Buffalo Bills State of the Union: Where Does the Team Stand Headed into Week 14?
Last week, with the Buffalo Bills facing a 4-7 record and an outside chance at a playoff run, head coach Chan Gailey referenced the 7-7 New York Giants as a reason to be hopeful that if the Bills could just get back to .500 with two games to go, they could still make a run.
They drew one step closer to that goal with their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but if the Bills really want to look to the example set by the Giants, they can settle for nothing less than four more wins to close out the season.
How likely is it now, though, with so little time left in the season, the margin for error so small and the injury list growing by the day?
Here's a rundown of where things stand and where they could be headed as we look forward to Week 14.
The Bills have lost defensive end Chris Kelsay for the remainder of the season to a neck injury. They will likely fill the void by further increasing the snap count for defensive end Kyle Moore, who had begun to play more in Kelsay's stead.
Center Eric Wood was lost for the season to an MCL injury, and they also placed offensive tackle Chris Hairston on injured reserve with an ankle injury, the two of which could force them to move some parts around on the offensive line.
It has not been a good week for the Bills medical staff.
The coaching staff was looking to give C.J. Spiller a majority of the workload, but Jackson had something to say about that with 25 carries for 109 yards, both his highest marks of the season. He is averaging just 3.99 yards per carry this season, but has 4.36 YPA or more in three of his past five games and averages 4.79 YPA in that span—nearly a full yard higher than his season average.
Jackson is playing some of his best football of late, serving as a reminder that the Bills offense is at its best when functioning through its running backs.
Has been on a hot streak since the bye, with eight pressures in the past four games and four of them on Sunday against the Jaguars. He was a key cog in a run defense that has played its best football of the season over the past four weeks, with an average of 3.4 YPA allowed in that span. They held the Jaguars to 50 yards on 18 carries this past week.
Scott Chandler had 27 receptions and five touchdowns in the first nine games of the season, but just five receptions and one touchdown in the past three games. He had one catch for a touchdown against the Jaguars.
This is the second year in a row where Chandler has gotten off to a hot start and cooled off dramatically.
George Wilson has seen his workload slowly decrease over the past five games. Previously, he hadn't played less than 77 percent of the snaps in any game, but has played less than that in each of the past five games. Safety Da'Norris Searcy has seen his workload increase in that time.
Wilson is 31, going on 32 this coming offseason, and appears to be falling out of favor. However, he poses a cap hit over $4 million if the Bills were to try and cut him. He is owed a base salary of $2.45 million in 2013, according to Spotrac.com.
- The Bills run defense earned a lot of praise here earlier this week, but the unit as a whole has been vastly improved recently. They rank 29th in the NFL in scoring defense this year (28.1 points per game), but they rank sixth over the past three games, averaging nearly 10 fewer points per game in the process (17.3 points per game). In the process, they have forced seven turnovers, as opposed to 11 in the prior nine games. They also gave up conversions on 44 percent of their third downs this year, but on just one-third of third-downs in their past three games. An 87.3 defensive passer rating this year (17th) vs. a 59.8 defensive passer rating over the past three weeks (third). Improvements all around.
- It's no mystery: the Bills are a running team. When they have 27 or more rush attempts, they are 5-2 (both losses to New England). When they have fewer than that, they are 0-5. With two backs as talented as Jackson and Spiller, there's no reason they shouldn't average that many touches.
- According to ProFootballFocus.com, Ryan Fitzpatrick takes the least amount of time on average to attempt a pass (2.41 seconds), the fourth-lowest time to throw (2.6 seconds) and the seventh-highest average in amount of time it takes him to be sacked (3.68 seconds). The Bills offensive line has been one of the best this year, allowing sacks at a rate of just 5.1 percent (11th best in the NFL) and allowing him to be pressured on 26.1 percent of drop-backs (fourth-best in the NFL). Part of this all has to do with the short passing game, but that's made possible by good blocking from the offensive line. Those injuries could be very detrimental.
The Bills have four very winnable games left on the schedule, and with three of them at home (where the Bills are 3-2) that's a lot better than three on the road (where they are 2-5).
How many wins will the Bills finish with in 2012?
It won't be easy, but anything less than four straight wins will not do if the Bills want to play more than four games.
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 firsthand or via team press releases.
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