ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The ability to rest your starters in Week 17 is a relief for playoff-bound teams; the feeling wears off, however, when players get hurt even in limited action.
The Buffalo Bills rested several starters in their 13-6 loss Sunday against the New York Jets, including wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, running back Devin Singletary and cornerback Tre’Davious White. They didn’t escape unscathed, however, as starting cornerback Levi Wallace was ruled out after injuring his ankle in the first quarter. Offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe, playing in his first game since injuring his ankle in Week 11, also left the game with an injury to the same ankle.
Starting right tackle Cody Ford missed time to injury Sunday, as did special teams stalwart Siran Neal and starting nickel corner Taron Johnson — although Ford, Neal and Johnson did re-enter the game.
With Shaq Lawson and Andre Roberts already nursing injuries that kept them out of Sunday’s contest, Buffalo is not quite at full strength entering next weekend’s AFC playoff game against the Houston Texans.
Describe the game in two words: Next week. As in, even the Bills’ regular starters who played against the Jets were doing so to stay sharp for next week; the ones who did not play were held back to stay fresh for next week. Teams would like to win every time they take the field, but Buffalo’s sights are fully on next weekend’s playoff game.
Silver lining: It is a big deal if Wallace can’t play next week, considering the Texans’ exceptional passing game, which features quarterback Deshaun Watson and receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee and possibly an oft-injured Will Fuller. However, Kevin Johnson is a starting-caliber cornerback and should fill in seamlessly in Wallace’s place. White’s presence alongside safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde also keeps this Buffalo secondary quite formidable.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: Fan favorite Duke Williams got the start at wide receiver in his third game on the Bills’ active roster, reeling in six catches for 108 yards on a team-high 12 targets. It was an opportunity for Williams to show he can be productive as the focal point of Buffalo’s passing game and he delivered. Buy Williams as a potential impact player, but sell on him seeing a workload that even remotely resembles this one come playoff time — not with Brown, Beasley, Singletary and tight end Dawson Knox all active.