THE BUFFALO BILLS
Last week: 16-10 win over Chiefs
Previous three: 0-3 (Saints, Chargers, Chiefs by a combined 136-55)
2016 record: 7-9
Coach: Sean McDermott
Offensive coordinator: Rick Dennison
Defensive coordinator: Leslie Frazier
The Bills are on a bizarre ride. They were 5-2 at one point then – after consecutive losses – they yanked starter Tyrod Taylor and replaced him with rookie Nathan Peterman. Peterman threw five picks in the first half of a loss against the Chargers and the season appeared to have gone belly-up. But behind Taylor last week, the Bills won 16-10 at Kansas City (another team on a bizarre ride). The Bills are tied with the Ravens and Chiefs at 6-5 in the race for the sixth AFC playoff spot.
First off, Buffalo is always a tough place to play. They are 4-1 this season and the atmosphere there is one of the first things Devin McCourty mentioned on Quick Slants Tuesday night. It’s a big factor. Additionally, they are pretty well-balanced. “There's not a lot of opportunities there when you look on the film like 'Oh, this looks good. That looks good,' “ Bill Belichick explained on Wednesday. “You're going to have to earn everything you get from this team. They play very competitively. They have a lot of tough football players, guys that play hard, that work hard, that are physical, that do a good job of controlling their area, if you will, and then some great athletic space players, obviously, like [LeSean] McCoy, like [Brandon] Tate, like [Tyrod] Taylor, guys like that, [Jerry] Hughes, in their respective areas that are really hard to deal with, hard to handle.” The Patriots haven’t seen a quarterback with Taylor’s mobility and downfield accuracy since their back-to-back games with Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson in Weeks 3 and 4. Defensively, the Bills are giving up 240 yards per game in the air and are 31st in the NFL in sack percentage. Six of their 17 sacks this season came in one game. The three-game stretch of losses messed up all their stats on defense but – aside from those where they allowed 638 yards rushing (!!!!), they allowed just 616 in their other six games.
They just haven’t been a terribly consistent team. The Bills have yet to top 300 yards passing. The closest they came was 285 and they let up seven sacks in that one against the Jets. Offensively, they are averaging 20.4 points per game. That’s not near enough to get it done against New England on a regular basis and that’s probably part of the reason Buffalo tried to make a switch at quarterback – to get more explosive scoring. They did – 54 for the Chargers – but that was not what they were looking for. LeSean McCoy looks like he’s beginning the slow fade from game-changer to ordinary back. He carried 22 times for 49 yards against KC last week. They can’t throw the ball outside on a regular basis. McCoy is the leading receiver with 46 catches for 295 yards and tight end Charles Clay is second with just 29 catches. Jordan Matthews has been a non-factor in the passing game for them and Kelvin Benjamin’s been hurt.
The Bills’ futility against the Patriots since Bill Belichick arrived has been staggering. They’ve played 34 times. Buffalo has won four (November 2000, September 2003, September 2011 and December 2014). Think about that...Belichick’s coached more than two full regular seasons worth of games against this team while he’s been the Patriots coach.