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Kelvin Benjamin will take the field far from 100 percent again in Week 17 as the Buffalo Bills fight for a wild card spot in the AFC. The former Carolina Panthers wideout played well despite his injured knee Sunday. He caught five passes on seven targets for 70 yards in the loss to the New England Patriots. Benjamin should have had a touchdown in the contest, but the play was called back on a questionable replay review. Benjamin’s health has been a concern since he joined the Bills in Week 10. He will have surgery on his knee in the offseason.
The Bills still have a shot to make the playoffs, but they will need a win against the Miami Dolphins and some help. Benjamin is expected to play through his injury again Sunday. He has a tough matchup against a Dolphins defense that gives up the sixth-fewest receiving yards to wideouts in the league. Benjamin was held in check against Miami in Week 15, catching two passes for 20 yards in the contest.
Fantasy impact: Benjamin plays well against New England. In Week 4 as a Panther, he had a season-high 104 yards against the Patriots. Sunday, therefore, was not shocking. Benjamin has not been great this season otherwise. He was held to 42 yards or fewer since Week 8 prior to the meeting with the Patriots Sunday. He is also hurt. This is a must-win game for Buffalo, so Benjamin should be heavily involved. Still, It is hard to trust him in the final game of the season.
If you would have told a Buffalo Bills fan that Kelvin Benjamin would be talking about the team’s “urgency to get to the Super Bowl” after a wild-card round loss back in August, they likely would have laughed in your face. Well, they would have laughed, then they would have felt your forehead to make sure you didn’t have a fever.
After all, acquiring a dominant wide receiver like Benjamin would have seemed like a ludicrous idea in August of 2017. In fact, before the start of the 2017 season, it looked as though the Bills were gearing up for a run at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. They traded wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby, players deemed crucial to the team’s success, in exchange for draft picks and players on expiring contracts after their first preseason game.
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Success seemingly wasn’t at the top of Buffalo’s priority list.
However, that changed after the blue and red got out to a 5-2 start in the 2017 season. Realizing that the team had a legitimate shot at ending their 17-year playoff drought, first-year general manager Brandon Beane made a blockbuster move. Beane traded draft picks to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for Benjamin, a player who Beane, who spent the first two decades of his career with the Panthers, had a hand in selecting in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Benjamin played well for the Bills down the stretch, catching 16 passes for 217 yards and helping the team clinch a wild-card playoff spot. Unfortunately, Buffalo was not able to advance any further than the wild-card round, losing their first playoff game since the turn of the century to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 10-3.
However, Benjamin feels as though the team’s recent playoff game is just the first of many to come. While speaking to the media on Monday, Benjamin was asked whether or not he feels as though the team is heading in the right direction.
“Oh, definitely man,” Benjamin said. “Definitely. You could just tell the urgency to get to the Super Bowl and that’s the number one goal. That’s supposed to be every team’s number one goal. That’s where they’re trying to go so I think next year will be a big year for us.”
“The fan base is going crazy. They’re still going crazy even though we lost. We wanted to pull that one out for them but, it was a tough one. It was a tough one for me. That’s my second time in the playoffs and I definitely wanted to make that push. The first time I went, I made it to the second round. We played Seattle and lost. But it is what it is, you know? Bite the bullet. Like I said, just move on [and] go and get ready for OTA’s.”
As Benjamin said, next year will be a big one for Buffalo. The drought is no longer lingering over the team’s head. Perhaps their urgency to get to the Super Bowl will pay off.