on Colts.com (desktop only) and NFL Game Pass. Get your free seven-day trial by clicking here.

*Please check your local TV listing to confirm availability. iOS mobile web and app users should "Allow Location Access" (via Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Safari).

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Bills lead 37-32-21; Saturday's game will be the first-ever postseason matchup between the two teams.
  • Last game — Week 7 of 2018; Colts won, 37-5, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  • Last game in Buffalo —Week 14 of 2017; Bills won, 13-7 in overtime.
  • Of note: While the Colts and Bills have never met in postseason play, they've matched up in January three other times in their series history, and Buffalo has come out on top each time. The Bills beat the Colts, 30-7, on Jan. 3, 2010, in Buffalo; they beat the Colts, 31-6, on Jan. 2, 2000, in Buffalo; and the Bills came out on top over the Colts, 30-10, on Jan. 2, 1994, in Indianapolis.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Bills:

  • HC Sean McDermott
  • OC Brian Daboll
  • DC Leslie Frazier
  • STC Heath Farwell

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15), 28-14

Bills:

  • Won vs. Miami Dolphins (10-6), 56-26

See all the best images from Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • OUT — T Will Holden (ankle), CB Rock Ya-Sin (concussion)
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — DT DeForest Buckner (ankle)

Click here to read more on the injury report for Saturday's game.

Bills:

  • OUT — N/A
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — WR Cole Beasley (knee), WR Stefon Diggs (oblique)

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Keep Josh Allen & Co. on the sideline: Did the Colts find a possible template for slowing down the Bills' potent offensive attack back in Week 11? In that matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis won the time of possession battle 35:01 to 27:49, which is notable against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense, which in 2020 were No. 1 in the league in average time of possession at 32:31. Rodgers that week still made his share of plays, but the Colts ultimately came out on top in overtime; think about what Rodgers could've done if the Packers got about five more minutes with the ball in their possession? One would assume the Colts will try to stick to the same plan Saturday against the Bills, who rank third in the NFL in average time of possession at 31:45 and also have an MVP candidate at quarterback in Josh Allen. The less Allen is on the field, the less damage he can do. Perhaps another strong performance from the Jonathan Taylor and the Colts' rushing attack against a Bills defense that allowed a first down on 35.61 percent of all carries in 2020, the seventh-worst rate in the NFL, would help matters.
  • Be more special on special teams: While there are plenty of notable playmakers on offense and defense on both the Colts and the Bills, Saturday's game could very well come down to the third, and equally important, part of the game: special teams. And in 2020, few, if any, teams were better on special teams than the Colts and Bills. Buffalo in 2020 ranked fist in the league in kickoff return average (27.6) and third in kickoff coverage (17.9 yards allowed), while punter Corey Bojorquez led the league in gross punt average (50.8) and kicker Tyler Bass set a team record for points scored (141). The Colts, meanwhile, had the league's leader in special teams tackles, George Odum (20), ranked tied for fourth in the league in kickoff return average (25.8) and were one of seven teams with a kick return touchdown, had a punt that was blocked and returned for a touchdown and also have one of the most dangerous punt returners in the NFL in Nyheim Hines, whose 14.9 punt return average since 2019 is tops in the NFL by a wide margin, and is tied with Jamal Agnew for the league lead with two punt return touchdowns over that same span. Will this one come down to a blocked field goal? Who will win the field position battle? Can Hines break another one? These are all relevant questions heading into Saturday's postseason battle.
  • "Us against the world" mindset: The Colts throughout the 2020 regular season were actually favored in more games on a week-to-week basis than almost any other team in the league, but that certainly won't be the case on Saturday against the second-seeded Bills, who opened up the week as a touchdown favorite against the seventh-seeded Colts. But if you ask Frank Reich — who certainly knows a thing or two about being an underdog from his time spent as the popular backup quarterback for the Bills in the 80s and early 90s — his team is in the perfect position to catch the NFL world by surprise on Saturday. "The pressure is not on us," Reich said. "We should be in there, we should be loose, we should be aggressive, we should be freed up to just play our best game of the year against a really good football team because essentially like you said, in reality no one is going to give us a chance. It's that us-against-the-world mentality and that's all you need. When you're with this team the way I am day in and day out, you would know where I get the confidence to feel like we have the team to beat anybody in this tournament."

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Bills CB Tre'Davious White: White has been one of the league's best cornerbacks since he was selected by the Bills in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he took his game to a completely new level last season, when he tied for the league lead with six interceptions and ranked second in passer rating allowed (38.9). Now with opposing offenses on alert, White still has had a solid season in 2020, and leads the Bills with three interceptions. White will no doubt be tasked with following Hilton, the Colts' top receiving threat, around for most of the game; this season, for example, White has played about an equal number of snaps on the left and right sides of the field. Hilton, meanwhile, enjoyed a sold resurgence over the final six games of the regular season, when he had 27 receptions for 435 yards (16.1 avg.) and five touchdowns; he finished the season with 56 receptions for 762 yards and five scores, to go along with 42 first downs.
  • Colts RT Braden Smith vs. Bills DE Jerry Hughes: The former Colts' first-round pick continues to be the premiere edge rusher for the Bills now in his eighth season in Buffalo. While the sack numbers aren't really notable — he had 4.5 in 15 games this season — Hughes is still the Bills' top pass-rush threat; his 87.3 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus led all Buffalo defensive linemen, and he finished with a team-best 54 total quarterback pressures — 43 hurries, six hits and five sacks created. Hughes will line up on both edges, but this season he's mostly lined up at left defensive end across from the right tackle. The Colts' right tackle, Smith, has simply been one of the best at his respective position in the NFL this season. In fact, Smith was one of three qualifying NFL tackles to not allow a single sack all season, and of that group, he allowed the fewest quarterback hits — one.
  • Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Bills QB Josh Allen: The Colts are going to need an All-World-type performance out of their All-World linebacker, Leonard, against Allen, who in his third season has developed into a legit league MVP candidate. Allen in 2020 broke the Bills' single-season franchise records for completions (396), passing yards (4,544) and passing touchdowns (37), and had another eight touchdowns on the ground. Among league leaders, Allen was fifth in completions, fourth in completion percentage (69.2), fifth in passing yards, fifth in passing touchdowns, fourth in first downs (228), fifth in yards-per-attempt average (7.9) and fourth in quarterback rating (107.2). The Colts will rely on Leonard to make things happen defensively, whether it's in his role as a blitzer, limiting Allen's ability to make plays on the move and in the red zone and also playing sticky coverage in the second level.
  • Colts CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Bills WR Stefon Diggs (questionable, oblique): Rhodes and Diggs, both former Vikings, have thrived on their new teams in 2020. Diggs in 2020 ended up leading the NFL in both receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535), adding eight touchdowns, and was tied for third in first-down receptions (73). Rhodes, meanwhile, finished second in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks in completion percentage allowed (50.7), the second-best mark of his career behind his 48.0-percent completion rate allowed during his All-Pro campaign in 2016. Now, it won't always be Rhodes-vs.-Diggs on Saturday — Diggs tends to line up all over the field, while Rhodes primarily lines up on the right side — but these two former teammates for sure are the matchup to watch when the Bills offense and the Colts defense are on the field.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Philip Rivers (4,169 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Jonathan Taylor (1,169 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (762 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Jonathan Taylor (12)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (132)
  • Sacks — DT DeForest Buckner (9.5)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (4)

Bills:

  • Passing — QB Josh Allen (4,544 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Devin Singletary (687 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Stefon Diggs (1,535 yards)
  • Touchdowns — QB Josh Allen (9)
  • Tackles — S Jordan Poyer (124)
  • Sacks — LB A.J. Klein, DE Mario Addison (5.0 each)
  • Interceptions — CB Tre'Davious White (3)

COMPARING 2020 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 10th (378.1 YPG)
  • Scoring — 9th (28.2 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 11th (253.3 YPG)
  • Sack percentage allowed — Tied-3rd (3.7)
  • Rushing offense — 11th (124.8 YPG)
  • Third down offense — Tied-21st (39.6 percent)
  • Red zone offense — Tied-17th (58.3)
  • Total defense — 10th (332.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (22.6 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 13th (241.6 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-12th (40)
  • Rushing defense — 2nd (90.5 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 19th (42.4 percent)
  • Red zone defense — 15th (61.5 percent)
  • Time of possession — 10th (30:58)
  • Turnover differential — 2nd (+10)

Bills:

  • Total offense — 2nd (396.4 YPG)
  • Scoring — 2nd (31.3 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 2nd (288.8 YPG)
  • Sack percentage allowed — 7th (4.3)
  • Rushing offense — 20th (107.7 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (49.7 percent)
  • Red zone offense — 13th (61.8 percent)
  • Total defense — 14th (352.5 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 16th (23.4 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 13th (232.9 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-15th (38)
  • Rushing defense — 17th (119.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 13th (39.8 percent)
  • Red zone defense — 5th (65.5 percent)
  • Time of possession — 3rd (31:45)
  • Turnover differential — Tied-10th (+4)

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