Game 16: Bills vs. Steelers
You couldn't have scripted a better story in Hollywood. The Bills end the regular season at home against the Steelers in a game filled with possibilities and a reunion of many coaches and front office people. It's there for the taking, the Bills have won six straight and a win against the best team in the league will give the Bills a shot at the playoffs if the Jets or Broncos lose. Mike Mularkey, Tom Clements, Tom Donahoe, and Tom Modrak will be renewing acquaintances. The Bills have been built in the Steelers' mold a tough running game and very physical style. The Steelers have wrapped up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and may rest key personnel although Bill Cowher would like nothing better than to knock his nemesis, Tom Donahoe, out of the playoff picture.
FACTS AND FIGURES
||Buffalo (9-6) vs. Pittsburgh (14-1)
||Ralph Wilson Stadium
||Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross
||Bills by 9
||Steelers lead 11-9 (Pitt 2-1 in playoffs)
||Steelers 20-3 in Buffalo (2001)
||Rush (2nd); Pass (26th); overall (13th)
||Rush (1st); Pass (4th); overall (1st)
||Rush (13th); Pass (25th); overall (24th)
||Rush (5th); Pass (3rd); overall (3rd)
The Bills will be without Mark Campbell, Tim Euhus and most likely Travis Henry once again. Chris Villarial suffered a rib injury against the 49ers but he should be ready to go.
The Steelers have many players banged up that would play if they game was important to them. Since they have wrapped up the top seed many banged up players will rest. It starts at the top with QB Ben Roethlisberger. He has bruised ribs and is questionable but will most likely be held out and rested for the playoffs. CB Deshea Townsend will not play after suffering broken bones in his hand. Jerome Bettis is doubtful with a sprained ankle and LB Clark Haggans will likely be out with a groin injury. RB Duce Staley and LB Kendrell Bell are questionable with hamstring and groin injuries respectively. Staley may get the start though with Bettis also ailing.
Bills Daily Injury Page
LB London Fletcher vs. RB Duce Staley and Verron Haynes:
Fletcher is the Bills leading tackler and will have to slow down Staley as he will get a bit of a break without Bettis playing. Staley won't play long though, Fletcher can't let up when Haynes comes in. He will be fired up for some real action after sitting behind Staley and Bettis all year. He only has 47 carries all year but a 5.3 yard per carry average.
CBs Terrence McGee and Nate Clements vs. WRs Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress:
This is the best receiving duo the Bills have faced all year and will need to slow them down with a similar gameplan they used against Cincinnati's receiving duo two weeks ago. If they can slow them down that will give them a chance to win.
WR Eric Moulds vs. CB Chad Scott:
Scott is filling in for the injured Townsend. He has never played on the right side as a cornerback. This could be a huge advantage for Moulds as the Bills will need to take to the air a good amount to win.
QB Drew Bledsoe vs. SS Troy Polamalu:
Bledsoe will have to watch for the playmaker Polamalu who leads the Steelers with 5 interceptions and tackles with 94. Bledsoe can't make any big mistakes since that may cost the team the game.
DE Aaron Schobel vs. LT Marvel Smith:
When the Steelers pass, Schobel needs to get pressure on Maddox to force him into mistakes. The QB who makes more mistakes will probably be on the losing end.
RB Willis McGahee vs. LB James Farrior:
The Pro Bowl bound linebacker is a huge force in a great defense. He has 93 tackles and four interceptions along with three fumble recoveries and three sacks. His main job will be to stop McGahee. If he succeeds, he can then tee off on Bledsoe.
When The Bills Have The Ball: The Steelers have the best defense that the Bills have faced this year and it will be hard to move the football against them. Look for the Bills to attack a physical defense with some physical play of their own. They will pound McGahee at their defense. Look for them to really open up the playbook as Coach Mularkey and Tom Clements will look to get creative to beat their former boss. That means at least a few gadget plays. The no huddle offense will likely be a big part of the offense to slow down the zone blitzing of Dick LeBeau's crew.
When The Steelers Have The Ball: Without Roethlisberger and Bettis their offense takes a big hit but they will run the ball with Haynes when Staley's day is done. They will pound the ball on the ground but will also take to the air while their dynamic duo is in the game at wide receiver.
BILLS DAILY PREDICTION
This game has more plots and subplots than any game in recent memory. Add to the fact that the playoffs are on the line and you have a heavyweight battle not to be missed. It would even be more intriguing if the game mattered for the Steelers. It doesn't and that gives the Bills the edge. They've gone too far to be stopped now:
Bills 13, Steelers 6
Season Prediction Record: (11-4)
Season Record Against The Spread: (8-7)
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