The Buffalo Bills host the Indianapolis Colts, who have already been eliminated from the playoff race.
The Bills, at 6-6, still have a glimmer of hope for an AFC wild-card slot. The Bills can ill-afford a slip up versus the Colts and could be handcuffed without quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor was injured in the 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots last week. Although the injury was not severe to his knee, the mobile quarterback was hampered enough to be unable to finish the contest.
In most cases, Indianapolis' defensive-minded head coach, Chuck Pagano would work on two defensive game plans: one to stop Taylor and the other to focus on rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. But since neither quarterback has played particularly well this season, Pagano and his troops will focus their attention on stopping Bills running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy has rushed for 851 yards on the season, which ranks sixth in the NFL. He is tied with New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram with nine rushes over 20 yards.
Buffalo's run game averages 122 yards an outing and is ranked eighth in the NFL. Indianapolis will have to limit the explosive runs by McCoy and attack the football. McCoy has fumbled three times this season.
Turnovers have stagnated the offense all season. Whether they are fumbles or interceptions, the Bills' offense is struggling and will need to right the ship in Indianapolis.
"It's frustrating, yeah," McCoy said. "We had opportunities to capitalize on them earlier in the game. Not sure if that will make a difference between win or loss, but it will sure help it out. We were driving. Running, throwing, running, throwing. Then we had a turnover that hurt us."
This quote came after the loss versus the Patriots but could have been after almost any Bills' game in the 2017 season.
Whomever plays for the Bills at quarterback could be primed for a huge game if they can manage the game effectively and efficiently. The Colts are without their starting cornerbacks. Rashaan Melvin is out with a hand injury and Pierre Desir was placed on injured reserve this week with a torn muscle in his shoulder.
The Colts will have to depend on Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston and Kenny Moore, all of them rookies, as the team faces the Bills. The trio struggled mightily in the loss to Jacksonville in Week 13.
Buffalo's offensive coordinator Rick Dennison needs to find a way to get a semblance of a passing attack going against the injury-ravaged Colts secondary.
The Bills also have a defensive-minded head coach in Sean McDermott. The Bills defensive unit has been Jekyll and Hyde this season. If McDermott wants to make the playoffs in his initial season as a NFL head coach, he will need the defense to play the good role the rest of the schedule.
The Colts enter the game fighting simply for pride at 3-9 and quarterback Jacoby Brissett is looking to simply make it out of the season in one piece. The former Patriot has been hot and cold in terms of production but has taken a beating behind a below average offensive line.
"Jacoby is tough. It's possible all the hits he's taken this year have begun to take a toll," Pagano said. "(But) you keep going. You keep playing. That's what you do, because you love ball."
Getting pressure on Brissett will be the key for a Bills defense that ranks 27th in the NFL, allowing 361.6 yards per game. While this sounds like an easy task, Buffalo is tied with Sunday's opponent, the Colts, producing only 20 sacks on the season. The only team with fewer is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 17.
With the season lost for Indianapolis, the team will look to ride running back Frank Gore's legs in the last four games. Gore is 19th in the NFL in yards with 632. While the former San Francisco 49er is averaging a career-worst 3.6 yards a rush, Gore is currently fifth in NFL history in total rushing yards with 13,697 yards. Gore is 404 yards behind fourth place and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Curtis Martin.
Tight end Jack Doyle was asked about having Gore as a teammate.
"He's the ultimate competitor, the ultimate pro, he's the man," Doyle said. "He's Frank Gore."