Josh Allen injury impact: Three big ways Bills’ offense will change if Case Keenum starts at quarterback

Bills Quarterback Josh Allen missed practice Thursday Available in a limited session on Friday He is dealing with a right elbow injury to the ulnar collateral ligament and associated nerves. He was listed as questionable in Week 10, and veteran backup Case Keenum will start Sunday. Minnesota Vikings If he cannot go.

Allen cannot be replaced if he misses any time. An MVP favorite for most of the season, he defines the phrase “one man band” better than anyone else in the league right now. He leads the Bills in rushing and has the fifth-most total yards (passing and rushing) of any player through eight games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. He has caught 23 of the Bills’ 25 touchdowns this season, the highest percentage in the NFL (92%).

Below are the total yards (pass and rush) for eight games — since 1970.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott has seen the best and worst backup quarterback situations, and luckily Case Keenum is a little more Jeff Garcia and Nathan Peterman a lot less. With McDermott in 2006 when Donovan McNabb was injured Eagles‘ Defensive coordinator, Garcia took over and Philadelphia won their final five games to make the playoffs. A little different than 2017, Peterman threw five first-half picks in his first career start. A year later, when Allen missed just five games in his career, Buffalo started three different quarterbacks (Peterman, Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley) and went 1-4.

The Bills mafia has reason to believe Keenum Allen can keep the seat warm. Like this Buffalo team in Minnesota, which will be the best supporting cast the Vikings have played since 2017, Minnesota has wide receivers and the No. 1 scoring defense. Keenum went 11-3 that season, ranked seventh in passer rating and helped lead Minnesota to the NFC Championship. He can hold down the fort, but he can’t stay away from Josh Allen.

Here are three big changes you can expect:

1. Trading in the long game for intermediate action

Even if Keenum reunites with Stefon Diggs to face his former team, don’t expect a repeat of the Minneapolis Miracle. Keenum hasn’t managed 20-plus yards downfield once in two starts. Browns Last season. A hit to Odell Beckham Jr. on a double move shows his limitations:

Allen went 14-for-24 for 618 yards and six touchdowns this season on 25-plus yards downfield — all best marks in the league. He can make throws that few in the world can make, like the seed he threw through small windows to Dawson Knox for the game-winning touchdown against Kansas City earlier this year.

Keenum should serve in the intermediate passing game. He is above league average in throws 11-20 yards downfield since 2017 and below average in short and deep throws.

Less than 10 air yards



11-20 air yards



21+ air yards



This touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry last year is a great example of a play design that works for Keenum — play action with a deep crosser he hits for a score:

2. Third down is conservative

The Bills may miss Allen on third down. Buffalo leads the NFL in third-down conversion rate (52%) this year, and has the third-best rate on third-and-long (38%).

We know Keenum won’t run over defenders on crucial downs like Allen, who is second on the ground in third-down conversions this season. Allen has adopted a gunslinger attitude on third down, where he has the longest average pass length in those situations this season (at least 50 attempts).

Allen has a 127.0 passer rating on third-down passes to the first-down marker this season. Keenum has a 66.0 rating in those situations since 2017, one of the worst marks in the NFL.

That would mean more action for Bills punter Sam Martin. Buffalo has 15 punts this year, the fewest in the NFL, which I’m sure they use like a badge of honor.

3. No progress

Buffalo can’t rely on Allen’s advanced skills to make big plays. Allen leads the NFL with 9.0 yards per attempt when pressured this season. Tom Brady has a better passer rating under pressure (96.0) than on all plays (90.5).

His deep ball that scored a run against Diggs in Week 1 is a throw Keenum doesn’t have in his arsenal:

One thing Keen also has at his disposal is the aforementioned digs. Keenum actually had numbers similar to Diggs in his career as Allen. And Keenum threw to Diggs before emerging as a superstar and the No. 2 option for Adam Thielen in Minnesota.

Completion percentage



Yards per attempt



Proficiency assessment



It would be easy to assume that Buffalo will go into the ground game without Allen, but I’m not so sure. The Bills have one of the worst run-blocking units in football, and they rank fourth-worst in rush EPA this year. The Bills throw for the highest rate in the league, and sometimes a check-down pass looks like a run. That’s why Buffalo traded Nyheim Hines for running back.

Either way, let’s hope Allen can play through an injury-threatening MVP campaign and Super Bowl run. Football wouldn’t be fun without him.

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