NFL Football

Bills, Jags face must-win to keep faint hopes alive

If the Buffalo Bills needed him to play two weeks ago in New York, rookie quarterback Josh Allen would have given it a try.

However, by keeping him on the sideline armed only with a headset and a clipboard, Allen believes his elbow injury was given the proper time to heal and now he's fully ready to get back on the field Sunday against the stout Jacksonville Jaguars' defense.

Matt Barkley started Buffalo's last game before its bye and he helped deliver an out-of-nowhere, 41-10 victory as he completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Allen was close to playing that day, but the Bills (3-7) made the wise decision to extend his rest and rehab.

Allen has been with the first team all week and he's been zinging balls around the way he was before the injury.

"The comfort level is getting to where it needs to be, where I want it to be," Allen said. "I'm excited, thankful for the opportunity. Our training staff ... they did a fantastic job and we're going to continue with that process as well."

Allen admitted that leading up to the Jets game, while he was participating in practice for the first time since suffering the injury Oct. 14 in Houston, his arm wasn't back to full strength.

"The difference I feel in the elbow compared to two weeks ago, it's a big difference," Allen said. "I'm thankful I was able to sit out one more week and Matt was able to come in and get us a victory. I'm making throws where I don't have to second-guess. Putting the ball where it needs to be, and when I'm making the throw, there's no grabbing or pulling in there, it feels comfortable and fluid. Maybe two weeks ago I might have had a couple throws I didn't want to make, but now I think it's full game and every throw is on the table."

Now, how many throws Allen is allowed to make against Jacksonville is up for debate. The Jaguars present a massive test for the rookie because their defense is strong at every level. They can generate pressure with a superb front four led by defensive end Calais Campbell, they have excellent coverage linebackers in Myles Jack and Telvin Smith, and a dynamic cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

"This Jacksonville defense is going to be one of the best defenses we've played all year," Allen said. "They've got some really good players on that side, their linebackers move very well and their front four, they pay them a lot of money for a very good reason; they've got some studs up front and in the back."

The Jaguars (3-7) are entering the portion of the schedule in which many perceived would be a stretch drive where the team would pad their winning record with at least four, likely five and possibly six wins in their final six games of the 2018 regular season. On paper, it certainly looked to be a lot easier haul than the first 10 games. But instead, they are fighting for their playoff lives, knowing that one slip in the final six games will almost certainly doom any chance they have of joining five other AFC teams as playoff participants.

The record of the 10 teams that Jacksonville has played thus far supports that thinking. Four of those teams have winning records, three are currently breaking even and three are under .500, including the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who are going through their own year of frustration. The other two non-losing teams, the two New York squads, are two of the Jaguars' victories. The third -- and certainly most surprising -- is New England.

Of the seven teams that have beaten Jacksonville, only the Eagles at 4-6 show a non-winning mark. Those seven teams have combined for a 42-27-1 record. Add in the 13-17 mark of the three teams Jacksonville has beaten and the 10-team record is 55-44-1.

But looking at the remaining six games, only two teams -- Houston (7-3) and Washington (6-4) -- have winning marks. The six teams have combined for a 31-29 mark thus far. And with Washington having lost its starting quarterback, it would have raised hopes even further that the Jaguars could finish strong with either five or six wins down the stretch.

Unfortunately, that was preseason thinking. Today, with reality setting in, most would predict the best that the Jaguars will do is break even with three wins against Washington, Miami and Buffalo and three more losses to its three divisional rivals. Such a possibility of the latter happening would be a total embarrassment to the Jaguars, who would finish winless in the AFC South, a division that nearly everyone was picking the Jaguars to defend their 2017 title.

Updated November 21, 2018

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