Expect the unexpected.
It’s a message I’ve been writing since the beginning of the NFL season and it’s turning out to be a prescient one so far. Just when you think you can stick a fork in the Buffalo Bills, they keep playoff hopes alive by squeaking past the Kansas City Chiefs 16-10 at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
After three humiliating beatdowns, the Bills defense decided enough was enough. They did just enough to help Tyrod Taylor (19-of-29, 183 yds, one TD) and the offense by holding the Chiefs to only 55 net rushing yards. Although the stat sheet was relatively unimpressive overall, the Bills managed to do just enough to keep the Chiefs previously potent offense from resurrecting itself.
So now the Bills find themselves at 6-5 and holding on to the last wild card berth in the AFC, at least for one day. BillsMafia should cheer on the Houston Texans tonight (4-6) over the Baltimore Ravens who are sitting at 5-5.
Will the real Buffalo Bills please stand up? Where do we go from here? Are the Bills the 5-2 team we saw a few weeks ago, or are they the team that was shredded by the Jets, Saints and Chargers?
The answer will likely come this Sunday at New Era Field when the New England Patriots and their obnoxious fan base show up for the first of their two December meetings. The Bills will need to bring their best effort and find a way to use Tom Brady as a tackling dummy if they hope to have a chance to beat them in Orchard Park.
Let’s take a look at some areas of concern and of course… some reasons for optimism as we move into the December push for the playoffs (at least for another week).
Areas of concern
- With Kelvin Benjamin out with a torn meniscus, the Bills will have to find a way to get some productivity out of the passing game to have a chance against the Patriots. And… you know Bills fans will be anxious to see how Stephon Gilmore performs. [EDIT: just noticed a comment from Sean McDermott that Benjamin does NOT have a torn meniscus… will follow this]
- Cordy Glenn’s status. The Bills running game seems to be more effective when Glenn’s in the lineup and his absence for most of the season does not bode well for his future in Buffalo. Dawkins appears to be holding his own most of the time, but Belichick knows how to rattle the rookies.
- After a decent sample size, offensive play-calling has the distinct odor of Dick Jauron’s “playing not to lose” strategy. This Bills offense has yet to function with any sort of rhythm all season and that does not bode well for a positive outcome vs. the Patriots.
- The underutilization of Charles Clay remains puzzling. With only one knee he/we can count on, maybe it’s his last season in a Bills uniform? He’s getting paid like a guy who should see Travis Kelce type numbers in terms of receptions, but has never been utilized heavily in game plans. Go figure.
Reasons for optimism
- E.J. Gaines. He tops my list of reasons for optimism this week because all he ever does is tackle like a maniac. His seven solo and one assist led the Bills in tackles for the game. There is a noticeable drop in overall performance on defense when he’s not in the line up. The Bills desperately need him to stay healthy the rest of the way if they hope to make a playoff push.
- Zay Jones is about to break out and show why McDermott coveted him in the draft. His touchdown reception on Sunday was a thing of beauty and just the medicine he needs to propel his game to the next level. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Zay Jones burn Stephon Gilmore a few times?
- Travaris Cadet. Who? The 28 year-old recently acquired running back ran for 28 yards on six carries, and although that may not seem impressive, it was how he bobbed and weaved his way to get there that caught my eye. Cadet has decent hands, and is much more like LeSean McCoy with more speed and elusiveness than Mike Tolbert. I believe Cadet’s earned the RB2 position based on his performance against the Chiefs.
Like many seasons’ past, it’s anyone’s guess which Bills team will show up to play the Patriots at New Era Field on Sunday. We’ve been down this road so many times it’s second nature to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Editor’s babble: Living for the eventual demise of Tom Brady and the Patriots* is our common bond. Even the seemingly immortal Brady will eventually decay… and not a moment too soon as far as the BillsMafia FAMbase is concerned. If you can stand sappy and snarky, I’m on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.