Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 9, 2017 at 8:06 PM
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, New Era Field. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, Steve Tasker (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 69th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 36-31-1. Indianapolis, however, has posted wins in eight of the previous 11 meetings. The Colts' last regular-season win in the series occurred on Nov. 25, 2012 (20-13). Buffalo won the last matchup, a 27-14 home decision on Sept. 13, 2015. Indianapolis has an 18-14-1 home record against the Bills but is 13-22 on the road. Since the Colts moved to the AFC South, the franchises have faced off five times, with Indianapolis winning three. The Colts, however, have been outscored 57-21 in their two losses to Buffalo.

KEYS TO THE GAME: At this point in the season, Indianapolis is still striving for consistency.

Offensively, the Colts continue to shoot themselves in the foot with untimely turnovers and penalties. Most of those have occurred in red-zone opportunities. In order to be successful at Buffalo, Indianapolis has to finish drives and control the tempo of the game. That means getting more use out of the ground attack and being able to make more chunk plays downfield.

Defensively, pressuring the quarterback has been a never-ending struggle for the Colts. Coaches are in somewhat of a quandary. With three rookie cornerbacks expected to see extensive playing time again, it will be important to give them some help deep while also trying to figure out a way to ramp up the pressure on the quarterback.

Buffalo's offense, particularly the passing game, has stumbled almost all season. But now it comes up against one of the NFL's worst defenses.

The Bills would love to control the game on the ground, especially if rookie Nathan Peterman has to start at quarterback over injured Tyrod Taylor. However, the Colts have been unable to stop anyone through the air, so the Bills should try to get the ball in the air and utilize the expected return of WR Kelvin Benjamin.

Without Andrew Luck, the Colts have struggled all season behind QB Jacoby Brissett. They have topped 30 points only once, against Cleveland, and have topped 20 points only five times. The Bills need to be better against the run than they have been the past month as the Colts will likely try to pound Frank Gore at them. If they can get the Colts one-dimensional, they should be able to generate some pass rush on Brissett and force him into some mistakes. He has absorbed 47 sacks and thrown seven interceptions this year.


--Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Bills CB E.J. Gaines. The Bills may be without top CB Tre'Davious White, who is in concussion protocol. This might mean Gaines has to travel with Hilton, who is clearly the Colts' most dynamic weapon (19.3 yards per reception). Gaines, when healthy, has been a productive player for the Bills, but this will be a big test if White can't play.

--Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin vs. Colts secondary. It looks like Benjamin will be able to play after missing almost all of the last three games with a knee injury. Regardless of whether Tyrod Taylor or Nathan Peterman starts at quarterback, the Bills have to get the ball to Benjamin, who is their most viable passing weapon and will be working against the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Bills have gotten next to nothing from their wide receivers, so having Benjamin back would be a big help.



--Out: TE Darrell Daniels (hamstring), C Ryan Kelly (concussion), CB Rashaan Melvin (hand), WR Donte Moncrief (ankle)

--Questionable: T Denzelle Good (illness), CB Chris Milton (neck), C Mike Person (ankle)


--Out: G John Miller (ankle)

--Questionable: T Cordy Glenn (foot, ankle), T Seantrel Henderson (back), CB Leonard Johnson (knee), QB Tyrod Taylor (knee), DT Kyle Williams (groin)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Colts C Mike Person. With Ryan Kelly sidelined for the Jacksonville game last week with a concussion, Person stepped into the starting lineup and played relatively well. A former seventh-round draft pick by San Francisco in 2011, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman has played previously with Kansas City, Atlanta, the Rams and Seattle. This is Person's second stint with Indianapolis; he spent nine days with the team in September 2012. He was signed by the Colts on Oct. 3 and has seen playing time as a backup to Kelly and on special teams. Person could start at Buffalo if Kelly isn't cleared to play.

FAST FACTS: Colts QB Jacoby Brissett has two or more TD passes in three of the past five games. He is one of three AFC QBs with 2,500 yards (2,542) and 200 rushing yards (206). He's tied for fourth in the AFC with seven TD passes of 20 yards or longer. ... RB Frank Gore has 85-plus scrimmage yards in two of the three career meetings with the Bills. In his past 13 games on the road, he has 1,073 scrimmage yards (82.5 per game). He has 13,697 career rushing yards, fifth most in NFL history. ... LB Jabaal Sheard has five tackles for loss in the past six games against Buffalo. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles in the past five games on the road. ... Bills QB Tyrod Taylor completed 14 of 19 passes (73.7 percent) with a TD and a 123.8 passer rating in the last meeting. He is one of two QBs (Cam Newton) with 8,000 passing yards (8,148) and 1,300 rushing yards (1,482) since 2015. ... RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 93 yards last week. He has 292 scrimmage yards (97.3 per game) and a rushing TD in the past three games against Indianapolis. He is one of five active players with 13,000 scrimmage yards (13,039). In 18 career home games with Buffalo, he has 2,117 scrimmage yards (117.6 per game) and 16 rushing TDs. ... S Micah Hyde led Buffalo with a career-high 12 tackles in Week 13. He's tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions.

PREDICTION: The Bills have lost four of five and have seen their once-promising playoff prospects fade. Their offense will be hampered if Taylor can't play, but their defense should be able to come up with a big effort against the punchless Colts and steal a home win.

OUR PICK: Bills, 16-13.

--Bucky Dent

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