Buffalo Bills: 7 Things the Team Must Do to Make the NFL Playoffs
After three games, the Buffalo Bills find themselves in a strange position—first place.
The last time the Bills held sole possession of the division was after Week 4 of the 2008 season. Fred Jackson was a backup, Steve Johnson was a seventh-round afterthought and Ryan Fitzpatrick was starting in place of an injured Carson Palmer in Cincinnati.
My, how times have changed.
Here are a few things Buffalo should try to do to stay on track to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Continue to Give the Ball to Fred Jackson
Thanks for finding this guy, Marv. If he hadn't gone to Coe College, who knows if Marv would've found him.
Either way, Fred Jackson is now a stud, and the Bills need to ride him to the finish. He's not the fastest guy around or the shiftiest. He doesn't even get either of those titles on this team.
But Jackson runs hard and has a knack for hitting the smallest of holes.
Let him be the workhorse. He has stated that he wants to, and the passing game will continue to open up if defenses have to keep more men in the box.
Get Aaron Curry
Aaron Curry is available and, like it or not, Buffalo's linebackers aren't that great.
Nick Barnett has been solid, but has been a bit of a figurine in the past.
Andra Davis is old and slow—Chris Kelsay is just slow.
Shawne Merriman isn't the same.
Curry is done in Seattle; his contract was downsized, and now he's on the bench. The Seahawks have made him available.
Maybe he's not living up to his potential there, but why not send a fifth-round pick there? (Word is the asking price is a seventh-rounder right now.)
Curry could play any linebacker position and was considered the most NFL-ready prospect in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Utilize C.J. Spiller
Please, for the love of all things holy, do something useful with C.J. Spiller.
Has anybody on this coaching staff seen Darren Sproles this year? Spiller has all the characteristics of Sproles.
Spiller could be a difference-maker for this offense that can already drop 30 points on quite a few teams. He has blazing speed, amazing cutting abilities and can catch a pass.
LET HIM HAVE THE BALL!
Continue to Keep Scott Chandler Involved
I've heard numerous times that tight ends are useless in the Chan Gailey offense.
So much for that.
Every time the Bills' offense gets in the red zone, Ryan Fitzpatrick looks his way. The Bills haven't had a tight end of note since the Super Bowl days of Pete Metzelaars and Keith McKeller. (It's been a while.)
Plus, Chandler is big and seems to have rather soft hands. Please don't abandon him.
Try the Wildcat
Let me just say I HATE the wildcat.
But, I think that if used on a VERY limited basis, it could be a very solid addition to an already-smoking offense and could be used to jump start the offense if it slows.
Remember when Bill Cowher was the coach of the Steelers? He used the occasional gadget play—and he won a Super Bowl with gadget plays.
Brad Smith was the wildcat with the Jets; if it's used sparingly, teams won't be able to key on it.
Stop Switching Between the 3-4 and 4-3
Pick a defense and use it.
Part of the Bills' biggest issue on defense is switching back and forth.
Like it or not, they have to get personnel for one or the other. The defensive line doesn't have any edge-rushers anymore. Chris Kelsay is the closest, but he was never that great when he was a full-time DE.
Commit to one and perfect it instead of trying to use both and only go half in on either.
Embrace Winning and Remember How to Do It
Young teams can have trouble learning how to win.
The Bills did that during the first half of last season. In the first eight games of 2010 they pretty much hung with every opponent.
In the second half, they felt like they had a chance and went 4-4.
So far this year the Bills feel like they can beat any team. All three teams they've played have had flaws, but they've found ways to win.
Buffalo needs to continue thinking they can beat any team, from the Bengals to the Patriots. (I say the Patriots because the final game of the season may mean more than any game for the past 10 years in Buffalo.) Tom Brady most likely won't throw four picks again since the game is in Foxboro, and the Patriots will remember—remember how to win.