Thank goodness the Buffalo Bills play on a short week. They need nothing more than to absolve themselves of their horrific loss against the New England Patriots just days prior. I feel weird even saying it, because we didn’t think it would be possible to lose to such a banged up team! Granted, the Bills were banged up themselves. But the even playing field should’ve lent the advantage to Buffalo given the lopsided talent on each side.
Considering it is the third consecutive week that the Bills have had such abysmal performances on both sides of the ball, there needs to be a conversation about what it is. What could have possibly changed from when we saw an elite Buffalo team completely upend Miami? I have a few ideas. Some, if not most, of it has to do with injuries sustained on both offense and defense. That’s right, I said offense.
To put it simply, the Bills are missing players — star players. CB Tre’Davious White, LB Matt Milano, and DT DaQuan Jones are among the many players that are currently out for the season, or out indefinitely. No matter how you slice it, losing three all-pro-level players will sway your entire team’s identity, especially if they’re on the same side of the ball.
To add insult to injury, (no pun intended) DT Ed Oliver has been dealing with a toe injury, and did not play against the Patriots. It remains to be seen whether he will suit up in Week 8. However, he has carried limited designations for the past few practices, so it seems that he’s trending in the right direction.
The eye test certainly tells us how bad the Buffalo Bills defense has been, but the metrics make it look even worse. According to Aaron Schatz of ESPN+, the Bills’ defensive DVOA from Weeks 1-4 was -26.1%, 2nd in the NFL. In Weeks 5-7, it was +16.9%, 28th in the league. Yeah, it’s been bad.
The trade deadline is fast approaching (October 31st) and it is very possible that we could see help on the way. Bills fans are split as to whether they’d prefer a defensive or offensive player. But who is to say that they can’t get both? On Tuesday, Field Yates reported that the Bills restructured LT Dion Dawkins’ contract, freeing up roughly $3.9M in cap space. Also, DT Eli Ankou is signing to the practice squad, so some of that money will need to go to him. Now I’m no cap expert, but one would think that the Bills would have to make one more move to be able to free up more salary cap. We’ll see what they do in the coming days as they head into their mini-bye.
The state of the Bills’ defense could entirely be blamed on the injuries, but the offense doesn’t have much of an excuse. Most of the players have been healthy, but one player that we should look out for is QB Josh Allen. He has been on the injury report for the past couple weeks with a right shoulder injury. We don’t know for sure, but it has likely hampered his throwing ability. He was seemingly less on-target than usual against the Patriots.
Lately, Bills fans have been clamoring for Allen to have a lot more designed runs. The offense has certainly lacked his aggression as a runner this season. Defenses haven’t had to account for him in that aspect; it makes it easier for them to drop into coverage rather than spying on Josh Allen. Perhaps, he shouldn’t be running at this time. If his shoulder is hurting, there is no reason to put him further into harm’s way.
Now, I spent a lot of time focusing on what has gone wrong for the Bills, and their lack of production on offense and defense. Let’s apply the 24-hour rule to this conversation, because it is time to focus on the Buccaneers. They are no push-overs. I hope that the Bills are prepared for them as they steer their ship into Orchard Park. Here, I will give my matchups to look out for, and my predictions for the upcoming Thursday Night Football game!
Matchups to Watch: Bills Cornerbacks vs. Bucs Wide Receivers
In the past three games, the Buffalo Bills’ cornerbacks have not performed well, even though they haven’t faced great competition at WR since Jacksonville. That should say something. Now, it is also notable that the interior defensive line and linebacker core have not looked the same since DT DaQuan Jones and LB Matt Milano went down, which — in extension — affects the way the cornerbacks play.
On Thursday Night, WR Mike Evans and WR Chris Godwin are going to stress-test the Bills secondary into oblivion. So, at this point, you have to wonder if the best defense will be a good Bills offense. That is where I am at right now. I don’t have much hope that CB Dane Jackson, or even CB Christian Benford, will be able to contain them. This may not be a game to experiment with CB Kaiir Elam, either. Needless to say, I would not be shocked if we saw the safeties rack up tackles in this game.
Josh Allen will find his rhythm
We saw this happen to Josh against the Raiders after a loss to the Jets. I had predicted then that Josh would get back into his groove… and he did. In his press conference on Monday, he mentioned trying to keep a “low-positive” mindset before games. But he thinks that this might have contributed to the Bills’ lackluster performance the past three games. Well, Josh, that could be the case.
We know that you fired up the defense on the sideline before the game’s final drive. Where was that in the first half? We miss the aggressive and fiesty quarterback that we’ve always loved. I’m certain that, when the energy comes back, we will see a revitalized offense earlier in games. That’s not to say he should be hurdling over guys. (If his shoulder is hurting I’d rather him save those stunts.) But it would be nice to see him take off with the ball a couple more times a game.
11-Personnel usage skyrockets
TE Dawson Knox is expected to be put on injured reserve after he had undergone wrist surgery this past week. We also know that TE Quintin Morris is out, so that leaves rookie TE Dalton Kincaid in line to start. Although FB Reggie Gilliam could play tight end, it is likely that the Bills will be utilizing 11-personnel much more frequently now that there is only one true tight end available on the game-day roster. This might end up being a blessing in disguise. Bills Mafia has been banging the table for Kincaid to get more targets. In fact, he did get targeted many times against the Patriots. So this may be a glimpse of what will happen moving forward, just with an extra wide receiver on the field.
With a chance to right the ship on Thursday Night Football, the Buffalo Bills should be eager to get back into the win column. That Patriots game was not one that many of us expected. Everybody seemed to be off that day. (Except maybe WR Stefon Diggs, TE Dalton Kincaid, and RB James Cook.) There isn’t very much time for the Bills to fix their mistakes. But, perhaps, a quick turnaround is exactly what they need to get out of their funk.
I expect Josh Allen to look more like himself and OC Ken Dorsey to scheme up more 11-personnel plays. The defense will have its hands full, however, with Godwin and Evans. Hopefully Ed Oliver is ready to go as he returns from a toe injury so that the interior defensive line is less compromised. The state of the Buffalo Bills heavily depends on this game.
After Week 8, the Bills will be on a mini-bye week before they head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. Be on the lookout for the next edition of Jenna’s Outlook, as well as my Mid-Season Rookie Report in Week 9!
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