Howard Picks the Bills: Week 15

December 10, 2019 - 11:39 am

Despite a 24-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday at New Era Field, the Buffalo Bills control their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs.

The Bills need just one win in the last three games of the 2019 season and the team will clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons under head coach Sean McDermott.

This past week ended up being more of a defensive battle between two of the top-ranked defensive units in the National Football League. The Ravens were able to blitz Buffalo and get to quarterback Josh Allen six times, while the Bills did a nice job containing Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson and held their high-flying offense to just 257 total yards.

Where the game went wrong for the Bills was the offense's lack of ability to put up enough production earlier in the game. Buffalo had started to come to life more in the second half as they tried to come back and tie the game late, but their effort came up just short.

Allen had one of the worst starts to a game in his career in the first half, but managed to finish the game going 17-for-39 for 146 yards passing and a touchdown throw to wide receiver Cole Beasley in the fourth quarter.

The Bills will have the chance to clinch their spot in the NFL postseason on Sunday night in primetime as the team gets ready to face an 8-5 Pittsburgh Steelers team who are also looking to increase their chances of clinching a playoff berth.

If the Steelers were to win this Sunday over the Bills, it would allow them to vault Buffalo in the AFC standings and take over the fifth seed.

Pittsburgh's success this season has been heavily because of the play of their defense, that currently ranks fifth in fewest average yards allowed per-game (310.9), and sixth in fewest points allowed this season (242) and lowest points allowed per-game average (18.6). The Steelers also rank first in the NFL this year in takeaways, collecting 15 fumbles while picking off the opposition 18 times for 33 takeaways.

Where the Bills can possibly take advantage of the Steelers is their matchup with the Pittsburgh offense, that ranks 28th in average yards per-game (290.1), 23rd in average points per-game (19.9), and 20th in average time of possession (29:22).

The Steelers have been without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for most of the year, however, as he suffered a season-ending elbow injury back in a Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The time since has been split between Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges, with that battle recently going to Hodges a couple weeks ago. In five games played this season, Hodges has led the Steelers to a 3-0 record, while completing 71.3% of his passes for 682 yards, four touchdowns and just two interceptions.

The rookie quarterback was brought in as an undrafted free agent this offseason out of Samford University.

Pittsburgh has also recently been without a couple of their key playmakers this season with running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Conner has dealt with a shoulder injury that has limited him to just eight games this season, while Smith-Schuster has missed the last three games due to a knee injury and a concussion.

Both players are likely to be in the lineup on Sunday against the Bills.

Howard Simon has been very good with his picks this season, going 11-2 with his picks the week of the game, while going 144-46 for his picks the entire year.

Last week, Howard made another correct pick with the Bills falling to the Ravens, but with the Bills beating the Patriots in Week 16 and eventually making it to the AFC Divisional Round.

In this week's edition of "Howard Picks the Bills", he picked the Bills to clinch their playoff berth this weekend with a win in Pittsburgh.

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