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Andy Richardson

Thursday Night Recap

Bills hold off plucky Bucs

It was a better game than it seemed like it had any reason to be, especially after it looking like it might be all Bills initially. But when the final Hail Mary attempted had landed untouched in the center of the end zone, it was the Bills win most expected.

QUARTERBACKS

Bad night to be facing Josh Allen. That's been true of most games this year, with Allen at times looking shaky and at times taking hits that make you think he's going to miss time, but hanging in there. Eventually, though, he probably is going to miss time; seems like he and Jalen Hurts are just in a race to see which one will injure a shoulder or knee badly enough to miss games.

But Allen is the entire offense right now, last night having a hand in all the touchdowns and 365 of the 439 yards. His interception was a ball batted at the line. Could have had another score but for wasting a play on a failed Latavius Murray run and then a nice defensive play to break up a goal-line pass. I think three wide-receiver sets suit him; sort of seems like Dawson Knox was holding the offense back.

Have we all underestimated or written off Baker Mayfield too soon? Early on in Cleveland, he looked like he was going to be pretty good. It didn't work out ultimately, but maybe it wasn't all on him. That Stefanski offense hasn't worked out too great for anyone since him, either. There were times last night that the guy actually impressed me, making some nifty throws (the touchdown to Chris Godwin stands out) and turning broken plays into positive yardage by escaping the pocket and salvaging things. He did everything with his Hail Mary attempt at the end but catch it for a receiver, none of whom saw the ball well for whatever reason. He's Baker Mayfield, he's not going to be a star at any point, but watching the game last night I legitimately thought, you know, this guy might be Tampa Bay's quarterback for the next 5-7 years.

RUNNING BACKS

 I've tried to accept and understand what the Bills are doing with Latavius Murray, but I think they need to give it up. He looks slow, understandable since he's been around forever and is 33 years old. Sure his early goal-line carry was kind of blown up in the backfield by a good defensive play, but I think James Cook with the same opportunity could have easily stepped to his right or left and gotten in the end zone. (Murray actually got the first snap for whatever reason, though Cook played twice as often.) As for Cook. he had just 1 pass thrown his way. He's caught 10 passes in his last six games -- a couple of big plays in there, but not enough actual opportunities. If he's not scoring and averaging under 2 catches per game, he's going to be a disappointment in fantasy leagues.

Rachaad White had a Rachaad White game, but moreso. Held under 40 yards rushing. Caught 7 passes for 70 yards. Those in PPR leagues can't complain. Chase Edmonds returned and seems like he might be a better No. 2 to roster than KeShawn Vaughn. But neither played much or did much. As discussed in the Weekly, the Bucs are at least paying lip service to the idea of running the ball this year, but they're no better at it than ever.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I apologize for any part I played in people leaving Gabe Davis on the bench. He came in having caught 4 passes for 27 yards in his last two games combined, and I placed more stock in that than his 6-for-100 game the week before that. I don't even need to look it up to say that last night's 9 catches were a career-high; his 12 targets were the 2nd-most of his career. The Bills came into the game deciding the passing game was going to revolve around Davis, and it did. Stefon Diggs did get his eventually (9 for 70), but it was a quiet game by his lofty standards.

Next to the Davis performance that made best-ball leaguers happy, the noteworthy development was Khalil Shakir playing two-thirds of the time and catching all 6 passes thrown his way for 92 yards. There was a hint of that last week (he caught 4 passes at New England) but even then he played just a third of the time, about the same as Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty. The removal of injured Dawson Knox (and Buffalo's other blocker at tight end, Quintin Morris) manifested as Buffalo favoring sets with three wide receivers, and Shakir enjoyed a breakout game. I think he obviously need to be picked up, but I also don't know if the team will continue to go this route when they have a second tight end available. But at least it will make them think about, because it was a crisp and encouraging night for the guy. Why not play a little faster and have a little more speed on the field more often?

The Bucs are now 3-4, but I don't think they're going to be shipping off Mike Evans before next week's trade deadline. They can win the NFC South, and they'll need Evans and Chris Godwin to do it. Highs and lows for Godwin last night, who had a good first half and made a pretty amazing contested grab touchdown. But he caught just a single 6-yard pass after the break and let the potential game-winning Hail Mary fall near his feet in the end zone; just didn't see the ball at all. Sort of weird. Evans got away with a pushoff on his touchdown, but fantasy teams and those of us who used him in Blackout won't complain. Trey Palmer had 3 catches, but he won't be doing anything in this offense with the top 2 around.

TIGHT ENDS

So we got the breakout game and touchdown from Dalton Kincaid we were hoping for, that was nice. I benched George Kittle for him for the first time, that worked out. The touchdown was a nice bit of athleticism from both quarterback and receiver, and Kincaid also nearly scored a touchdown on a shovel pass earlier, ruled down at the 3-inch line by a butt cheek. Maybe too optimistic but I think it’s safe to say that they won’t forget about Kincaid in the offense going forward.

The Bucs just aren’t using Cade Otton very much. Three to four catches, modest yardage, that’s what you get. A usable player in PPR if you don’t care about big numbers or touchdowns.

MISCELLANEOUS

If you’re a Bills fan, I’m not sure how thrilled you are with last night. Nice to see Davis, Shakir and Kincaid all step up. Disappointing that they let the Bucs hang around until the end, although Tampa had some officiating help. Last night’s performance won’t get it done against the league’s top teams, but then again in a league where 49ers lose two in a row and the Eagles fall to the Jets, who are the top teams? Maybe Denver will beat Kansas City on Sunday and we’ll really be confused. I guess you take the positives from the win and enjoy the extra rest before the next game.

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