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HOUSTON — The Buffalo Bills will be without starting cornerback Levi Wallace on Saturday.

Wallace will miss the wild-card playoff game against the Texans at NRG Stadium because of a sprained ankle, meaning Kevin Johnson will start opposite Tre’Davious White.

The Bills also made a big move at wide receiver. Duke Williams will play, while Robert Foster is a healthy inactive. Williams had six catches for 108 yards in the season finale against the Jets last Sunday.

Buffalo’s other inactives are tight end Tommy Sweeney, guard Ike Boettger, running back T.J. Yeldon, offensive tackle Ryan Bates and defensive tackle Vincent Taylor.

Right tackle Ty Nsekhe (ankle), defensive end Shaq Lawson (hamstring) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (foot), all of whom were questionable coming into the game, will play for the Bills.

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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. NFL.com 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.

NFL.com 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 pic.twitter.com/As58rM6wSo

— 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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Like the rest of us, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be watching the NFL Playoffs this year. Unlike the rest of us, the Bucs have a chance of making it to the post-season next year, and could potentially do so using the assistance of some guys getting a little playoff experience in 2020.

As the Buffalo Bills travel to face the Houston Texans, here are some guys doing so on expiring contracts who could become targets of Jason Licht and the Buccaneers when the new league year begins in early March.

2020 FREE-AGENTS: BUFFALO BILLS
OLB, Lorenzo Alexander (37) LB, Maurice Alexander (30)

G, Isaac Asiata (27) FS, Kurt Coleman (32)

TE, Jason Croom (26) WR, Robert Foster (26)

RB, Frank Gore (37) CB, Kevin Johnson (28)

DE, SHAQ LAWSON (26) DT, Corey Liuget (30)

C, Spencer Long (29) SS, Dean Marlowe (28)

WR, Isaiah McKenzie (25) RB, Senorise Perry (28)

DT, Jordan Phillips (27) G, Quinton Spain (29)

OLB, Julian Stanford (29) RT, LaAdrian Waddle (29)

CB, Levi Wallace (25)

FREE-AGENT FOCUS: DE, SHAQ LAWSON
NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Back-up defensive end isn’t what the Buffalo Bills thought they were drafting in 2016 when they took Shaq Lawson with the 16th overall pick, but they did.

Now, a year after having his fifth-year option declined, Lawson will enter the post-season with seventeen career starts and 16.5 sacks in his four years with Buffalo. There are members of Bills Mafia who want their team to re-sign the 25-year old defensive end, but then again, the former first-rounder may depart upstate New York looking for a better opportunity elsewhere.

As a 4-3 defensive end, Lawson hasn’t been able to fulfill the potential so many saw in him coming out of Clemson. In fact, as part of an assignment while working towards my Bachelor’s Degree, I did a TED Talk style presentation explaining why the Buccaneers themselves should take Lawson with their first-round pick that year.

Instead, they took Vernon Hargreaves III who will be suiting up on the other sideline from Lawson this weekend.

This off-season, there may be a chance for my projections in 2016 to become a reality in 2020. If the Bucs were to entertain signing Lawson, he would likely transition into an outside linebacker in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 based scheme. He’d come in similar to Shaquil Barrett in 2019, as a young defender with potential needing an opportunity to earn playing time.

Barrett certainly made good on his opportunity to thrive under Bowles, so why not bring in another Shaq, to see if he can’t go Shaq-to-Shaq on free-agent additions? Sorry. Had to.

2020 FREE-AGENTS: HOUSTON TEXANS
FS, Mike Adams (39) OLB, Tyrell Adams (28)

SS, Jahleel Addae (30) WR, DeAndre Carter (27)

OT, Chris Clark (34) ILB, Dylan Cole (26)

DT, Brandon Dunn (27) K, Ka’imi Fairbairn (26)

TE, Darren Fells (34) CB, Phillip Gaines (29)

RB, CARLOS HYDE (28) OT, Roderick Johnson (24)

RB, Taiwan Jones (32) CB, Johnathan Joseph (36)

QB, A.J. McCarron (29) RB, Lamar Miller (29)

OLB, Barkevious Mingo (29) DT, D.J. Reader (26)

CB, Bradley Roby (28) QB, Joe Webb (33)

LS, Jon Weeks (34)

FREE-AGENT FOCUS: RB, CARLOS HYDE
NFL: Houston Texans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Hyde is past the days where a team will likely look at him as their lone backfield attacker, but he’s still very capable. Evidenced by the fact he’s coming off his first thousand-yard season in his sixth NFL season.

Sharing touches with Duke Johnson didn’t keep Hyde from putting up some solid numbers, and if the Texans don’t strike a deal with him before free-agency, he’s likely to land with a team looking to boost their own running attack. The Bucs are just such a team.

Tampa Bay’s defense was able to hold Hyde to a microscopic 1.6 yards per carry average in their match-up against the Houston Texans this season, but outside of that game, Hyde had just four games where he averaged under three yards per carry.

In addition to some career highs in the running game, Hyde has shown an ability to be a pass catcher out of the backfield, even if it’s not something teams lean on him heavily for.

Keep an eye on Hyde and how he does against a middle-of-the-pack Bills run defense allowing 4.3 yards per carry in the 2019-2020 season.

Hyde and Lawson are just a couple of the potential free-agents taking the field for Wild Card Weekend as the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans take part in the elimination game.

Let us know your thoughts on both of these guys, as well as any of the other upcoming free-agents you’ll be keeping an eye on.

We’ll be back with more looks at the teams competing in the 2019-20 NFL Playoffs!

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Buffalo Bills cornerback Kevin Johnson spent four seasons with the Houston Texans as he was their former 2015 first-round pick. Of course, he would have knowledge on his old team.

However, his old quarterback had knowledge on him, and it came into play on the 34-yard pass to running back Taiwan Jones that setup Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game-winning 28-yard field goal in overtime of the AFC wild-card Saturday evening at NRG Stadium.

“I knew it was blitz 0,” Watson told Lisa Salters of ESPN after the game. “I checked the play. Kevin Johnson was here last year, so he knew the signal, seen him bail, and I just told myself to stay up.”

Watson shed two would-be sacks from Bills defenders and scrambled out to his right where he found Jones, whose 34-yard reception was more to do with his yards after the catch than Watson’s air yards.

Nonetheless, they would not have been possible if the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback had not stayed upright.

“It’s do or die right now, and all the work I put in in the offseason, I just had to make a play,” said Watson.

According to the former 2017 first-round draft pick from Clemson, he left little cards in the lockers of his teammates prior to the playoff game. On each card it said, “Let’s be great today.”

Said Watson: “So, somebody had to be great today. Why not me?”

Watson finished completing 20-of-25 for 247 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 14 times for 55 yards and a score.

Because of Watson’s efforts to be great against the Bills, the Texans are in the divisional round of the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history. The results of the Tennessee Titans versus New England Patriots wild-card bout on Saturday night determine whether the Texans travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens or go to Kansas City to play the Chiefs.

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills wide receiver Duke Williams was inactive for eight straight games before coach Sean McDermott decided to switch things up in the season finale against the New York Jets.

Most of the starters were out, including the team’s two leading receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, with the No. 5 seed in the AFC already locked up. When the games started to matter again the following weekend in Houston, McDermott kept Williams in the lineup and benched second-year receiver Robert Foster against the Texans.

Williams played a more significant role than expected, getting the most targets (10) of any Bills receiver in the game and finishing with two more total snaps (56 to 54) than Beasley. In fact, Williams was the only player in any of the four NFL Wild-Card playoff games that was targeted 10 or more times.

When asked if that decision to play and feature Williams negatively affected the offense’s continuity in a 22-19 overtime loss to the Texans, McDermott was adamant that it didn’t.

“No, not at all. Duke performed, he produced,” McDermott said. Williams had caught four of his 10 targets for 49 yards. Williams had the second-worst catch percentage of Wild-Card weekend (40 percent).

Fox Sports credited Williams with two drops of the six passes that were thrown to him that didn’t result in a reception.

“He wanted to have another catch or two,” McDermott said. “Which would have helped us.”

Matt Parrino
@MattParrino
Duke Williams had 2nd lowest catch % of all pass catchers targeted at least once

37 N’Keal Harry (NE) – 28.6%
36 Duke Williams (BUF) – 40%
31 Tyler Lockett (SEA) – 50%
31 John Brown (BUF) – 50%…

In the 4 NFL Wild-Card playoff games over the weekend, there were 11 dropped passes combined. Five of those were by the Buffalo Bills.

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Beasley has helped Buffalo plenty in his first season with the team after his first seven in Dallas. He caught a career-high six touchdowns after a career high in targets (106) in 15 games of the regular season. Brown had a career year with the Bills, finishing with new highs in receptions (72) and yards (1060).

Brown and Beasley combined for 221 targets during the regular season. Fifteen other Bills players were targeted at least once during the regular season. Combined those 15 players totaled 264 targets.

Safe to say that Brown and Beasley received the bulk of the work in the passing game.

Inside the locker room after the heartbreaking loss to the Texans, a disappointed Beasley made it clear he would have been lying if he said he didn’t want more chances to make plays.

“I did what I could with what I was given,” he said. “As a competitor you always want more opportunities. But it is what it is. … There’s no way we should have lost this game. Hat’s off to (the Texans), they finished and we didn’t.”

McDermott explained that Williams earned his spot with what he had been doing in practice the few weeks ahead of the Jets game and then with his first career 100-yard receiving game against New York. The third-year Bills coach did admit that the coaching staff could have done a better job of getting Beasley involved.

“That was one of our goals early on (to get the ball to Beasley),” McDermott said. “And they did some things at times to take him away. But overall as you look again that’s another area where we could have done a better job.”

Williams spoke to Power 96 WUFO after the game and told the outlet that the loss is going to drive him into the offseason, especially after leaving a few plays on the field.

“I could have made some extra plays for our team,” Williams said. “I’m hard on myself so I feel like I gotta make every play when the ball comes my way. Some plays I didn’t do that.”

The Bills went up 16-0 against the Texans after scoring on four of their first six drives. Only one of those drives resulted in a touchdown and for the rest of the game they only managed one field goal on their final five drives.

It was a game that was there for the taking, just like Beasley said. Buffalo should have won. But with close to $90 million in cap space and nine picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the future is bright for a Bills team that could be a serious contender in the AFC East despite the disappointing finish.

“We’re right there. If we execute we can play with anybody in this league with this team now,” Beasley said. “We didn’t need anything else (to beat the Texans). We just played a s*** second half. That’s really what it is. We’re good enough to beat anybody when we play well.”

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The Bills had a couple of additions to their injury report this week and those two players are also questionable for the Sunday night game in Pittsburgh.

Jon Feliciano did not practice on Friday due to illness.

“He was sick so we’ll see,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “I don’t know any more right now.”

Feliciano was sent home so as not to get any of the other players in the locker room sick. McDermott mentioned that they had a couple of guys sick last week, so they want to reduce the risk of the illness spreading.

As for Liuget, he was a limited participant for a second straight day Friday after missing practice on Wednesday with a knee ailment.

“We’ll see how he does (Saturday) as it pertains to the game,” McDermott said.

Ty Nsekhe, who missed the entire week of practice with his ankle injury, is out and will miss his fourth consecutive game.

Best Bills Week 15 Practice Photos
Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo’s practice as they prepare for Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

G Jon Feliciano – illness
DT Corey Liuget – knee

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Bills offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe’s return was short-lived.

Nsekhe had not played since injuring his right ankle against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 17. The Bills had hoped to give him some work in the season finale against the Jets on Sunday in order to see if he would be ready for the playoffs.

Instead, shortly after getting into the game, Nsekhe injured the same ankle in basically the same way. He was rolled up on during a running play.

Nsekhe went down and was tended to by athletic trainers. He removed his shoe and was unable to put any weight on the ankle when he stood up. Nsekhe was helped off the field by teammates Dion Dawkins and Jon Feliciano and later carted to the locker room from the sideline.

He has been ruled out for the remainder of the game and that could likely end his season.

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1. Frank Gore weighs in on his NFL future

Veteran running back Frank Gore came to Buffalo on a one-year contract. Now that the season has come to an end, the 15-year vet is not positive on his future holds.

“I don’t know,” Gore said. “I’m going to take some time off. My body still feels good and I felt like I showed people I can still play this game when I got opportunities. I’m going to take some time and think about it.”

Gore says one thing that will play into his decision is his son who will start playing college football this fall.

“My son is going to be going to college,” Gore said. “So, I’ll sit down with him and go from there. I’m not in a rush to make a decision. I know I still can play this game. But I’m going to get away from it and I’ll see.”

2. Buffalo secures No. 22 pick in 2020 draft

After the weekend’s Wild Card games, the Bills, Patriots, Saints and Eagles all locked up their draft spots in the first-round of the 2020 NFL draft.

No. 21 – Eagles

No. 22 – Bills

No. 23 – Patriots

No. 24 – Saints

CBS Sports thinks the Bills need to continue to build around Josh Allen with their first pick in the draft.

Next comes the Bills at No. 22. Buffalo appeared to be a team ahead of schedule, making the playoffs in Josh Allen’s second year as starter thanks in large part to an outstanding season from their defense. The front office certainly has areas of improvement to target as the team heads into the offseason, but the Bills’ 2020 fortunes will hinge on the continued development of their young quarterback.

The Bills have nine draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft – first round pick, second round pick, third round pick, fourth round pick, fifth round pick, fifth round pick (from Cleveland), sixth round pick, sixth round pick (from Cleveland), sixth round pick (from New England).

The Bills at Texans game was viewed by many around the world averaging 26,409,000 viewers, and peaked at 34,450,000 viewers during overtime. It was the most viewed Saturday afternoon Wild Card game since 2014 and the most viewed Wild Card game ever on ESPN/ABC. The audience went up 14% from the season before—the Colts-Texans Wild Card game drew an average of 23,110,000 viewers.

The game had a 26.0 combined rating on ESPN/ABC in Houston. Outside of the competing teams, Nashville was next with a 23.5 rating and Kansas City was third with 22.3.

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HOUSTON — Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown threw his second touchdown pass of the season on Saturday when he took a reverse hand off and found quarterback Josh Allen for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

Watch the reply below.

John Brown throws to @JoshAllenQB for the TD! #GoBills

Brown’s first touchdown pass of the season came in the Thanksgiving Day match up against the Dallas Cowboys. He threw that one to running back Devin Singletary.

The Bills went 75 yards on six plays to score on the opening drive for the first time since Week 9. Allen also broke a 42-yard rush to set up the touchdown.

Watch that run below.