What to watch for in NFL Saturday: Bills eye AFC East crown

Donnovan Bennett and Geoff Lowe talk about how they both like the Bills when they face the Broncos in Week 15.

The final few weeks of the NFL season is a special time of year.

Not only is the playoff picture becoming clearer with every game played, but fans are treated to what has become a wonderful tradition: Saturday NFL football.

Saturday football in 2020 kicks off with a bang, featuring a double-header that includes a division-title quest 25 years in the making and one half of a tight MVP race.

Here are four things to watch for in the NFL on Saturday:

Spread: Buffalo -6

Bills can clinch first AFC East title since 1995

The biggest story of Saturday’s action is the potential crowning of the first AFC East champions since 2008 not from Massachusetts.

The Bills look to keep rolling in Denver on Saturday afternoon at Mile High, and a fourth straight win for Buffalo would clinch not only the first non-Patriots AFC East title in 12 years but the Bills' first division win since 1995.

It would be a huge accomplishment for GM Brandon Beane, head coach Sean McDermott and the team they’ve built after the years of losing seasons and heartache in Western New York. An AFC East win would also be extra sweet for Bills fans as New England wallows in third place and is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture…

A victory on Saturday would also mean the Bills will host a playoff game in Orchard Park for the first time since Dec. 28, 1996. And while Bills Mafia will undoubtedly be celebrating a victory Saturday in droves, the only real shame about a home playoff game in 2020 is that they won’t be at Bills Stadium to see it in person.

Drew Lock could be playing for his Broncos future

This season in Denver was always about the progress of sophomore quarterback Drew Lock.

After a promising finish to last season – Lock went 4-1 with seven TDs and three INTs over the final five games – Broncos GM John Elway spent the off-season building the offence around his new quarterback in hopes the team could immediately be a playoff contender.

That hasn’t happened, largely due to a bevy of injuries on both sides of the ball but also because Lock has struggled to take this team by the reigns. In his first nine games of the season, the 24-year-old struggled with consistency, turnovers and getting the most of the weapons surrounding him.

And then last week, Lock went off.

In what was undoubtedly the best performance of his young career, Lock completed nearly 78 per cent of his passes, threw four TDs and posted a QB rating of 149.5 – the last two being career-highs – in a 32-27 win over the Panthers.

The Broncos will likely bring in competition for Lock this off-season, but after last week’s performance, all eyes in Denver will be on the performances of the second-year pro to see if he can show why he should be the guy to lead the Broncos in the future.

Spread: Packers -8

Can Aaron Rodgers keep up his MVP form down the stretch?

When the Packers traded up to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round this past spring, the entire football world collectively gasped and then started to wonder what that meant for the future of Aaron Rodgers.

Many thought it could mark the end of No. 12 in Green Bay, but others thought it could light a fire in the 37-year-old.

It’s safe to say at this point the latter has come to fruition.

Not only is Rodgers having an All-Pro-type season in the second year of the Matt Lefleur era, he’s having one of the best seasons of his entire career, and that’s saying a lot considering Rodgers is a two-time MVP, a Super Bowl champion and was named to the All-2010s Team earlier this year.

A four-touchdown showing from Rodgers against the Lions last week after reigning Super Bowl MVP (and the only other competitor in the 2020 MVP race) Patrick Mahomes threw three interceptions in Miami, prompting Packers coach Lafleur to dub his future Hall of Famer as the MVP “frontrunner.”

You’ll find no arguments here.

On Saturday, Rodgers and the Packers host the 4-9 Panthers, who just surrendered 32 points to the aforementioned Drew Lock. If Rodgers is able to put up a similar performance in Week 15 as he or Lock did last week, he’ll keep his place as either 1A or 1B in the 2020 MVP race.

Panthers' progress under Matt Rhule

If you’ve read everything up to this point, you know the Panthers haven’t gotten much love so far in this preview.

It’s been a tough first year in charge for head coach Matt Rhule. His star running back, Christian McCaffrey, has played in just three games this season and the defence, which underwent a complete overhaul in the off-season, has had its fair share of tough showings.

But there have been positives for Carolina in 2020: Teddy Bridgewater has largely been a success at quarterback after signing a three-year deal this off-season to bridge the gap as the franchise looks for a QB of the future; the offence has been able to put up points and yards in spurts, including a thrilling 33-31 loss at Kansas City where they went toe-to-toe with the defending champion Chiefs; and the defence put up a handful of impressive performances despite so much change, including a shutout of Detroit in Week 11.

So while the Panthers are most definitely in rebuilding mode, there are signs things could be trending in the right direction, and that will be the key aspect of Carolina's game to focus on Saturday as the team travels to Lambeau for a tough matchup with an MVP frontrunner and the league’s top-scoring offence.

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