Buffalo Bills Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Headed into Week 12?
The Buffalo Bills' season is not over yet, and they only need to look to the 2004 season for proof.
That year, the Bills started 3-6 and wound up winning six straight on their way to a play-in scenario against the Steelers, only to lose the final game of the season and miss the playoffs.
Can they still salvage a season that they entered with so much promise? Here's a look at where things stand headed into Week 12.
Primary Talking Point
Who is this Bills defense, and what have they done with the unit we saw the first nine weeks of the season?
Was their performance against the Dolphins a mirage? A product of a bad opponent? A reason for hope? A turning point?
They played well earlier this year in allowing a combined 31 points to the Browns and Chiefs, only to turn around and allow 97 points in their next two games against the Patriots and 49ers. Perhaps that speaks to this team, struggling against quality teams and dominating lesser foes. If that's the case, they'll be licking their chops at a schedule that doesn't feature another top-notch opponent.
Defensive end Chris Kelsay missed last week's game against the Dolphins, but is hopeful to return against the Colts. The same goes for running back Fred Jackson, who missed last week with a concussion he suffered against the Patriots. Aaron Williams has missed the past two games with a knee injury, and his status remains uncertain for this week's contest.
Defensive end Mark Anderson and offensive linemen Chad Rinehart are both out indefinitely with knee injuries.
On a positive injury note, it looks like Mario Williams is playing a lot better following wrist surgery.
The fourth-year defensive end has logged the first two sacks of his professional career, and got one of them on Thursday night. He has provided consistent pressure off the edge, with 15 pressures, two hits and three sacks in 208 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. His three pressures on Thursday tied for the team-high on the night with Mario Williams.
Undoubtedly the Bills' defensive MVP of the year. Byrd's diving interception of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill helped ice the win for the Bills, thwarting a comeback attempt. Byrd leads the team with four interceptions and three forced fumbles on the year, and five passes defended ties him for second on the team.
The rookie punter set the Dolphins up with horrid field position time after time, with five punts landing them inside the 20-yard line. Only three of his seven punts were returned, with one fair caught, two out of bounds and one more downed at the spot it landed.
It's been a good season overall for Jones, but it was a bad week against the Dolphins. After catching 16-of-22 balls thrown his way with two touchdowns over the past three weeks, he caught just two of four against Miami for 11 yards and dropped one.
After playing 93.8 percent of the snaps in the first seven games of the season, Wilson has played just 67.2 percent of the snaps over the past three games as Bryan Scott has seen a slight uptick in his playing time from 51.1 percent in the first seven to 56.7 percent in the past three. Da'Norris Searcy has also seen the field a bit more over the past few games.
- We now know that C.J. Spiller is capable of carrying the ball more than 20 times in a game, but can he still be as explosive under such a heavy workload? He set a lofty standard with his season average of 7.3 yards per carry headed into Thursday's game, but his 4.1 YPA against the Dolphins left something to be desired. They are a top run defense, and there's always going to be some give-and-take, but perhaps Spiller is at his best when there's someone to take some of the burden off him. He will get the lion's share of the workload again this week, so time will tell.
- Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted just one pass over 20 yards against the Dolphins, and it didn't even count because it ended up being a penalty for pass interference against Miami. Fitzpatrick attempts the fourth-lowest percentage of deep passes in the NFL, with 8.4 percent of his passes traveling 20 yards or more in the air according to ProFootballFocus.com. His accuracy percentage of 18.5 is the lowest among starting QBs, and his four interceptions on deep passes are tied for the second-most in the league.
- Leodis McKelvin leads the NFL with 21.9 yards per punt return. To give you an idea of how ridiculous that is, the second-place returner is Dwayne Harris of the Cowboys, who averages 17.8 yards per return. The league average is 9.6 yards per punt return. McKelvin is the only returner with two punt returns for touchdowns this year.
The Bills have virtually no choice but to win their final six games of the season if they want to make the playoffs. Even then, they'll need a few other teams in the AFC to struggle down the stretch—namely, the Jets, Steelers, Bengals and Colts.
The remaining slate of games is rather kind to the Bills, and they get to play four of their final six games in the comfort of their own home.
How many wins will the Bills finish with in 2012?
With their season on the brink, they can't afford any more slip-ups.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.
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