ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Maybe watching the Cubs end a 108-year championship “curse” could serve as a little inspiration for Buffalo. Stuck in the midst of a 16-year playoff drought of their own, the 4-4 Bills can set the tone for the second half of their season with a win in Seattle on Monday night.
Easier said than done at CenturyLink Field, known across the NFL as the “12th man” for it’s outrageous volume levels.
Challenging or not Rex Ryan called the game a “must-win,” earlier in the week,” a notion he reiterated on Thursday when the team returned to practice at One Bills Dr.
“I think every game as a coach you go in and say ‘this is a must game,’ we’re halfway through the season,”Ryan remarked. “You know there’s a lot of football left to be played and we’ve had some points brought up about our AFC record, and it’s not where we want it to be.
“But I do think that we play seven of the next eight games against AFC opponents so things can drastically change, you know, as you get going in the season. But we have to approach it as it’s a must game, and I think that’s for the rest of the way out.”
At the midway point of the season that 4-4 record is a bit deceiving, considering three of those wins have came against the NFC West in the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers. Seattle will be the fourth and final non-conference game Buffalo will play this season, as they look to complete the sweep, Monday night.
“It’s huge for us. Obviously this is probably another top five team in the NFL,” LB Lorenzo Alexander said. “They have a great defense, great playmakers on offense, so for us to be able to go in there and come out with a victory is huge. Not only to show that we can compete and get back on a winning streak, but also for our playoff hopes.
“You don’t want to look that far ahead but each game is very important and at this point we still control our own destiny.”
Ironically enough the last two times Buffalo won all four games against their scheduled NFC division – 2004 and 2014 – they finished the season a game above .500 at 9-7. That coincidence is fun for trivia, but it doesn’t add much substance to the Bills pursuit of the postseason right now, especially when you consider 9-7 wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs in either of those seasons.
A win in Seattle is certainly important, but what awaits after a bye week in Week 10 is supremely so. The Bills last seven games of 2016 feature strictly AFC opponents, and with only one intra-conference win through the first eight games of the season, those final seven contests become crucial in regards to playoff tiebreaks.
“It’s a must-win. Every game for the rest of the year is a must-win,” DT Marcell Dareus said. “Everyone has to push themselves, everyone is hurt, everyone is sore, everyone is beat down; but we have to push through. We gotta squeeze this game out to start the second half of the season on the best foot we can.”
Over the last 10 seasons only the 2006 Kansas City Chiefs and the 2011 New York Giants made the playoffs after finishing the regular season below .500 against their conference. Of course those Giants were an anomaly, advancing to the Super Bowl and upsetting New England 21-17.
Another Eight teams over that same span have finished at an even 6-6 and gone on to make the playoffs. The numbers are already working against Buffalo.
“It’s a very big game for us, especially coming off of two losses,” Quarterback Tyrod Taylor echoed. “[We’re] going out there and playing a very good team. It’s definitely a big road game for us and just a big game for the season.”
Without question a win on Monday night against Seattle would do wonders for the Bills playoff hopes. A loss on the other hand would make their margin for error, ice thin.
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