NFL GAME PREVIEW

Bills visit Denver seeking first division title since ‘95

Field Level Media

December 15, 2020 at 11:08 pm.

The New England Patriots have made a home atop the AFC East standings for 11 straight seasons, and in that span have captured three of their six Super Bowl titles.

That dominance will end this year, and a new divisional champ could be crowned as soon as Saturday.

The Buffalo Bills (10-3), with a win over the Denver Broncos, can clinch their first AFC East title in 25 years. Although they’re close to achieving that goal, the Bills are not counting on anything just yet.

“The only thing we’ve earned at this point is all that noise,” Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott said Monday. “And we’ve got to block that out, honestly. We’re dealing with young men and young women, who, you know, some of them are new to this. You’re talking about the best of the best, so every week you’ve got to go back and reset, start all over again. But that’s where the process comes in.”

McDermott is cautious for a reason. The Broncos (5-8) have beaten every other AFC East team this season and are coming off a road win at Carolina in which quarterback Drew Lock threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions.

After scuffling through four losses in five games, Denver — which is mathematically alive in the playoff race — could build some momentum for next season with a win. It might be a tall order to stop quarterback Josh Allen after the Denver secondary has been depleted with injuries and a suspension.

Cornerback A.J. Bouye was suspended last week for the remainder of the season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs, while fellow cornerbacks Kevin Toliver (torn ACL) and Duke Dawson Jr. (torn ACL and MCL) were injured against the Panthers and are done for the season.

The good news for Denver is tackle Garett Bolles and tight end Noah Fant returned to town after staying in North Carolina on Sunday night while dealing with “stomach issues,” head coach Vic Fangio said. Bolles missed the win over the Panthers entirely, while Fant played just five snaps.

“I’m optimistic they’ll be ready to play,” Fangio said. “We do not think it was COVID, but obviously they’ll keep testing and make sure it wasn’t. We believe it was something else, so they should be fine hopefully.”

The Bills are rolling after losing at Arizona on Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary pass to DeAndre Hopkins as time expired on Nov. 15. Buffalo has won three straight, including Sunday night’s 26-15 win over Pittsburgh.

The Bills will likely be without safety Jaquan Johnson, who missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. Linebacker Tremaine Edwards (foot), cornerback Taron Johnson (concussion) and tight end Lee Smith (knee) were listed as limited in Tuesday’s injury report. Buffalo held a walkthrough and did not practice.