This has been a rough year for the Buffalo Bills, a team that came in with high expectations driven by a new head coach and a new quarterback at the helm. Mario Williams and the defense where a tough group last year and this season was to be no different if not better. A string of injuries have made this 2013 venture a little tougher then expected for the Buffalo team starting with the odd injury to Kevin Kolb in the pre-season over a mat and a tripping incident that ended his season. EJ Manuel was named the starter and the Bills went on ahead. Unfortunately in week 4 Manuel sustained another injury that sidelined him for 5 games and it has been a rough ride.
EJ Manuel was recently cleared to return and the expectations to win once again will be there for the young quarterback. Now the season might just be over for the Bills but we still have 7 games left to play and anything can happen in the NFL. Buffalo will be facing a far easier schedule than they did for the first half of the season taking on an injury ridden Falcon team, a winless Buccaneers and Jaguars and a Dolphin team in disarray and a bye week to boot. The toughest opponents will be with in the division in the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. Unfortunately for the Bills any loss could just be the final nail in the coffin.
So will the return of EJ Manuel be exactly what the Bills need to get them to 10-6 and a shot at the wild card? Lets see what the numbers say: As a starter, Manuel had a 56.7% completion percentage, threw for 985 yards and 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. The rest of the Bills revolving quarterbacks managed 54.3% of their completions, 961 yards thrown and 4 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.
On paper the difference is slight but one thing that EJ Manuel does bring is the mobility and the spark that the Bills need right now. Manuel averages 3.6 yards a carry on 25 runs and at 6’5″ 240 lbs he is a tough man to bring down not to mention the added planning the opposing team must do to contain the young QB. Now that he is back, there is a glimmer of hope but the NFL doesn’t count moral victories and a few more things need to happen to get this team back on track.
keys to The Remaining Season:
Stop the self inflicting injuries: The Bills defense is the 8th most penalized in the league and getting a flag on every 7th play will not get it done.
Tighten up the defense: Allowing 26.2 points a game when you have the number 2 sack leader in the NFL with Mario Williams is unacceptable.
The running game: CJ Spiller looks to be coming back for week 10 and he must stay as healthy as possible for the remaining match-ups. Even with a high ankle sprain against the Chiefs, Spiller managed 155 yards on 15 carries but just having him on the backfield makes for a tougher offense.
Buffalo fans should be happy to see their quarterback back in action but it is still a tall hill to climb and they shouldn’t expect too much. The possibility for a play-off run is there with the next five opponents ranking in the bottom half of the league in defensive passer rating but the error margins are very slim.