It has been an odd season for the Bills. It was looking to be a rebuilding year with a young rookie QB who many “experts” thought would not be ready to start right away. A new defensive coordinator scheme was supposed to cause problems and a bad defense last year was only supposed to be worst. Instead the opposite has been true and this team has been in every game but two. Now coming off the bye, the Bills enter a period where the schedule gets easier and they can push to at least .500, maybe even get into the playoffs. Now the Bills enter the stretch run where they could potentially make some noise and prove the doubters wrong.
This run starts this Sunday against the Falcons. Before the season started the Falcons were considered playoff contenders but instead went the opposite direction and are currently 2-9 fighting for the #1 pick with the Jags and Texans. This game should be very winnable for the Bills as the Falcons are giving up 28.1 PPG (28th in the NFL) and 381.2 YPG (27th in the NFL). This spells good news for young QB EJ Manuel as he is coming off his best game against the Jets and is looking to build off that momentum. The running game should be improved as they had the bye to get healthy and are facing a run defense that is giving up 130 YPG. The offense should have a big day (Geno Smith threw 3 TDs against this same defense) and the defense should do enough to contain Matt Ryan from having any late game miracles.
The toughest game the Bills have the rest of the year will be next Sunday as they travel to Tampa to play a Buccaneer team that is rolling at the moment. While currently the Bucs are 3-8, the way they play suggests that the record should be better. The Bucs have their own rookie QB in Mike Glennon who has been on a roll in recent weeks and should give the Bills fits if they don’t get enough pressure. However if EJ Manuel plays smart football and doesn’t turn it over, the Bills should escape with the win.
The next game afterward is against the Jaguars who are playing for a top 5 pick and while they may keep it close early on, the Bills should in the end demolish them. That leaves the Bills at 7-7 with two division games that really could determine where they finish. First up is a Dolphins team which has been up and down this season and the Bills have already defeated with backup Thad Lewis. The Dolphins have their own problems as they lack a running game and their QB Tannehill has been the most sacked QB in the NFL and have major distractions off the field. This will be a close game as most divisional matchups are but the Bills should be able to pull it off as they will have home field advantage. This leaves the Patriots who at this moment should have been clinched the #2 seed and will be resting their starters, and the Bills should be able to beat Mallet (though he is really tall). If they don’t rest their starters, the Patriots might feel bad enough to give the Bills the win anyway.
Overall the Bills should be able to finish the season strong to be 9-7. The toughest game left is the Bucs game but I believe that the team is good enough to come away with the win. Even if 9-7 doesn’t get the Bills in the playoffs, it should still be considered a success. This was a team many predicted to finish in the dumpster and instead look to be a team that is a few pieces away from being a real contender. If it wasn’t for the injury to EJ Manuel and some bad coaching decisions early in the season (the NE game), this team would 8-3 or 7-4 and be nipping at the Patriots for the division. But sadly that did not happen and hopefully EJ and the coaches learned from those early mistakes to get better for the future.
Go Fighting Cutcliffes!