Sports

An old, cold Buffalo playoff showdown

Illustration: Deadspin

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

Over/Under: 51.5

Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

On March 8, 2020, the Knicks and Nets played in their respective arenas. Seemed like just another usual Sunday, other than the fact that both shit teams actually won.

Little did we know that would be the last time fans were present at professional sports events in New York for 10 months.

Buffalo is about to change all of that, being permitted to host 6,772 faithful from Bills Mafia (about 10 percent of full capacity) this afternoon — its first playoff home game since 1996. That is 25 years, by the way.

It’s just another item on a list of spicy storylines entering this opening Wild Card bout. Will Josh Allen claim his first postseason victory? Is Philip Rivers maybe playing in his last ever NFL game?

There’s an underlying theme that can determine how it pans out — the weather. And that is what I’m mainly calling upon here in handicapping the particular matchup given both quarterbacks’ splits.

Allen should be used to playing in the frigid elements at Orchard Park. But he’s seemingly not, as evident in the 80.9 passer rating he’s registered in games featuring temperatures below 40 degrees. He’s played in two such contests this year and collectively posted a 94.1 rating, which sticks out in a year he did no wrong.

The weather today will be in the low 30’s. I’m willing to bet on this indicating that Allen’s ceiling may be considerably lower than usual. It can dictate game flow also if the Bills are running the ball more as well.

Plus, this is more than a capable defense on the other side. Indianapolis, in fact, boasts three just-named All-Pros — DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and George Odom. They have another high-level player in Kenny Moore. This is a quality unit that achieved a top-10 ranking in both fewest yards and points allowed.

The Colts were also good against scrambling QBs this season and their experience handling the likes of Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson will have them ready for the challenge from Allen.

Rivers, too, is evidently not at his best in cold conditions. That’s understandable with the 17-year veteran spending all but this season in California. Like his counterpart, Rivers’ passer rating (89.9) takes a notable dip when working in such deflated temperatures, so I don’t envision the former Charger on his ‘A’ game, either.

As it is, the Colts run the ball frequently. They were 10th this season in rush attempts per game (28.7), one year after ranking fourth (29.4). And that’s how it should be with stud rookie Jonathan Taylor, who is coming off a massive performance that saw him post career highs in carries (30) and yards (253).

Expect Indy to once again deploy these tendencies, especially with how that can be considered their identity. Rivers’ history in less-than-ideal weather also ensures it.

Collectively piecing everything together, this looks more like a playoff affair that could be of the grind-it-out variety with not many big plays involved. When there’s a high total in play, the under is promising.

The Bet: UNDER 51.5 (-110)

The Record: 8-8-1, -1.1 units

Last Week: Vikings-Lions Under 54 (loss)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

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