Are the Buffalo Bills Taylor Made for an Upset?
Russell S. Baxter
Stop us if you have heard this before.
A talented running back from the AFC South gets hot late, the team reaches the playoffs and the club winds up making a deep postseason run. Sound familiar? Look no further than Derrick Henry and the 2019 Tennessee Titans, who overcame a 2-4 start to win seven of their final 10 games. They would come away with playoff upsets of the Patriots and Ravens in Foxborough and Baltimore, respectively, before being knocked off by the eventual Super Bowl champions at Kansas City.
Now ponder the recent play of Indianapolis Colts’ rookie Jonathan Taylor. The 2020 second-round pick from the University of Wisconsin has played his best football down the stretch and Frank Reich’s team was the beneficiary. The talented youngster was recently named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month.
In his last six appearances (Taylor missed the Week 12 clash with the Titans), the standout rookie totaled 119 carries for 741 rushing yards and seven scores – at least one TD in each of the club’s last four outings. He also caught 14 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers pale in comparison to his first nine contests in which he ran only 113 times for 428 yards and four touchdowns while snaring 22 passes for 203 yards.
The former Badger has now become the main man in the backfield. He’s run for at least 70 yards in each of his last six games. And in the Week 17 win over the Jaguars, he ran for 253 yards (2 TDs) – the single-best rushing performance of the 2020 NFL season.
This offseason, general manager Chris Ballard signed veteran quarterback Philip Rivers to guide the club. The 17-year veteran has had his ups and downs this season, finishing with 24 touchdown passes as well as a dozen turnovers. He threw at least one interception in nine of the club’s 16 games. Meanwhile, Reich and company have found a hot hand in Taylor. And Indianapolis will be facing the league’s 17th-ranked rushing defense. If the Colts play smart football and the defense makes its share of big plays, the team could be shuffling out of Buffalo with a victory.