Bills Week 11 Recap – Jonathan Taylor Steamrolls Bills

Jonathan Taylor leaps over Buffalo defense - Bills Week 11
Photo by: Robert Scheer / Indy Star

Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts ran all over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills’ Week 11 performance was somehow more disappointing than their loss to the Jaguars. They have now failed to win back-to-back games since early October.

The AFC East is currently led by the Patriots, who are playing some of the best football in the league. The sky is falling in Buffalo. Whatever has changed in Buffalo, there is still time to overcome it and be the team we all know and expect them to be.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Good

Red Zone Offense

The Bills were perfect in their two red zone possessions with both touchdowns going to Stefon Diggs. This had been a weak point this season, but that was not the case in the Bills’ Week 11 game.

Allen hit Diggs on a 6-yard out to cut the Colts lead down to seven in the early second quarter. They connected again for a 9-yard score when the game was well out of reach in the early fourth quarter. Diggs is clearly still at the top of his game and deserves many more schemed looks as part of the natural game script.

No Injuries

It is hard to find positives after such a disheartening performance, but at least there were no injuries. I agree with McDermott’s decision to pull his starters when it was clear things were over. On a short week, rest and recovery is hard to come by and every bit helps.

Cole Beasley is limited with a rib injury, as he has been for weeks. Tremaine Edmunds was a full participant in their Monday walkthrough after missing the Bills’ Week 11 game. Unfortunately, Star Lotulelei and Spencer Brown will remain in Covid protocols and miss the Saints game.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Bad

Josh Allen

Allen played poorly. This is not disputable. He was not the reason they lost, but the franchise QB should be the player to step up when everything else is going wrong. Allen did not. He forced his first interception into a bad spot, but an uncalled DPI allowed the safety to make his break. He also got picked when things were already over on a bad ball that Kenny Moore volleyed up to himself.

Throughout the day, he never really looked comfortable and had no command over the offense. This has been a concerning theme throughout this season — when adversity piles up, Allen fails to step up and pull the team out of it.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Ugly

Culture

Sean McDermott’s buzzword of choice is “culture”. The previous teams took pride in an exceptional culture where everything was earned and never given. That culture was the foundation of the organizational turnaround. Those teams were disciplined and resilient and always willing to stand up and fight in the face of adversity.

This team, however, is soft. Their culture is all about gloating when they beat up bad teams and cowering when they are punched in the mouth. They get bullied in the trenches and have no fight in them when the going gets tough.

In post game interviews of all their losses, we hear “This is not who we are”. When it happens every other week, and this deep into the season, it is exactly who you are. There is plenty of time to dig in and find that resilient culture, but right now they don’t have it.

Coaching Decisions

Speaking of McDermott, he made some real bad decisions in this game. The Bills’ Week 11 game was cold, rainy, and windy. McDermott opted for two field goal attempts (57 and 49 yards) when they were down 24-7.

Needing multiple scores, knowing Taylor can run at will against you, and the weather being so bad are clear reasons to keep your offense on the field. The first attempt is excusable being an end-of-half play, but the second is inexcusable and essentially a forfeit.

The personnel management was disappointing as well. The defensive line was getting bullied and has not been great this year, but Ed Oliver had been a bright spot. Oliver only played 46% of the snaps, while Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler both played over 60%. Run defense isn’t Oliver’s best attribute but he is certainly better than those two.

Another position with questionable management is running back. Devin Singletary has at least been serviceable this year and deserves some run. Zack Moss has been uninspiring, at best. Matt Breida has been inactive most of the season, but his impact on the offense is clear. He has burst and speed that the others lack and it showed in the past two games. He needs to be the guy going forward.

Run Defense

The Bills’ defense entered the game ranked top in the league without many questions. There were some skeptics based on the quality of offenses the team had faced, but nobody thought the unit was bad. The Colts exposed the unit.

Jonathan Taylor continued his potential MVP campaign gaining over 200 yards and five touchdowns. The team gave up nearly five yards per carry when they had eight or more in the box, and were expectedly even worse with light boxes. This was an all-around failure to compete against a team built to do exactly what they did on Sunday.

Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie has been a fun spark in his return duties this year, causing some fans to ask “Andre Roberts who”? In the Bills’ Week 11 game, however, McKenzie showed a troubling problem that has followed him throughout his career: ball security. The Colts took a 17-7 lead late in the first half. The Bills were in a perfect “double dip” position with a chance to score in the two minute drill and get the ball back at halftime.

Instead, McKenzie fumbled the kick and gave the Colts a 1-yard field to work with. Taylor punched the ball in to take a 24-7 lead. The Bills never recovered from that moment, despite decent momentum immediately before it.

Offensive Line

The offensive line is really bad and has been really bad in all of their losses. Spencer Brown was missed and will be missed against New Orleans as well. Jon Feliciano has also been missed, and it appears unlikely that he will return by Thursday. As much as the team needs Brown, it was never the plan for him to start.

Openly admitting that the line was a weakness, Brandon Beane refused to address it in a meaningful way this offseason. His plan was to run it back with the same starting group he was dissatisfied with last season. They got lucky that their third round project tackle was good enough to start right away. This team lives and dies with the offensive line, and it is a concern that the front office has been comfortable with this weak group.

What’s Next?

The Bills have to put this game in the past and refocus quickly. They face the Saints in the Thanksgiving night game this Thursday. New Orleans lost Sunday as well but are strong in the trenches and post a similar threat to the Colts.

The schedule ahead is grueling and these next few weeks will reveal if the Bills are contenders or potentially not even a playoff team at all. Let’s hope that the Bills’ Week 11 result was a reality check for a team we all know is capable of competing.

Check back in later this week for a full preview of the Thanksgiving game. Go Bills!

Week 4 Game Preview: Colts @ Dolphins

Credit Andy Lyons/ Getty Images
  • Date: Sunday, October 4
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Record: Colts (0-3) Dolphins (1-2)

The Dolphins and Colts, two teams who at the start of the season were widely regarded as strong playoff contenders. However, following the performances in the opening 3 weeks, both teams enter this game in desperate need of a win to get their seasons back on track.

Week 3 Recap:

To sum up in one word…frustrating. The game started so positively with the Dolphins first pick 6 since 2019 courtesy of Elandon Roberts. On the next drive the Dolphins defense then proceeded to turn the ball over on downs. That was thanks to great run stuffing of Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. With all the momentum on Miami’s side, they even managed to get a big rushing play from Malcolm Brown resulting in a 24 yard score. Then it all changed.

The Struggles

The remainder of the game was just outright painful to watch. After a hot start, the Dolphins defense allowed Peyton Barber to rush for 111 yards and a TD. Also allowing Derek Carr to throw for 386 yards and 2 TDs. Miami just could not get off the field on third down. Nevertheless, after the Dolphins offense could not stay on the field with 5 possessions without scoring. The bend not break nature of the defense ought to be applauded, keeping the Raiders to 25 points heading into overtime.

With a full complement of healthy and talented receivers at Miami’s disposal we were hoping to see the purported modernized Dolphins attack. Far from it. It was the coaches that lost Miami this game, all stemming from the pass out of the end zone to Jaylen Waddle resulting in a safety. From there the Raiders took full advantage and never looked back.

The play calling was conservative to say the least. With the contested catch specialists in Gesicki and Parker and the speed of Fuller and and Waddle, the Dolphins never played to their strengths, electing for a dink and dunk approach. Consequently, Jaylen Waddle, the most electric receiver the Dolphins have, ended the night with 12 receptions for 58 yards. Of course there is the argument that this is down to the play of the offensive line in not giving the receivers the time to develop their routes. However, Miami had no such issues in moving the ball down field late in the 4th quarter. As Hussam Patel wrote prior to the game…

Keys to Success

Coming into the game I stated in my preview article that there would be three keys to success:

  1. Improvements on the Offensive Line– The Dolphins offensive line were by no means perfect but were atleast somewhat functional and a big improvement from Buffalo. Austin Jackson continued to be a problem in the passing game allowing rushers to go by untouched, but was strong in the run game, opening up a solid channel for Malcolm Brown to score.
  1. Explosive Pass Rush– The Dolphins pass rush was much improved managing 3 sacks and 4 TFL. Increased use of Jaelan Phillips as a rusher rather than dropping back into coverage, and more safety blitzes from Brandon Jones enabled the Dolphins to create a more consistent pass rush.
  1. Put Points on the Board– The Dolphins put up 28 points including 11 in fourth quarter when the offense eventually got moving. Ultimately however, it prove not to be enough. Conservative play calling from the outset caused the Dolphins to go 5 drives without scoring, which ultimately decided the game. Giving up a cheap safety and a missed field goal, ultimately meant that the Dolphins beat themselves.

Expectations Heading into Week 4:

Coming into this game the Colts are 0-3, having played the Seahawks, Rams and Titans, all of which are likely to make a strong playoff run. Had the Dolphins played those same opponents, it is highly likely that the Dolphins would also be 0-3. In fact the Colts and the Dolphins are very similar. 2 teams coming off losing seasons in 2019, to be in and around the playoffs in 2020, yet have regressed early in the season. Both teams have strong defenses with their struggles along the offensive line.

Nevertheless, where the Dolphins have the edge is in their overall fitness. Entering this week 12 starters have missed practice this week at some point. With the offensive line already a concern for the Colts, their problems will only be further exacerbated as the only starting lineman who has had a full week of practice is C Ryan Kelly.

I foresee another defensively dominated game from both teams. Both will try and establish the run early and often in order to control the time of possession keeping their defenses rested. Colts QB Carson Wentz has been running around scrambling for his life on 2 injured ankles. With the athleticism of the Dolphins defensive line, especially with the increased worth of Jaelan Phillips improving week on week, I can see the defense causing the Colts offensive line nightmares.

Keys to Success:

#1- Stop the Run

With a run defense as porous as Miami’s at times, the emphasis will be on stopping the Colts’ rushing game. Surprisingly the Colts chose to abandon their running game last week against the Titans with Jonathan Taylor only having 10 carries, yet averaging 6.4 YPC. There is a reason the second year running back was taken so highly in many people’s fantasy leagues, but Taylor is yet to score in 2021. In fact the 64 yards he managed Week 3 was a season high, so look for the Colts to get him involved early and often, especially considering the fitness of Carson Wentz. Limiting the damage in the run game will go a long way to coming away with a W.

#2- Establish the Run

In Week 3 the Dolphins had some success in running the ball scoring twice against the Raiders with Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown and Jacoby Brissett all managing over 4.4 YPC. The Colts defense is the 6th worst in the league in terms of rushing yards allowed, but have only allowed 1 rushing TD. This is highly relevant as the Dolphins are the worst in the league in passing TDs with only 1 over 3 games. Establishing the run will go a long way to sustaining drives and allowing the defense to rest.

#3- Better Coaching

The Dolphins play calling was far too conservative with dink and dunk plays. Both Godsey and Studesville need to do better at scheming plays to get the balls into the hands of their best play makers. For Waddle to be tied 3rd in the league in receptions but 45th in receiving yards is no mark against him, but of how he is being used in primarily in bubble screens and drag routes. The Colts adopt a very heavy zone coverage defense giving Brissett (former Colts QB) the opportunity to pick apart the defense.

Injury Concerns:

Another week, another player moved to IR. Unfortunately now the Dolphins will be without their starting center in Michael Deiter for atleast 3 weeks. Deiter was arguably the most consistent performer along the offensive line throughout all of the early woes. Now the job falls to Greg Mancz to steady the ship this week before what will be an ordeal next week @ Tampa. On the brighter side, the remainder of the active roster is healthy and good to go.

The same cannot be said for the Colts who are very beaten up. Biggest news is that Quenton Nelson is OUT, while other big names such as Carson Wentz and Jonathan Taylor are both questionable to feature. Check out the full injury report below.

Score Predictions:

Despite their record and the teams they have faced the Colts haven’t conceded more than 28 points. As previously mentioned I foresee this being a very defensively dominated game. The outcome will all depend on whether the play calling can improve, allowing Brissett to push the ball down field. Check out the ATB Dolphins staff’s predictions below:

Bradley Davies- 24-17 Dolphins

Hussam Patel- 20-17 Dolphins

Tyler DeSena- 27-17 Dolphins

Tanner Elliott- 13-10 Dolphins

Rishi Desai- 23-19 Dolphins

Jared Vandermyde- 27-13 Dolphins

Chris Spooner- 24-20 Colts

Conclusion:

This is a must win game for Miami if they are going to be any form of playoff contender this year. However, before that happens there must be a vast improvement in the overall play calling and execution on offense. Good news for Dolphins fans, the throwbacks are returning this week to Hard Rock, a fitting tribute during the Don Shula Celebration of Life weekend. Fins up!

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Indianapolis Colts and RAS

I find the connections between RAS and draft picks very interesting. I have done a number of articles relating to the Green Bay Packers and their connection to RAS and their draft picks. So I decided to do an article about it for other teams.

For those that do not know what RAS is it means Relative Athletic Score. Created by Kent Lee Platte. You can find his site at: https://ras.football/

I am only using teams whos GM/front office have been in place for at least three drafts. Its basically impossible to find correlations with only data from a couple drafts to work with. I feel like we can identify some trends with these teams. I like to take averages at each position so it give you an idea of where teams prioritize athletes.

Now I know everyone will say “well all you are going to find is that teams like to draft athletes”, “teams always want to get more athletic”. Which can be true. But there is more to it than that. Maybe its because its numbers and they don’t understand numbers? I am not sure. I am actually a film guy myself, but like I said earlier I still find it interesting.

Now that that is out of the way. First off we will start with the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterbacks:

Since being hired in January of 2017 Chris Ballard has only drafted two quarterbacks. Also as we all know athleticism in quarterbacks is generally not seen as important. Even still it is interesting to look at the scores. With Jacob Eason scoring a 3.46 and Sam Ehlinger a 6.82 they average out to a 5.14

Running Backs:

With running backs Ballard has drafted four. With all their scores averaged out it comes to a 7.95. From the looks of it unless you have a special skill set(like Hines who can play all over), Ballard really likes his running backs to be athletic. If you take him out the average goes up to a 8.7.

Wide Receivers:

Now when it comes to receivers Ballard definitely has a type. Outside of Campbell all have been 6’1+ and even Campbell is close at just under 6’0. Their average RAS score comes out to a 8.26. Also of interest is it seems the Colts do not prioritize agility testing. All of them have been between poor to average in agility scores. Although Campbell had a good short shuttle score of 4.03 he does not have a 3 cone number on file. They all are also over 200 pounds. Three of them being 225+

Tight Ends:

With tight ends there is not much there to work with. Ballard has only drafted one tight end in his time. Kyle Granson in 2021 in the 4th round. Kyle has a score of a 7.72. He looks more like an h-back at 6’1 1/2 240lbs.

Offensive Line:

Since 2017 Ballard has drafted seven offensive linemen. three offensive tackles and four offensive guards. Their RAS average score was a 7.81. So pretty good, not super athletic, but up there. Now there is one guy dragging that score down. Zach Banner. He was drafted in the 4th round in Ballard’s first draft. His score was a 1.44. Which is really bad. If his score is removed the average shoots up to 8.87. So that tells us that Ballard really likes athletic offensive linemen. He also likes to draft linemen that are over 300. The lightest was Danny Pinter at 306. Five of them were 310+

Defensive Line:

Similar situation to tight end. Ballard in his time has only drafted two interior defensive linemen. Grover Stewart in the 4th round in 2017 and Robert Windsor in the 6th round in the 2020 draft. Both scored well athletically. Stewart had a 7.79, and Windsor scored at 8.68. They also have Tyquan Lewis who plays both end and tackle. If he were to be listed as an interior linemen his RAS would be a 9.69. So it seems they like relatively athletic interior linemen. Both Stewart’s and Windsor’s size and athletic testing vary so there is not much that can be gleaned from it, other than like like guys who are relatively athletic. It may be a position that he does not value as much draft wise.

Edge Defenders:

Here is where we get some interesting information. Ballard has drafted six edge defenders in his time. Their average ras score is a 9.22. This means he really values major athletes at this position. The lowest score was Terell Basham in 2017 with a ras of 8.2, the others are 9.3 or above. All have been between 250-270 when they were drafted. Ballard seems to like a range of sizes. Some smaller and some bigger. He likes fast guys. All have a 40 time of 4.7 or faster. Most importantly is overall a high level athlete.

Linebackers:

Another position of interest with the Colts. Ballard has drafted eight linebackers in his time. Seems as if it is a position he puts a lot of value in. As far as the RAS scores they have averaged a 7.3 which is pretty athletic. Even more interesting their top linebacker Darius Leonard didn’t test all that well. His RAS was a 4.9 which is basically average. If you remove his score the average goes up to a 8.2. So outside of Leonard who they must have saw something on tape that told the front office he was more athletic than he tested. They like to bring in really athletic linebackers. They also seem to like their linebackers 240 or under which kind of follows with their preference of uber athletic linebackers.

Defensive Backs:

Now this position is pretty interesting in regards to their RAS scores. So they have drafted nine defensive backs in the Ballard era. Nothing too crazy about that. One of the interesting parts is that four of them have no RAS scores. I do believe Julian Blackmon and Malik Hooker were coming off injury and that’s why they have no workout numbers. The other interesting thing is that the average score of the guys they do have RAS for is a 6.91. So a little above average. That in itself is really interesting. It tells me that athleticism is not a priority for this front office. At least not as the level it is for a number of other teams. For example Marvell Tell had a 9.2 RAS all the others are 7.35 or lower. All their db’s are of relatively average size as well.

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