At the bye week, the Buffalo Bills find themselves at 4-2. Although the loss to the New York Giants last Sunday was disappointing, this team has already equaled its total win output from last year's 4-12 season.
The Bills are right in the thick of the playoff hunt and even in position to challenge for the AFC East being only one game behind the division-leading New England Patriots.
Although the Bills are well positioned when they return, improvements and adjustments must be made. This is a solid team, but the season does get tougher from this point moving forward.
I'm fairly confident that the defensive line rotation of Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams, Dwan Edwards, Kellen Heard, Torell Troup and Spencer Johnson seem to be able to handle the 3-4 rather well. When they move to a 4-3 is where they have issues. Chris Kelsay was never much of a pass-rusher as a down lineman before his conversion and Alex Carrington is more of a 4-3 tackle.
No matter how you slice it, the personnel still isn't right. That doesn't help the linebackers who have injuries, players out of position and starter transitions. Andra Davis just can't help anymore. Shawne Merriman still can't stay on the field. Chris Kelsay can't seem to play 3-4 outside linebacker.
Somehow, this front seven has to get its act together before Week 8.
The Bills have some very winnable games left.
There are still two games against the Dolphins, two against the Jets, one against Denver, and one against Tennessee. I don't expect a sweep of the Jets, but a sweep of the Dolphins is an absolute must. Denver is in shambles.
The Bills need to emerge at least 4-2 in those six games. That's not asking much. Playoff teams get to the playoffs by beating teams they should beat and Buffalo needs to do that.
Fred Jackson has gotten his wish granted to be the workhorse in Buffalo.
He's running like a possessed back and he's proving to be just as valuable as a receiver out of the backfield. Let him continue to carry the offense, especially with the abundance of wide receiver injuries that have recently occurred.
The offensive line seems to have come together, even when injuries have hit and Jackson is taking advantage. He needs to be featured from this point forward to let the offense carry an otherwise less-than-stellar defense.
The Bills are only ranked 15th in total passing, but that's because they rank fourth in rushing.
They have come back from deficits in three games, although they lost to the Giants after coming back.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has such a handle on the offense that even though the receiving corps has been decimated, he still finds players, such as Naaman Roosevelt, to get the ball to and with C.J. Spiller getting two more weeks to learn route running he'll have another target. Therefore, the offense can make up for quite a few mistakes the defense is all but guaranteed to make.
They don't have to let deficits take them out of their game plans and that means not abandoning the running game, but if they need to score lots of points to get back in a game they absolutely can on the arm of Fitzpatrick.
I mentioned those "winnable" games. Not counting those games, Buffalo has four others.
They need to steal a couple of those. If they win four of the aformentioned games, that gives them eight wins. It will most likely take 10 wins to get in the playoffs.
Those remaining four games are against Washington, Dallas, San Diego, and the Patriots.
There's no reason to think either Washington or Dallas can't be games Buffalo can win. The Redskins are making a quarterback change and we have no idea which one the Bills will face. The Cowboys are very talented and very enigmatic. The Chargers are a very intriguing match-up, but they're not unbeatable, especially as long as Norv Turner is the head coach.
This could leave us with what may be an epically important game against the Patriots for all the marbles in the season finale.
Either way, the hope should be to have the team in playoff position before that game anyway, which is absolutely attainable.