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Jaguars To Edge Past Bills In Wildcard Round

January 6, 2018

The Buffalo Bills ended the longest playoff drought in the NFL to book their place in the post-season, but a challenge awaits them against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Andy Dalton’s touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd guided the Cincinnati Bengals to a late win over the Baltimore Ravens, knocking John Harbaugh’s men out of the playoffs.

The Bills secured the sixth seed, ending their run of 18 years without reaching the post-season. Sean McDermott’s men held up their end of the bargain by defeating the Miami Dolphins in the final week of the campaign.

Buffalo can now go into their contest with nothing to lose against the Jaguars. However, running back LeSean McCoy did sustain an injury against the Dolphins.

The two-time All-Pro has been the club’s primary outlet on offense this season and playing without him or not at full tilt would be a massive blow. Tyrod Taylor has made plays at times in the campaign, while the defense has been opportunistic.

Despite reaching the playoffs, Buffalo will need a lot to go their way to advance further. The Jaguars have been a force on defense, boasting one of the best units in the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed over the course of the campaign.

Calais Campbell has been a brilliant addition to the team, leading the team in sacks with 14.5. Young players Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr have excelled around Campbell, while the secondary led by Jalen Ramsey has locked down elite teams.

The Jaguars could be on course for a run to the Super Bowl, with only the performances of their quarterback Blake Bortles potentially holding them back. Doug Marrone will be keen to get one over on his old club to guide Jacksonville back to the Divisional Round for the first time in 10 years.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Campbell has been a star

After years of failure, the Jaguars have finally delivered on their talent. The club have had numerous selections in the early stages of the Draft and have been able to stock their roster with quality. Marrone has brought a steel to the side that was missing in their four seasons of struggle under Gus Bradley.

Jacksonville has reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season, highlighting how long the Florida-based outfit have been out of contention for a Super Bowl. The Jaguars treaded water for nine seasons before Marrone assumed the head-coaching role, but he has inspired an immediate change in the club’s fortunes to lead them into the post-season. Jacksonville also secured their first AFC South crown since the 1999 campaign.

The foundation of the Jaguars’ success has been built around their defense. Although the unit was stacked with playmakers already, the move to sign Campbell has paid dividends. The 31-year-old has been a force in the middle of the line, finishing second behind Chandler Jones for the most sacks in the NFL.

His experience has been vital for the team, allowing Ngakoue and Fowler to flourish around him on the defensive line. Stars have been made in the secondary, with the signing of AJ Bouye being just as vital to the success as Campbell. Bouye and Ramsey and formed a lockdown tandem that could loom large in the later rounds of the playoffs.

Jacksonville’s weakness is their offense. Bortles has performed at a decent level this term, but his propensity to make mistakes could be a decisive factor. He committed three interceptions in a defeat to the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago. A similar performance in the post-season could cost his team a run at the Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills

McCoy's fitness will loom large

The Bills’ ended their drought thanks to the Bengals as their late victory over the Ravens allowed McDermott’s men to secure the sixth seed. Buffalo managed to overcome adversity in the second half of the campaign to end their years in the playoff wilderness. Some of their strife was self-inflicted as McDermott made the decision to start Nathan Peterman ahead of Taylor in a clash against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie quarterback threw five interceptions in the first half alone, costing his side the match.

It would have been easy for the Bills to fold after their defeat. However, they bounced back with a fine win over the Kansas City Chiefs before closing out a nine-win campaign. Their only two defeats towards the end of the term came against the New England Patriots.

Taylor has shown a propensity to make plays at crucial moments. The offense still flows through McCoy and his ankle injury could be the death knell for the club’s hopes of a deep surge in the post-season. The 29-year-old may play through the pain barrier against the Jaguars, but he will not be operating at his best.

McDermott was hired by the Bills due to his exploits with the Carolina Panthers’ defense. He has brought the same vigour to the team even with a number of key departures. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore were traded away or not re-signed. Marcell Dareus was traded to the Jaguars during the middle of the season.

That decision could come back to haunt the Bills, although their playmakers in the secondary have the ability to feast on Bortles’ mistakes. Jordan Poyer intercepted Tom Brady for a pick-six two weeks ago – a couple of those plays could book a return to New England.

Betting Options

The Jaguars and Bills have not competed in the playoffs for a long period of time. The home fans at EverBank Field will be expecting a win for Jacksonville, although Marrone’s men suffered back-to-back defeats to end the campaign. Their vaunted defense has shown vulnerabilities at time and Taylor could expose the downfield if given the opportunity to prey on their playoff nerves. McCoy’s injury will play the crucial part in the game.

Therefore the Jags should be able to close out a narrow win at odds of 6/25  with BetOnline. The +9 spread for the Bills is extremely enticing at odds of 10/11  with BetVictor due to the recent struggles of the Jaguars. Both offenses have issues heading into the contest so we can expect a low-scoring affair. Take the under on 35.5 points to be scored at odds of 17/11  with 888Sport. Jacksonville’s defense has been dominant this term – expect a defensive score from them in this match at odds of 9/5  with Betway.

Tips Summary

Jacksonville Jaguars To Beat Buffalo Bills
Sunday 7th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: 6/25

Take Buffalo Bills +9 Spread
Sunday 7th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: 10/11

Under 35.5 Points To Be Scored
Sunday 7th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: 17/11

Jacksonville Jaguars To Score Defensive/Special Teams Touchdown
Sunday 7th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: 9/5

  • Blake Bortles
  • Buffalo Bills
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • LeSean McCoy
  • NFL

    About the author

    Eric Roberts
    Eric Roberts

    Sports Journalist

    Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.