Although the Bills head into the bye week nursing a long list of injuries and two disappointing losses in the past three weeks, I still believe they can make the playoffs. But it’s not going to be easy.
I think 10 wins earns them a berth, which means they will have to go 6-4 the rest of the way. Looking at the remaining schedule, here’s who they are going to have to beat: Washington in Toronto; the Jets at home; the Dolphins in Orchard Park and Miami; Tennessee at home and Denver at home. That’s daunting, but not impossible.
In order to do that, the Bills are going to need to get healthy. Football is a game of attrition and the injuries have been adding up. They need to get Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman and Donald Jones back ASAP. The bye week obviously came at a good time.
Buffalo’s defense, which is still relatively young, has to become stouter and find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback. The Bills yielded several long drives against the Giants and were unable to force a turnover, at times giving Eli Manning enough time in the pocket to read his stock portfolio.
As the season progresses and the weather becomes more challenging, the ability to run and stop the run become more important.
As far as running the ball, I’m not worried, because Fred Jackson – with four, 100-yard rushing performances already this season – has proven he is ready to carry the load. Versatile Freddie is putting up numbers the likes of which we haven’t seen since Thurman Thomas during the Super Bowl years.
The Bills have proven they can play with – and beat – anybody, but they remain a work-in-progress. Which is a lot better than being a work-in-regress, which they’ve been for much of the past decade.
Two late field goals are all that separates them from a 6-0 record. Which leads to another thing they have to do a better job of down the stretch – close out games.
Further proof these Bills are legit: Their two close losses have come against teams that are now 4-2, the Giants and Cincinnati.
Some are grumbling that Chan Gailey should have played it closer to the vest, and worked to get into position for the go-ahead field goal instead of trying for a touchdown pass that resulted in an interception. Baloney! Gailey make a great call, Stevie Johnson got separation from the defensive back and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a bad pass. The decision to go for the touchdown was on target. Unfortunately, Fitz’s pass was not.
As someone who covered the ultra-conservative Bills of Dick Jauron, I applaud Gailey’s willingness to take calculated risks. You play it safe the way Jauron always did and you’ll finish 7-9 every season. Again, good, aggressive call. Poor execution.