It is no secret that the Buffalo Bills have one of the easiest final five games in the NFL. This has given fans a glimmer of hope that the 13-year playoff drought could end this season. Unfortunately, four of the final five games are away from Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the team has struggled on the road in 2013, going 1-4.
There have been some unforeseen circumstances that have led to this record. They lost EJ Manuel in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, and when the rookie quarterback did return against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he looked rusty. The poor road record has not all been about bad luck, as poor play-calling has also been a serious flaw for Buffalo away from home.
This chart breaks down the difference of run plays versus pass plays over the five road games this year:
|Play Calls in Buffalo's Road Games|
|New York (A)||Cleveland||Miami||New Orleans||Pittsburgh|
|Buffalo's Time of Possession||25:47||27:37||30:12||27:30||24:44|
|Stats Courtesy of ESPN.com|
There was only one game that Buffalo showed good balance between running and passing, a division win in Miami.
But in the other four games, the Bills averaged 40 pass attempts to just under 26 rushing attempts. The biggest reason there is such a disparity is because the Bills played from behind in most of those matchups. Of the five road games this year, only once did Buffalo hold a halftime lead—which not coincidentally came in their win over the Dolphins.
Slow starts have been an issue for this team all season, both at home and on the road. The problem is that falling behind on the road early allows the opposing team's fans to have an impact on the game. The noise level makes it tougher to communicate at the line of scrimmage.
If Buffalo is able to get a lead, it can control the clock with its running game which would extend drives and give its defense more rest between series. Once again, the game against Miami was the only one in which Buffalo won the time of possession battle, due to in large part the Bills' commitment to the running game.
Luckily for Buffalo, they face some of the worst run defenses in the NFL over their final four road games. All four defenses give up on average over 100 yards per game and aside from Tampa Bay are ranked 28th or worse in the NFL.
|Opposing Run Defenses of Final Road Games|
|Yards Per Game||Defenses' Rank|
|Stats Courtesy of ESPN.com|
These last five games give Buffalo a great chance to make a push for that final playoff spot, but the team will have to get over its road struggles. The Bills will need to be committed to running the ball and build an early lead.
If they keep Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller involved in the game plan, they will be able to control the clock and hopefully take the crowd out of the game by building an early lead. This will take pressure off EJ Manuel and give the defense plenty of rest.