Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
What an odd weekend. The Bills beat the red hot Jags, the Dolphins beat the Patriots off a last-second interception, and Eli Manning collapses and has a 5 pick game therefore leading the NFL ahead of Jets rookie QB Geno Smith. The Bills move up to 5-9 and sadly are eliminated from playoff contention and must wait another year to reach the Promised Land. However this does not mean the Bills should just tank for draft position, which would be just silly. Instead the Bills can finish the season on a high note and play the spoiler role against two teams which are very much in the thick of the playoff hunt especially the Miami Dolphins. The next two games against the Dolphins and Patriots will be a test about where the Bills truly stand and what the future lies.
Through 15 weeks in the season the Bills are sort of stuck in who they are. On defense they are a team that is elite at rushing the passer and getting turnovers (lead the NFL in sacks and 3rd in INTs). However they stink against the run and have a habit of giving up the big play. On offense they are a run-first team which believes in running it up the gut over and over again even if it gains nothing. This is to alleviate pressure from rookie QB EJ Manuel and allow him to throw deep off play-action. Whenever they have the lead, they tend to be very conservative and play not to lose instead of playing to win which is why teams have a habit of coming back.
The last 2 weeks will be about developing the young players more than anything else. EJ Manuel, Kiko Alonso and Robert Woods all look like players who can contribute to the Bills long-term and are the three whose growth is most vital for the Bills. EJ Manuel has taken steps in his maturation and outside of the Bucs game has played well enough as a rookie. He has finally started to let it rip with the long ball and it is paying off. EJ has developed a nice connection with Robert Woods who looks to be the #1 WR on the Bills. Kiko Alonso has been a stud and although he looks to have hit a wall these past few weeks, is still a playmaker on defense.
Now with all this developing of young guys the Bills can still look for the win. The Dolphins are 8-6 and fighting for the 6th seed. All the fans for the team are getting cocky and arrogant and it would be just nice if the Bills took them down a notch and finish a season sweep against them. The weather in Buffalo looks to be windy and in the 30s which gives them a great home field advantage (something they would have more if it wasn’t for the Toronto game). If the Bills play to their strengths and pound the rock as well as making Ryan Tannehill run for his life, the Bills can pull off the upset. It will be tough as Tannehill is playing at an extremely high level and the Dolphins seem to be very good since Jonathan Martin left the team. But if the Bills want to be taken seriously, if they want to get that losing mentality out of the team, they need to play their A game and not the sloppy play of the last two weeks. If they do that, no reason for the Bills not to win.
Overall the Bills still have something to play for. The past 2 weeks are an important learning process for the young players and an evaluation process for the coaches on what future moves need to be made. The best way to make that process easier is to just win against the Dolphins.