It clearly wouldn’t remove the bitter taste of the seven-game free-fall that ruined their season, but an upset of the Patriots in New England Sunday would enable the Bills to finish on a high note. A victory would give Buffalo a season sweep of the AFC East kingpins for the first time since the final year of the Clinton Administration (1999) – not to mention a two-game win streak and a 7-9 record.
In order to beat the odds against a Patriots team that still has a shot at securing the top seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the Bills will need to play flawlessly and go for broke. No reason at all to be passive in this one. Heck, what do you have to lose?
Chan Gailey must stop pampering C.J. Spiller and ride him for all he’s worth. The second-year running back will have an entire off-season to recuperate. Spiller, who’s accounted for 463 yards from scrimmage in the past four games, needs to get at least 25 touches against a New England defense that ranks dead last against the run. Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to be a good game manager, not turn the ball over and hit a few big-plays to Stevie Johnson. And the defense will have to take some chances and put some pressure on Tom Brady the way it did while picking him off four times in the first meeting.
Not using it as an excuse, but I can’t help but wonder how much different this Bills season would have been if they hadn’t lost 17 players to the injured reserve list. They probably still wouldn’t have ended their post-season drought, but I don’t believe they would have suffered the long losing streak and would have remained in serious playoff contention into December.
Bills line coach Joe D’Alessandris and his assistant Bobby Johnson get my votes as NFL Assistant Coaches of the Year. Despite the loss of potential Pro Bowl center Eric Wood and other starters to season-ending injuries, Buffalo has managed to cobble together a mish-mash line that has yielded a league-low 21 sacks while opening holes for a robust ground game that’s seen its two leading rushers average more than five yards a carry.
Unless they allow the floodgates to open Sunday, the Bills O-line will finish the season with the fewest number of sacks in 30 years. Very impressive.