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Without Stephen Hauschka, the Bills wouldn’t have been close against the Houston Texans.

In the end, many would’ve preferred the kicker to stay away from the field. At least until after touchdowns for an extra point.

Buffalo blew a 16-0 lead against the Texans in their Wild-Card showdown, as the story goes. The Bills only had one touchdown on the day, failing to get into the end zone besides their opening drive.

A bit overlooked? Hauschka, 34, was 4-for-4 kicking in the game. But wait, there’s more. He tied things up on a 47 yarder to send the game to overtime. No pressure there, right?

While most wanted Hauschka to stop before he got started, he told the Buffalo News he didn’t want to stop at four. He was ready for No. 5… specifically, the game-winning kick.

“I was hoping I was going to get that chance to win the game at the end,” Hauschka said.

Unfortunately that chance never came. Texans kicker Kai Forbath got his chance and converted a chip shot instead. There’s always next year?

That seems like a real possibility now, at least.

Hauschka had his struggles this season. His 2018 season wasn’t very bright, and he ended up with the same conversion percent in 2019, 78.6 percent. That’s down from 87.9 percent in 2017. Along with the playoffs, Hauschka also settled down toward the end of the Bills’ season, despite going 1-for-5 from 50-plus this season.

While not 50, he did hit the game-tying kick from 47, again, so… worth noting.

“I felt like I kept us in the game,” Hauschka said. “It’s an emotional game. Everybody put everything out there that they could. We didn’t get the job done and it makes us hurt. We’ll heal and recover from this and this will motivate us in the offseason to train even harder, to come back even more focused.”

Repeatedly the Bills and head coach Sean McDermott expressed their confidence in Hauschka this season, even during his struggles. The one telling move was a wavier claim the Bills put in for Chase McLaughlin. Hauschka beat McLaughlin out for the Bills’ job in training camp, but eventually McLaughlin impressed with the Chargers this season, went on waivers, and was claimed by the Bills.

The Colts got him due to the waiver wire order, though.

More recently, the Bills did subtly give a nod of confidence for Hauschka once again. Kaare Vedvik was signed by the Bills on Tuesday. He’s a dual-threat kicker and punter.

But the Bills made sure to specify that he was going to battle Corey Bojorquez for their punting job when announcing Vedvik’s signing, not Hauschka’s job.

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1. Tre’Davious White earns All-Pro recognition from these media outlets

Tre’Davious White is having a career season in many ways with six interceptions and the league’s most targets in coverage without giving up a touchdown. Due to the success, White is receiving national praise landing on three All-Pro teams so far including, Bleacher Report and Pro Football Talk

Bleacher Report

CB2: Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills (4 votes)

Scoring touchdowns is the entire point of football.

If a Buffalo Bills opponent wants to score six points, it shouldn’t target cornerback Tre’Davious White. According to Pro Football Focus, he recorded 599 coverage snaps without allowing a single touchdown.

Wesseling: Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots; Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills. Gilmore finally allowed a touchdown in coverage on John Brown’s 53-yard bomb in Week 16, leaving White as the cornerback with the most targets (83) without surrendering a score, per NFL Research. It’s not every year that the interception leaderboard is headlined by the stingiest cover corners, but Gilmore and White sit atop the charts with six apiece while also ranking first (26) and second (23) in passes defensed, respectively. Gilmore ranked among the top three corners with an opposing passer rating of 47.4. Those numbers are all the more impressive considering New England’s secondary lines up in man-to-man coverage as frequently as any team in the league. Gilmore is the key chess piece on a defense that is only the third since 2002 to amass 25 or more interceptions while holding opposing passers to a rating under 63.0. Capable of taking over games by erasing No. 1 wideouts and forcing timely turnovers, White is perhaps the lone week-to-week difference-maker on a Bills squad that reached double-digit victories for the first time this century.

Pro Football Talk

CB: Tre’Davious White: As important as anyone to the Bills making the playoffs.

2. Tre’Davious White on Texans WRs: Those guys are explosive

Tre’Davious White and his teammates in the secondary will have their hands full with a few talented receivers in Houston including DeAndre Hopkins. When asked about the much anticipated matchup between he and Hopkins, White said he doesn’t see it as just a one-on-one matchup.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a one-on-one matchup because there are 11 guys on the field,” White said. “Whenever he aligns to the left side, I’ve got to be on my best game. When he aligns to the right side, Kevin [Johnson] has to be on his best game. It’s going to take all 11 of us to limit him because we know he is one of the best in the league. If we play team total defense and everybody runs to the ball, whenever he lines up to either side and we are on our A game, we will be fine.”

White understands it’s not just Hopkins, the defense needs to limit Kenny Stills and Will Fuller who will be a game-time decision.

“Those guys are explosive. It’s going to be tough, but I feel like with our preparation we will be fine.”

With how skilled Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson can be outside of the pocket, it will be important to keep him contained.

“He puts his team in a position to make plays,” White explained. “He has been explosive the last three years in the league. He has a big time arm, he’s accurate too. He can escape the pocket, so we have to have a little bit of luck going in there because that guy is tough.”

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell went into detail on how each NFL team left made it into the playoffs and what they need to do to keep winning. The list was organized by ESPN’s FPI to win the Super Bowl, which meant the Bills were No. 12. Barnwell explains it’s Buffalo’s defense that got them to the postseason.

How they got here: With a defense that won a few games outright and kept the team close in just about every other contest. The Bills allowed 24 points or fewer in 15 of 16 games, a figure no defense has topped since the Eagles went 16-for-16 in 2001. Over the past five years, teams that held their opponents below 25 points have won 74.2% of the time, which is roughly the pace of a 12-win season. Josh Allen and the offense have chipped in with four fourth-quarter comeback victories, tying the second-year quarterback for the league lead.

To keep the season alive, Barnwell says the Bills need to improve in the red zone.

Where they need to get hot in January: In the red zone on offense. Allen’s running ability gives the Bills a valuable weapon, but Buffalo is just above league average at 14th in red zone efficiency this season. That’s fine, but against the league’s best teams, they need to turn their goal-line opportunities into touchdowns, because they might get only two or three shots there per game.

Comparing the Bills to previous Super Bowl winners, ESPN thinks they are similar to the 2001 Patriots.

Past Super Bowl comp: 2001 Patriots. Bills fans might not be enthused about being compared to their archrivals, but that Patriots team was built around a strong defense that slowed down offenses in the red zone and a second-year quarterback whose job was mostly to avoid turnovers. Tom Brady didn’t have Allen’s rushing ability, and the Bills’ defense is better than that Patriots defense was by DVOA, but they win games with the same style of play.

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Custom Jerry Hughes Jersey Large

The news from Jerry Hughes on Twitter after the Buffalo Bills season about a wrist injury has piqued the interest of the NFL.

After the Buffalo Bills loss to the Houston Texans, Jerry Hughes tweeted out that he had been playing with torn ligaments in his wrist. This was possibly a contributing factor to the down season Hughes had in terms of sacks, with only 4.5 sacks during the regular season

It is certainly commendable that Hughes was trying his best to help the Bills win while obviously fighting through what was likely a painful injury. Defensive ends are constantly using their hands while trying to beat the offensive linemen in front of him.

However, this news has raised some concerns from the NFL and they have opened an investigation into whether or not the Bills violates rules by not noting the injury on their weekly injury report, according to Buffalo News.

The issue for the NFL, and why they are investigating, is that Hughes was not listed on any injury report all season for a wrist injury. The only times Hughes appeared on the injury report was Week 11 and Week 12 due to a groin injury that forced him to miss three practices and limited for another over the two weeks.

Hughes is the longest tenured player on the Buffalo Bills but only had 23 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. However, the veteran pass rusher had his best performance of the season in the playoff game against the Houston Texans, when he had three of the team’s seven sacks.

In the past when teams were found to have violated this rule, they have been fined with the Oakland Raiders fined $20,000 in 2018 and more recently the Detroit Lions fined $75,000 for their reporting of Matthew Stafford’s injury in December.

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Here are my hot reads from the Buffalo Bills’ 13-6 loss against the New York Jets Sunday at New Era Field.

Hottest topic
Now that the Bills have gotten their regular-season-finale/preseason game out of the way, they can turn their attention to what actually matters: The playoffs.

The Bills will face the Houston Texans next weekend at NRG Stadium. The Texans became the opponent once the other potential foe, the Kansas City Chiefs, scored a 31-21 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday to lock Houston, which won the AFC South championship, into the fourth seed.

Conventional wisdom is that the Texans are the much better draw, because the Bills have a far better chance of beating them. The primary advantage to facing the Houston is the Bills avoid going against Chiefs dynamic quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

However, the Texans are expected to have dominant defensive end J.J. Watt back from injury. They also play a sound scheme, under veteran defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, that is rooted in the same concepts as those used by the New England Patriots, who formerly employed Crennel. Quarterback Josh Allen could have his hands full.

The Bills’ defense could have issues against Deshaun Watson and the rest of the Texans’ passing game with multiple injuries to the secondary suffered Sunday.

Well done
Allen exiting the field healthy Sunday after only two possessions, and Matt Barkley taking over the rest of the way.
Defensive end Trent Murphy had two sacks while receiving extensive action because fellow end Shaq Lawson was inactive with an injured hamstring.
The Bills making cornerback Tre’Davious White, receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, running back Devin Singletary, and tight end Dawson Knox inactive for the game.
The Bills calling a timeout just before the snap of the Jets’ second offensive series to remove linebacker Lorenzo Alexander from the game and allow him to receive an ovation. Alexander is expected to retire after the season. His daughter, Zoie, sang the national anthem, and Alexander gave her a hug at midfield afterward.
Ice cold
The Bills losing cornerback Levi Wallace and offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe to what appear to be serious ankle injuries. Wallace was injured late in the first quarter while intercepting a Sam Darnold pass. His right foot looked to catch in the turf, causing him to bend his ankle awkwardly. Offensive guard Quinton Spain rolled up on Nsekhe’s right ankle, which Nsekhe had previously injured and subsequently missed the five games preceding the encounter against the Jets. As a precaution after Wallace’s injury, the Bills took third cornerback Kevin Johnson out of the game and replaced him with safety Dean Marlowe.
How desperate were the Bills for secondary help? After cornerback Taron Johnson left the game late in the fourth quarter after Jaquan Johnson stepped on his right foot/shin, receiver Isaiah McKenzie was inserted at corner.
Barkley threw two interceptions and lost one of two fumbles. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 165 yards and had a passer rating of 41.5.
Setting the table
The day and time of the Bills-Texans wild-card playoff game weren’t immediately revealed by the NFL. This marks the Bills’ second postseason appearance since 2017.

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Custom Josh Allen Jersey Large

Time for the weekly Friday mailbag. What a crazy Wild Card Weekend last week, and now we are heading into a Divisional Round. I think the weekend’s games should be excellent!

But first, mailbag questions. And don’t forget to holler at me on Twitter or Instagram if you have a question next week.

What is Josh Allen’s career floor/ceiling? Should the Bills be looking to move on? — @jdiz1617

This is Josh Allen: Josh Allen is a below replacement-level quarterback.

He’s started for two full seasons now, and the success rate of quarterbacks who’ve started their first two seasons under replacement and become even a solid starter in the last 20 years is narrow — basically, it’s Alex Smith.

Age may factor. The only QB of the last 20 years to develop into a solid starter despite below replacement years 1-2 was Alex Smith who also came into the league at 21.

1:36 AM – Dec 27, 2019
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Allen is just good enough for the Bills to be competitive in most games, as they were against the Texans last weekend. But he’s not good enough for this offense to ever put away teams. He still misses on far too many easy throws, and while he’s not had many big games so far, he has come up short in many of them (like against the Patriots and Texans).

When you think of a franchise QB, you want someone who’s going to elevate your team when the stakes are highest, and his play doesn’t match that. I know what Bills fans will say to me: “Well, he improved so much this season.”

Yes, and most quarterbacks make their biggest jump between the first year starting and their second. Yet, Allen’s “jump” in the rankings still left him 24th in QBR, 27th by Football Outsiders, 22nd by PFF, 23rd in adjusted yards per attempt, and dead last in completion percentage. So, not ideal.

The Bills should not be looking to move on, though. They drafted Allen and will hope for the best next season as they add more weapons for him and continue to build the offense around him. However, the Bills entering 2020 feel like the Bears from last season and the Jaguars the season before that: great on defense, not so great at the quarterback position. I believe they will take a big step back next season.

The NFL sidelines are a closed circuit network with all the coaches plugged in and the interns running around with cables. The link between coach and QB’s helmet is over air waves. Could someone with a scanner app not hear that chatter? — @johnsms3

Good question. The play is radioed in from the headset of the playcaller to the QB’s helmet. And for those who don’t know, this happens on defense also. One player on defense gets to wear the “green dot helmet” so he’s able to get the call from the defensive playcaller.

So in theory, I guess someone could grab the chatter somehow. But, how useful would it be?

I think it would be extremely tough given the 40 seconds between plays to intercept the chatter and then decipher those calls in time to get them back into the players on the field. Remember, 15 seconds before the end of the play clock, the communication cuts off.

Also, I think it’s just an overload on the system to have all this information sometimes, especially if the information isn’t relayed properly. You have your offensive or defensive call, plus the opposing look on the field. You go through your pre-snap process and then boom, you get word of the opposing call. Is this call correct? How do I adjust? Where do I look?

It’s just so much. Then the ball is snapped and you’re just standing there thinking.

I’ve always been curious: What goes into gameday for players (say a noon kickoff)? When do you get to the stadium and what’s the process up until warmups? You said before you guys are creatures of habits, so what exactly goes on while all of us crazy people are partying in the parking lot? — @bburtonn

Awesome question. Let’s use a 1 p.m. ET game. Whether it’s a home game or an away game, you must be in the locker room two hours before the kickoff, so 11 a.m. Before every game, including home games, you stay at a hotel. There’s a wakeup call, normally around 8:30 a.m. for breakfast. I would wake up around 7:30 so I could eat and get to the stadium early, normally around 9:30.

At home, we drive and on the road, there are two buses. An early bus would normally arrive to the stadium by 10 a.m. and then a second arriving at 11 a.m. Once you’re in the locker room, there’s a schedule posted for warmups. If you want to go through warmup on your own, you’re free to get that done.

Before you head out for warmups, guys are getting taped, stretching, in the hot tub, and getting treatment. When it’s your position’s time to head out, then you go out for warmups. The linemen are the last ones out, normally around 12:20. You warm up for 15 minutes and then go back inside and get ready for the game.

My personal routine was this:

9:30: arrive
9:40: bathroom
9:50: get my ankle warmed up in the training room
10:30: I’d just lounge around, maybe go for a stroll on the field. Just relax
11:30: I’d get dressed, everything but my pads, and go outside for my warmup
11:50: back in the locker room to relax
12: get my pads on, followed by my hands taped
1: game time
I hope that answers your question!

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The playoffs are underway. At the start of last weekend there were 17 former Iowa players trying to help their team earn the Vince Lombardi Trophy and pick up a nice ring in the process.

As long as the Houston Texans or Seattle Seahawks don’t win it all, at least one former Hawkeye will be getting that ring!

For the former Hawkeyes not in the playoffs, their final stats and information are at the bottom of the article and as team are eliminated, they will join their friends at the bottom the week after their loss.

Hawkeyes in the Playoffs

QB C.J. Beathard (San Francisco 49ers, 3rd season in the NFL): Beathard and the 49ers own the top seed in the NFC and had a bye this week. They host the Vikings on Saturday afternoon.

OL Ike Boettger (Buffalo Bills, 2nd season): Boettger and the Bills lost in the wild card game to the Texans 22-19 in overtime. Boettger was inactive for the game.

OL Bryan Bulaga (Green Bay Packers, 10th season): Bulaga and the Packers have the second seed in the NFC playoffs and will host Seattle on Sunday night. POTW = 1.

WR Nick Easley (Buffalo Bills, 1st season): Easley is on the Buffalo practice squad.

C James Ferentz (New England Patriots, 4th season): Ferentz and the Patriots were upset by Tennessee 20-13 in New England on Saturday night to end their season. Ferentz only played in three plays for the special teams. POTW = 1.

TE Parker Hesse (Tennessee Titans, 1st season): Hesse is on the Titans practice squad.

LB Anthony Hitchens (Kansas City Chiefs, 6th season): Hitchens and the Chiefs have the second seed in the AFC and will host Houston on Sunday afternoon. POTW honors = 1.

S Amani Hooker (Tennessee Titans, 1st season): Hooker and the Titans knocked off the defending champion Patriots on Saturday night to advance in the playoffs. The Titans will travel to Baltimore to play the top-seeded Ravens on Saturday night. Hooker had one tackle in the victory.

Wild Card Round – Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
Amani Hooker in a rugby scrum at the end of the first half against New England. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
S Micah Hyde (Buffalo Bills, 7th season): Hyde and the Bills lost in the wild card game to the Texans 22-19 in overtime to end their season. Hyde had five tackles in the loss. POTW honors =2.

CB Josh Jackson (Green Bay Packers, 2nd season): Jackson and the Packers had a bye. They will host Seattle on Sunday night.

DT Jaleel Johnson (Minnesota Vikings, 3rd season): Johnson and the Vikings upset the Saints 26-20 in overtime. Minnesota moves on to play at San Francisco on Saturday afternoon. Johnson had one tackle for loss in the victory. POTW honors = 1.

TE George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers, 3rd season): Kittle and the 49ers own the top seed in the NFC and had a bye this week. They host the Vikings on Saturday afternoon. POTW honors = 4.

LB Ben Niemann (Kansas City Chiefs, 2nd season): Niemann and the Chiefs have the second seed in the AFC and will host Houston on Sunday afternoon. POTW honors = 1.

OL Riley Reiff (Minnesota Vikings, 8th season): Reiff and the Vikings went to New Orleans and upset the Saints 26-20 in overtime. Minnesota moves on to play at San Francisco on Saturday afternoon.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings
Why not? Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
OL Keegan Render (Philadelphia Eagles, 1st season): Render is on the practice squad for Philadelphia.

OL Ross Reynolds (San Francisco 49ers, 1st season): Reynolds is on the San Francisco practice squad.

OL Marshal Yanda (Baltimore Ravens, 13th season): Yanda and the Ravens had a bye this week and will host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. POTW honors = 1.

Final Stats for Eliminated Hawkeyes

OL Austin Blythe (Los Angeles Rams, 4th season): Blythe and the Rams finished their season at 9-7 as they defeated Arizona 31-24. With a high payroll and no first round pick in 2020, the Rams will have to be creative to keep up with San Francisco and Seattle. Blythe played and started in 15 games on the season while drawing just three penalties on the year. Blythe is a free agent for 2020.

RB James Butler (Oakland Raiders, 2nd season): Butler was on the Raiders practice squad in 2019.

DE Adrian Clayborn (Atlanta Falcons, 9th season): Clayborn and the Falcons finished 7-9 on the season. Clayborn played in 15 games recording 18 tackles which included four sacks. He also forced two fumbles. Clayborn is a free agent for 2020.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Atlanta Falcons
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
DT Mike Daniels (Detroit Lions, 8th season): Daniels and the Lions finished 3-12-1 on the season. Daniels was put on the IR on December 16 and was only able to play in nine games for the Lions. His ten tackles and one sack were probably not what the Lions had in mind when they gave him an $8 million contract. Daniels is a free agent for 2020.

C James Daniels (Chicago Bears, 2nd season): Daniels and the Bears finished the season at 8-8. Daniels played and started in all 16 games for the Bears as he played both center and guard. Daniels was called for four holding penalties on the season. There are still two years left on his rookie contract.

DT Carl Davis (Jacksonville Jaguars, 5th season): Davis and the Jaguars ended the season at 6-10. Davis played in two games for Jacksonville getting one tackle. He also played one game in his time with Indianapolis. Davis is a free agent for 2020.

TE Noah Fant (Denver Broncos, 1st season): Fant and the Broncos finished the season at 7-9. Fant played in all 16 games for Denver and ended the season with 40 catches for 562 yards and three touchdowns. Fant was the number 20 pick in the 2019 draft and has three years remaining on his rookie contract. POTW =2.

Denver Broncos v Buffalo Bills
“Sorry my friend, not today.” Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images
S Jake Gervase (Los Angeles Rams, 1st season): Gervase and the Rams finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Gervase only saw action in two games this season and didn’t record any stats. Gervase signed a two year contract in 2019 so he has one year remaining.

TE T.J. Hockenson (Detroit Lions, 1st season): Hockenson and the Lions finished 3-12-1 on the season. After suffering a significant ankle injury, Hockenson was only able to play in 12 games but during his short time was able to catch 32 balls for 367 yards and two touchdowns. The eighth overall pick in 2019 still has three years left on his rookie deal. POTW honors = 1.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers
TD for T.J. Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images
LB Josey Jewell (Denver Broncos, 2nd season): Jewell and the Broncos finished the season at 7-9. Jewell dealt with some injuries over the season but still managed to play in 15 games for Denver. He recorded 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the year. Jewell still has two years remaining on his rookie contract. POTW honors = 1.

NFL: DEC 08 Broncos at Texans
The Outlaw. Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
CB Desmond King (Los Angeles Chargers, 3rd season): King and the Chargers finished their season at a disappointing 5-11 and will have the sixth pick in the upcoming draft. On the season King played in 15 games and had 50 tackles including 2.5 sacks. King also was featured in the return game and he returned 16 kicks for 331 yards and 21 punts for 118 yards and a touchdown. King will be entering the final year of his four year rookie contract in 2020. POTW honors = 1.

Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers, NFL Week 16
Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
LB Christian Kirksey (Cleveland Browns, 6th season): Kirksey and the Browns finished their year with an under-performing record of 6-10. Kirksey was hurt early in the season and only managed to play in two games for the Browns. On the season he recorded 11 tackles and he has two years remaining on his contract though he potentially could be a salary cap casualty.

LS Casey Kreiter (Denver Broncos, 4th season): Kreiter and the Broncos finished the season at 7-9. For those keeping track at home, Kreiter snapped the ball 146 times for the special teams unit, down two snaps from 2018. Kreiter is a free agent for 2020 but I imagine he will be re-signed by Denver.

DB Greg Mabin (Cincinnati Bengals, 3rd season): Mabin and the Bengals won their last game of the year against Cleveland and still finished with a record of just 2-14. They own the top pick in the draft and are expected to take LSU qb Joe Burrow. Mabin was only active for nine games in 2019 and most of his time was spent on special teams. For the season he had just one tackle and one pass deflection. Mabin is a free agent for 2020.

OL Matt Nelson (Detroit Lions, 1st season): Nelson was on the practice squad for Detroit.

LB Anthony Nelson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1st season): Nelson and the Buccaneers finished their season at 7-9. The rookie battled injuries and only managed to see action in nine games. During that time he totaled eight tackles, one pass deflection, and a forced fumble. Nelson has three years left on his rookie deal.

OL Brandon Scherff (Washington Redskins, 5th season): Scherff and the Redskins finished their season at 3-13. Scherff only was able to play in 11 games due to injury but managed to be named to the Pro Bowl for his efforts. Scherff is a free agent and should be looking for a big payday in 2020.

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The Buffalo Bills felt that they drafted a centerpiece of their defense when they selected Tremaine Edmunds in the first round back in 2018. Thanks to the latest information from ESPN’s Field Yates, it is known that Edmunds has accomplished a first for an NFL player.

According to Yates, Edmunds became the first player in NFL history to record 100+ tackles in two seasons by the age of 21. He also notes that Edmunds did not miss a tackle through Week 16, and for good measure referred to Edmunds as a “complete stud.” Edmunds finished the 2019 season with 115 total tackles, and was named a first-alternate for the Pro Bowl. In addition to his impressive tackle numbers, Edmunds added 1.5 sacks, a safety and an interception while leading the Bills defense this season.

The 100-tackle feat has only been accomplished ten times by 21 year olds since the AFL-NFL merger. Hall of Famer Ray Lewis was the first in his 1996 rookie year and he achieved the mark in every season he played at least 13 games, a total of 13 times. Donte Whitner, a name familiar to Bills fans, was the next 21-year-old to record 100+ tackles, notching 106 in his rookie year of 2006. More recently, Luke Kuechley, Landon Collins, Keanu Neal, Jessie Bates, Roquan Smith, and Devin Bush have reached 100 tackles at the age of 21.

Edmunds was the youngest player taken in modern NFL Draft history when the Bills selected him with the 16th overall pick in 2018. He’s the only 20 year old to record 100 tackles since the merger.

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The Bills signed kicker Kaare Vedvik to a futures/ reserves contract this week, adding him to the team’s kicking room for the 2020 offseason and training camp.

Vedvik is an interesting player because he has experience as both a place kicker and punter. He actually kicked against the Bills in Week 1 for the Jets, missing two kicks in the 17-16 win for the Bills.

Perhaps because of that, when Vedvik signed, the team announced he’d be battling with Corey Bojorquez for punting duties next season. However, there’s another battle Vedvik will apply for.

According to a post on social media via Vedvik’s agent, the free agent signee will also compete for the Bills’ kickoff duties as well.

Here’s that post from Vedvik’s agent via Bills Wire contributor Bradley Gelber:

Kaare Vedvik’s agent confirms he will be competing for the #Bills punting position as well as kick off duties.
— Bradley Gelber

This past season, Stephen Hauschka struggled with place-kicking duties early. But at the end of the season and in the playoffs, he turned it on. He converted a game-tying 47-yard kick in the playoff in a game he went 4-for-4 on kicks.

But perhaps the Bills could stand to improve on kickoffs. Buffalo’s team touchback percent in 2019 was 58.02 percent, good for 17th in the NFL.

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1. analyst labels Bills a dark-horse title contender

It hasn’t been since the remarkable run of Super Bowl teams in the early 1990s that the Bills have been thought as legitimate contenders in the playoffs. Things are different now. With a top-three defense and a rising quarterback, anything can happen in the playoffs. analyst Bucky Brooks labeled them as a dark-horse Super Bowl contender.

With the Bills’ straightforward defensive approach in mind, opponents are challenged to win their matchups against an emerging superstar on the island (Tre’Davious White) and a monster in the middle (Tremaine Edmunds). When you combine Jordan Phillips’ breakout season as an interior sack artist (9.5 sacks) with the timely contributions of Shaq Lawson (6.5), Ed Oliver (5) and Jerry Hughes (4.5) as complementary pass rushers, the Bills are the blue-collar defense that can feast on aggressive opponents who get careless with the football.

Offensively, the Bills’ QB1 gives them a chance to make a run due to his dynamic game. Josh Allen is far from a polished player, but he is a dual-threat playmaker with the potential to post a 200/100 game (200 passing yards/100 rushing yards) with multiple touchdowns on the ground. No. 17 is on pace to join Cam Newton (2011 and 2015) and Kordell Stewart (1997) as the only players in NFL history to tally 20-plus touchdown passes and 10-plus rushing scores in a single season.

Brooks credits the Bills coaching staff for allowing the team to play controlled football that challenges opponents to play mistake-free. In a win-or-go-home scenario the Bills’ understanding of limiting turnovers, penalties, and eliminating big plays should give them an opportunity to knock off a higher seed.

“I think the @BuffaloBills have the next coming of Jim Kelly. I think they have somebody that they can finally build around and get excited about.” – Boomer Esiason on Josh Allen

— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) December 22, 2019

2. Bills undecided on next week’s roster

No matter what happens around the NFL, the Buffalo Bills are firmly locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture. The Bills will face either the Houston Texans or the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round.

With the playoff position firmly locked up, the Bills may rest some starters in the Week 17 matchup against the New York Jets.

“Yeah, no, we’ll talk about it,” McDermott said. “Brandon [Beane] and I will sit down and talk about it and make sure we do what’s right for the team.”

3. Bills gave themselves a chance at the end

Much like the Week 4 game against the Patriots, it came down to the final possession for the Bills. In Week 4 it was Matt Barkley in at quarterback after Josh Allen left with a head injury but in Week 16 it was Allen’s chance to try to win.

Buffalo showed heart and fight throughout but ended up just short again.

“It’s one game. It doesn’t define us,” Tre’Davious White said. “We are still in the playoffs, we are in the dance. We’ve got another tough one next week against the Jets. We just have to go in with a positive mindset and just try to win that one. We just didn’t come out on top. Those guys had a great game plan. Whenever we had them behind the sticks they were able to make some key plays to get back ahead of the sticks. There’s some things we have to prevent.”

Ultimately it came down to the Patriots making more plays than the Bills to put them over the top.

“We knew we had to finish the game,” Jordan Poyer said. “He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and we knew they were going to come back and try and strike. Like I said, they just made more plays than we did today. I’m proud of our guys today, but in the end, there are no moral victories.”

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When Bills head coach Sean McDermott was asked after the regular season finale if the six-catch, 108-yard performance by WR Duke Williams against the Jets could get him consideration for playing time for this week’s game in Houston, McDermott said, “Absolutely.” Buffalo’s sideline boss was true to his word as Williams is active for today’s game against the Texans.

For Williams, it will be just the fifth game of his NFL career and first playoff appearance. The tall, physical receiver brings a different element to Buffalo’s passing game as he makes receptions in contest situations. He’s also the best blocking receiver on the roster.

In other good news, Shaq Lawson, Ty Nsekhe and Andre Roberts are all active for today’s game. All three had been limited in practice.

The bad news is Levi Wallace is inactive for today’s game meaning that Kevin Johnson will start at cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White.