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Allen, playoff-contending Bills hope to take care of business against free-falling Chargers


Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills are well aware they are on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot.

With three games remaining, Allen knows the only thing the Bills can do is handle their own business. That starts when they visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.

“We've got to control what we can control,” Allen said. “It’s essentially win or go home. So again, we got to be prepared for every punch that the Chargers can throw at us and be able to respond and adjust accordingly in game.”

Buffalo has overcome a midseason swoon, criticism of coach Sean McDermott and a rash of defensive injuries to win three of four. That stretch included a 31-10 rout of Dallas last Sunday.

The Bills are one of four teams at 8-6, but Cincinnati and Indianapolis go into the weekend holding the final two wild-card spots. The Bengals beat Buffalo on Nov. 5 while the Colts and Houston Texans have better conference records.

Buffalo, though, could receive early Christmas gifts. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh on Saturday, while Houston hosts fellow wild-card contender Cleveland (9-5) on Sunday.

The Bills have climbed back into playoff contention thanks in part to quarterbacks coach and interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who has brought balance to the unit.

James Cook is second in the league in rushing yards (968) and third with 1,401 scrimmage yards. The second-year running back has five straight games with at least 100 scrimmage yards, matching the longest streak by a Bills rusher since LeSean McCoy in 2016.

Cook will be facing a Chargers run defense that has allowed an average of 146.2 yards over the past six games. Buffalo has also used Latavius Murray near the goal line, while also working in Ty Johnson as a change-of-pace runner.

While the Bills were able to rebound from their midseason struggles, Los Angeles (5-9) went into a free fall. It has dropped five of its last six, including a 63-21 capitulation to the Las Vegas Raiders last Thursday that ended coach Brandon Staley's tenure before he could finish his third season. General manager Tom Telesco was also fired after being with the organization since 2013.

Defensive line coach Giff Smith was named interim coach and has stressed to the players that a lot of futures are on the line.

“We have three weeks to show the character of the men and the coaching staff that we are, to go out there and compete. That’s what we’re looking to do, compete, right there, and try to win these next three games,” Smith said.


With Justin Herbert lost for the rest of the season due to a broken index finger on his right hand, quarterback Easton Stick will get his second NFL start.

Stick passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders, but he also had three turnovers, including two that Las Vegas turned into defensive touchdowns. The fifth-year player has shown plenty of arm strength, but has been skittish under pressure.


The biggest disappointment of Staley's tenure was the struggles of the defense. Staley was the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020 when they were the league's top-ranked unit, but the Chargers have been among the league's worst since 2021.

Allen leads the league in total touchdowns with 37 (26 passing, 11 rushing) and 3,939 total offensive yards (3,541 passing, 398 rushing). The Chargers are 29th in total defense and 30th against the pass.

Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley will call plays for the first time since the preseason finale.

“We’re not going to wholesale change anything. We’re going to do what our 11 guys out there can do at a high level. Whatever that looks like, that’s what it looks like," Ansley said. “We have to slow down one of the best guys in the league coming in here. Allen’s a big engine. Run, hit. He can run you over. He can throw it past you.”


Allen appreciated the job left tackle Dion Dawkins did to set up his 1-yard touchdown run against Dallas. Facing first-and-10 from the Cowboys 21, Dawkins took on Damone Clark and kept pushing the linebacker backward to the goal line as Cook gained 20 yards.

Allen scored two plays later and handed Dawkins the ball to spike it.

“It gets the juices flowing, I’ll tell you that,” Allen said of watching the play again on tape. “Watching it live was awesome because I was kind of right there. But watching it on tape is just as good too.”


Bills edge rusher A.J. Epenesa is questionable with a rib injury sustained when he was tackled after intercepting a pass by Patrick Mahomes in a 20-17 win at Kansas City two weeks ago.

“It definitely wasn’t pleasant. It was real tough to breathe,” Epenesa said after he was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to be careful with it, and not make it worse.”

Perhaps, someone suggested, it was a valuable lesson about not getting tackled and instead taking the ball to the end zone.

“That’s the goal,” Epenesa said of his second career interception. “If they try to throw it my way, I’m just gonna try to tip it up and take it back.”


AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, New York, contributed to this report.