Bye Week Check-Up – Buffalo Bills

Yesterday I reviewed the pole sitters of the AFC East, the New England Patriots.  Today it is time for the surprising second place team, the Buffalo Bills.  The day has struck an ominous tone already for the Bills, with Shawne Merriman being placed on IR for the 2nd time in as many seasons as a Buffalo Bill.  But there have been surprises and great performances aplenty during the Bills surprising start and ultimately the offense is what carries this team.  Here’s a look at the Bills:

Quarterbacks

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (134 for 202, 1,477 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs, 95.3 QBR), Brad Smith (0 for 1, 1 INT, 15 rushes for 70 yards, 1 TD) – Fitzpatrick has been a revelation for the Bills this season.  All tolled for the Bills in the last three seasons when he has played he has put up numbers akin to Jim Kelly in his prime.  Fitz is also one of the team’s biggest leaders and will be key in bouncing back from the pre-Bye Week loss to the Giants.  Brad Smith started to settle in as Wildcat QB before the break and should be used more often in the second half of the season.

Running Backs

  • Fred Jackson (106 for 601, 5.7 avg., 6 TDs, 880 total yards), C.J. Spiller (15 for 107, 7.1 avg., 1 TD, 162 total yards), Johnny White (8 for 26, 3.3 avg.), Corey McIntyre – Fred Jackson is an MVP candidate and perhaps the most versatile runner in the league.  Jackson has been so dominating that Spiller was reduced to a bit player despite his paltry 7 yard average until he stepped up to fill in for Donald Jones at WR, showing his own versatile.  Corey McIntyre is the unsung hero of the offense, he is a devastating blocker.

Wide Receivers

  • Stevie Johnson (33 for 382, 4 TDs, 22 1Ds), David Nelson (27 for 319, 2 TDs, 15 1Ds), Donald Jones (16 for 174, 1 TD, 7 1Ds), Naaman Roosevelt (7 for 129, 1 TD, 5 1Ds), Roscoe Parrish (1 for 16, 1 1D) – Stevie Johnson is proving to be a reliable #1 receiver even without Lee Evans besides him.  David Nelson just keeps getting better or better.  Jones lacks consistency but is prone to making a big play.  Roosevelt has reliable hands.  Parrish was a big blow to the offense when he was lost for the year.

Tight End

  • Scott Chandler (13 for 98, 4 TDs, 9 1Ds) – Chandler was a revelation early but his production has tapered off towards the bye.  Almost all of his catches are for first downs or touchdowns so it would be wise to get him the ball.

Offensive Line

  • Demetrius Bell, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Erik Pears, Chad Rinehart, Chris Hairston – This is by far the most surprising unit on the team, perhaps even the league.  Eric Wood and Andy Levitre have played like stars.  Kraig Urbik’s play makes me wonder what Pittsburgh was thinking when they waived him.  Bell and Pears are solid but inconsistent.  Hairston played well in relief of Bell and looks to have a future on the line.

Defensive Line

  • Dwan Edwards (25 tackles, 1 TFL), Marcell Dareus (15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL), Spencer Johnson (13 tackles, 1 sack), Kyle Williams (9 tackles, 1 TFL), Alex Carrington (5 tackles, 2 TFL), Kellen Heard (3 tackles), Torell Troup (2 tackles) – The most disappointing group on the team.  Kyle Williams in particular has been a disappointment coming off of his best season yet.  Torell Troup, who has been hurt and ineffective, has also been a disappointment.  Dareus is one of the loan bright spots but there are times where he is the only one that the opposing O-Line needs to focus on.  Alex Carrington is emerging and should get more playing time through the 2nd half of the year.

Linebackers

  • Nick Barnett (48 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF), Danny Batten (12 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR), Andra Davis (11 tackles), Kelvin Sheppard (10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR), Shawne Merriman (9 tackles, 1 sack), Arthur Moats (9 tackles), Chris Kelsay (7 tackles), Chris White (6 tackles, 2 FF), Kirk Morrison (1 tackle) – This may have been the most disappointing unit on the field if it weren’t for the D-Line and Nick Barnett, who has been outstanding and a huge upgrade over Paul Posluzny.  Andra Davis looks old and slow and Merriman is lost for the year.  The only hope for improvement is increased playing time and productivity from youngsters Sheppard, Moats, Batten, and the recently re-signed Antonio Coleman.

Defensive Backs

  • George Wilson (57 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 1 FF, 5 PD), Jairus Byrd (46 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR), Bryan Scott (32 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 2 PD), Leodis McKelvin (25 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 4 PD), Drayton Florence (20 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 PD), Terrence McGee (11 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PD), Aaron Williams (11 tackles), Reggie Corner (5 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PD), Da’Norris Searcy (1 tackle, 1 INT), Justin Rogers (1 tackle) – This one is truly a tale of two levels.  The safeties have been outstanding and the cornerbacks have underachieved.  Wilson and Byrd are playing at a Pro Bowl level.  Florence and McKelvin have both been wildly inconsistent in the early going.  McGee and Williams would help complete what should be a formidable Cornerback group if they could remain healthy.  The key to this group is consistency.

Coaching

  • Chan Gailey has been tremendous as both a motivator and a x’s and o’s guy for this team.  He will likely be in the running for NFL coach of the year if his team can keep up their pace.  Curtis Modkins is offensive coordinator in name only but he is also Running Backs coach, and the Bills running game is pretty damn good.  With the exception of the Philly game George Edwards has struggled to put his guys in position to put pressure on the Quarterback, which leaves the secondary vulnerable.

Remaining Schedule

  • Washington
  • NY Jets
  • @ Dallas
  • @ Miami
  • @ NY Jets
  • Tennessee
  • @ San Diego
  • Miami
  • Denver
  • @ New England

With that schedule I see no reason that the Bills can’t duplicate their success from the first 6 games and post at least a 6-4 record and get them to 10 wins for the first time this century.  The games vrs. the Jets will be crucial as they will probably play the rest of the season neck and neck.  The Bills offense will get healthier and their defense will get younger and if they can execute the may just be playing in January for the first time in 12 seasons.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

 

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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