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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Championship

Bills enter offseason feeling pain of playoff collapse

Sun Jan 5 3:06pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer

Players: Frank Gore, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Robert Foster, Duke Williams, Josh Allen, Devin Singletary

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) tries to throw a pass as he is tackled by Houston Texans' Whitney Mercilus (59), A.J. Moore Jr., right, and Vernon Hargreaves III (28) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)


Buffalo Bills center Mitch Morse (60) walks off the field after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


Buffalo Bills running back Patrick DiMarco (42) kneels on the sideline after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is sacked by Houston Texans linebacker Jake Martin (54) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Josh Allen expects he'll be carrying the weight and pain of his first playoff loss for the foreseeable future.

Standing at a podium in the Buffalo Bills' field house on Sunday, the second-year quarterback looked and sounded as dejected as he did 15 hours earlier, following a 22-19 overtime loss in an AFC wild-card game at Houston.

''I won't be over this until we start playing again,'' Allen said. ''I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to use it and I'm going to grow from it. This will be a chip on my shoulder until we start playing again.''

He and the Bills have plenty to be unhappy with following a game in which Buffalo unraveled by squandering a 16-0 lead over the final 16 1/2 minutes.

Allen, who scored a touchdown receiving on a pass from John Brown in the first half, was erratic in the second half.

Over the final two quarters and overtime, the second-year player went a combined 11 of 26 for 133 yards with a lost fumble, nearly lost another one on an ill-advised lateral attempt, and was sacked three times. Allen particularly looked panicked attempting to scramble out of trouble and was penalized for intentional grounding on third-and-13 from the Houston 28 with 1:41 remaining.

The outcome, and the way Buffalo collapsed, put a dent into what had been a feel-good season in which the young and developing Bills showed signs of progress in winning 10 games for first time since an 11-5 finish in 1999.

With a majority of the team's core group of starters returning, the challenge becomes transforming the hard lessons learned into something positive.

''I think you have one of two ways to do it,'' center Mitch Morse said of how Buffalo responds. ''You can kind of dig a hole and crawl in it. Or you can kind of learn from it.''

Though the Bills made their second playoff appearance in three years, a majority of the players on this year's team were newcomers as part of a major overhaul under coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane.

Their vision was freeing up many of the bloated payroll issues they inherited in 2017 and rebuilding the Bills on a foundation of youth. Beane then used his newly created salary cap space to supplement the roster with established veterans last offseason.

Among the additions were veteran running back Frank Gore, who sees the Bills' potential despite the loss in Houston.

''This team has a lot of young talent, and I think they've put themselves in a position to be the top dogs in this division for a number or years,'' the 36-year-old said. ''I'm telling you, Buffalo, they're in a good hands, man.''

Gore, who completed his 15th NFL season, said he believes he can still play but will take time to determine whether he intends to play next season.

LOSING LAWSON?

Fourth-year defensive end Shaq Lawson, who had a career-best 6 1/2 sacks this year, told The Associated Press he is leaning toward testing free agency with his rookie contract set to expire.

''See where it goes, but, I mean, you've still got to find out what's right for you, where it takes you,'' Lawson said, without ruling out the possibility of re-signing with Buffalo. ''I like Buffalo ... but at the end of the day I still want to see what's out there.''

EXPIRING CONTRACTS

Including Lawson and Gore, the Bills have 12 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. The group includes starting defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who had a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks.

One player not returning is linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who has already announced he's retiring after 13 seasons.

DABOLL WATCH

The Cleveland Browns took a break in their coaching search Sunday, and are scheduled to meet with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll either Monday or Tuesday, a person familiar with the meeting told The AP.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meetings are private. Daboll, Cleveland's offensive coordinator under Eric Mangini in 2009-10, was initially scheduled to meet with the Browns on Sunday.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the team's search committee have already interviewed four candidates: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Cleveland is expected to meet with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the coming days after New England was eliminated following a loss to Tennessee.

HOW TO GET IT RIGHT

The Bills have the talent, but currently lack the know-how of consistently winning games in the clutch.

It's a deficiency apparent in Allen, who unraveled too often over the final quarter of the season with games on the line. And it also covers a coaching staff, which appeared panicky with its play-calling and time management.

Against Houston, Buffalo all but ignored its running game in the second half having Gore and rookie Devin Singletary combine for nine carries.

Another curious decision was having rookie receiver Duke Williams get 10 targets and play 56 snaps - five more targets and two more snaps than Cole Beasley, Buffalo's established No. 2 receiver - despite playing just his second game in 10 weeks.

The hope is, the young players and staff are better prepared from this experience.

With plenty of salary cap space for a second consecutive offseason, the Bills have an opportunity to address more needs to complement their roster.

The first priority is adding a downfield receiving threat after Williams and Robert Foster failed to establish themselves. Though Brown is a speedster, he and Beasley were mostly used as slot and mid-range receivers.

Another priority is adding a running back to provide a one-two punch alongside Singletary after the 36-year-old Gore showed signs of age.

Player Notes
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 17 11:40pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense put together a strong performance in a 30-20 playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay allowed 20 points and failed to register a sack, though they generated four turnovers. The secondary delivered a strong performance on tape, surrendering just 190 passing yards and picking off Drew Brees three times. Linebacker Devin White, a rising star, was arguably the player of the game, as he was all over the field with 11 tackles and an interception, which he returned for 28 yards. Tampa Bay will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC title game. They hammered Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for four sacks and two interceptions in a 38-10 regular season drubbing.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Jan 17 11:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught one of five targets for 14 receiving yards in a 30-20 win over New Orleans. Gronkowski had yet another quiet outing as a pass-catcher, though he was far more involved in the gameplan this time. Tom Brady looked his way in the red zone, so the usage was pretty promising for fantasy purposes. The problem is, Gronkowski has been out-produced by fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has 130 yards over the last two games. Still, Gronkowski should remain a part of the offense next week against the Packers, who surrendered a 5-78-1 line to him in their regular-season meeting.

From RotoBaller

Cameron Brate Jan 17 11:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate led the team in receiving yards in a playoff win over the Saints. Brate hauled in four of five targets for 50 receiving yards, as he once again showed some good chemistry with Tom Brady down the field. The veteran tight end has produced eight catches for 130 yards in two playoff games, while fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski has just one reception. Clearly, Brady will continue to look Gronkowski's way in the red zone, though Brate has carved out a role for himself as a pass-catcher between the 20s. He'll get ready to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field next week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Jan 17 11:10pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught just one pass for 10 receiving yards in Sunday's 30-20 divisional-round win over New Orleans. Brown was held in check for much of the game, though it should be noted that he was tending to a knee issue. It occurred sometime in the first half, with Brown requiring some attention from the team trainer- though the team didn't offer much more information on his status. This game snapped a streak of four straight contests with a touchdown reception for Brown, whose practice reps will be worth monitoring ahead of a huge title game clash with Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Jan 17 11:00pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin hauled in four of seven targets for 34 receiving yards in Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Godwin did lead the team in targets, though it could have been a far more productive day had he hauled in a long pass from Tom Brady in the end zone. The drops have certainly been an issue for the fourth-year pro- he has six in two playoff games- though he remains one of Brady's favorite pass-catchers on the roster. Godwin has seen at least six targets in 12 of 14 games, a role that makes him enticing to turn to for fantasy purposes. He'll look to be more productive with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line next week against Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Mike Evans Jan 17 10:50pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught one of three targets for a three-yard touchdown in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Evans was held in check for most of the day by Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore- though he was able to beat him in the end zone for a score. That's his 14th touchdown of the year, including the regular season and playoffs, as he continues to be one of Tom Brady's favorite red-zone targets. Evans will look to be more of a factor between the 20s in an NFC Championship game matchup against the Packers.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 17 10:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook finished with five receptions for 28 yards on seven targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. The tight end also lost a crucial fumble which swayed the outcome of the game. Cook finishes 2020 with 37 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. The tight end will be a free agent this offseason and will turn 34 in a few months. His fantasy value remains low heading into 2021 considering his age and the uncertainty about the size of his role on a potentially new team next season.

From RotoBaller

Tre'Quan Smith Jan 17 10:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith grabbed three receptions for 85 yards and two scores on three targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Smith paced the team in yards and had a fantastic showing in the team's last game of the season. The WR finished 2020 with 34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Because of his inconsistency and smaller role on this offense, Smith should be considered a deeper-league flex at best heading into 2021.

From RotoBaller

Ronald Jones II Jan 17 10:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II carried the ball 13 times for 62 rushing yards in a playoff victory over New Orleans. Jones averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed some good burst in his first game back from a quad injury. He ripped off a long run that was called back due to a holding penalty and appeared to grimace after the play, though he was never taken out. Jones was out-touched by Fournette 22-13, though he may eat into those carries a bit if he can put in a full practice ahead of next week's NFC title game against Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Jan 17 10:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas finished with zero yards on four targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to the Buccaneers. After a terrific wild-card showing last week with five receptions for 73 yards and a score on seven targets, Thomas fell flat this week. Despite an injury-ridden season, the WR is clearly the top receiving option on the team heading into 2021 and remains a WR1 despite the potential change at QB.

From RotoBaller

Leonard Fournette Jan 17 10:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette was the engine of his team's offense in a 30-20 divisional-round win over the Saints. Fournette turned 22 touches into 107 scrimmage yards, adding a touchdown to yet another solid outing. With Tom Brady struggling a bit, the 25-year-old came up with some timely runs and receptions, none bigger than a six-yard touchdown catch that tied the game late in the third quarter. Fournette has topped 20 touches and 100 yards in each of his last two games- he should remain a focal point of the offense when the Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers next week.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Jan 17 10:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hauled in six receptions for 48 yards on nine targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. Sanders bounced back from a poor wild-card showing last week in which he only mustered two receptions for three yards. Nevertheless, this week and last week's performance summarize just how inconsistent the WR's 2020 season was. Sanders should be considered as only a WR3/flex option heading into 2021 drafts.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Jan 17 10:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing score in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Brady struggled to move the ball for much of the game but came up with big plays when they were needed. He fired touchdown passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette, then scored on a quarterback sneak to give his team the lead for good in the fourth. Brady has thrown for 580 yards and scored five total touchdowns in his past two playoff games, both against top-five pass defenses from the regular season. He'll get ready to travel to Lambeau Field for an epic clash in the NFC Championship against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

From RotoBaller

Alvin Kamara Jan 17 10:20pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara finished with 18 carries for 85 yards and three receptions for 20 yards on six targets in Sunday's loss to the Bucs. Kamara still managed to be effective despite the Saints' offense not being able to get going during the game. The RB finished the season with a career-high 932 rush yards and 16 rush touchdowns. As a focal point of this offense, he remains a solid RB1 heading into 2021 drafts.

From RotoBaller

Drew Brees Jan 17 10:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished with 134 yards, one touchdown, and three picks in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Brees had a tough time producing in this loss which ultimately ended the Saints' season. Earlier today, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Sunday could very well be Brees' last game in the NFL and the QB would retire as one of the most accomplished players in league history.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Jan 17 7:50pm ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense played well in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Cleveland picked up one sack and forced one turnover in the loss. The Chiefs' offense would have turned in a much better game but they lost quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion early in the third quarter. Top Cleveland defender Myles Garrett played through an oblique injury to log the team's only sack of the afternoon while safety Karl Joseph picked off a Chad Henne pass in the fourth quarter. Cleveland's defense was a team weakness during the 2020 season, so expect the front office to dedicate a significant portion of their offseason resources to augmenting the unit. They could be one of the most-improved fantasy defenses heading into the 2021 campaign.

From RotoBaller

David Njoku Jan 17 7:40pm ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper was overshadowed by teammate David Njoku in their team's 22-17 Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Hooper wound up catching just two of three targets for 13 yards, although one of his catches was a clutch diving grab to convert a fourth down. Many DFS gamers were eager to plug Hooper into lineups to take advantage of a plus matchup against the Chiefs, but instead it was forgotten man David Njoku who came up big. Njoku caught four of five targets for 59 yards to finish second on the Browns in receiving. Hooper was a big free-agent signing by the Browns last offseason but he wound up as a bust on his new team. He should be treated as a low-upside TE2 in fantasy for the 2021 season as Cleveland doesn't pass frequently enough to support him. Njoku has a $6 million cap hit in 2021 and spent much of the past season angling for a trade out of Cleveland. He could very well be in a different uniform in 2021.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 17 7:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce scored a touchdown versus the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Divisional Round victory on Sunday. Kelce also caught eight of his 11 targets for 109 yards on the afternoon. Kelce had one of the most dominant seasons every for a tight end this season and that has carried over the playoffs. Kelce will be a TE1 option every week, but managers may want to double check that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is playing before going with Kelce in a tough matchup versus the Buffalo Bills next weekend for the AFC Championship.

From RotoBaller

Drew Brees Jan 17 7:30pm ET

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees plans to retire after the season ends. With the Saints are getting ready to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Sunday night, Glazer tweeted, "Today will be Drew Brees' last game in the Superdome" earlier in the day. If the Saints lose to Tampa Bay, it will close the book on a Hall of Fame career for Brees. If the Saints win, they will head to Green Bay to take on the Packers for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. With Brees out of the picture in 2021, there's a chance that the Saints to turn to Taysom Hill as the team's starting quarterback but they could bring in a veteran as several quality signal-callers will be available this offseason, either through free-agency or via trade. Either way, it will be the end of an era for the Saints and the NFL as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history hangs them up.

From RotoBaller

Rashard Higgins Jan 17 7:30pm ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins led his team in receiving in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Higgins caught five of seven targets for 88 yards but he will instead be remembered for the play he didn't make. Higgins appeared on his way to a touchdown near the end of the second quarter but wound up fumbling the ball through the Kansas City end zone, resulting in the Chiefs offense getting the ball at the 20-yard line. It was a tough play as he appeared to take a helmet-to-helmet hit but all Browns fans will remember is that he didn't score what would have been the game-deciding touchdown. Higgins is now an unrestricted free-agent and could be playing for a different team next season, also Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski appeared to be a fan of Higgins during his first year at the helm. If he stays with the Browns, the return of Odell Beckham Jr. would push Higgins back to the No. 3 WR role in Cleveland.

From RotoBaller