105.5 The Team – A home meeting with the 2-8 Jaguars is just what the doctor ordered for a 5-5 Bills squad hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive. That dismal record didn’t stop Rex Ryan from calling Jacksonville the best two-win team he’s ever seen, so there’s no chance Buffalo is taking them lightly.
Here’s what they’ll have to do to get a win…
1) Force a turnover (or multiple)
Last week the Bills defense was able to end a four-game streak without an interception, by snaring two of them to help down the Bengals. Forcing turnovers will obviously help you win any game, but against a Jaguars team that boasts the worst turnover differential in the league (-15) it’s two fold. Jacksonville has created only seven turnovers for themselves, while giving the football away 22 times. As Ryan pointed out earlier in the week, that turnover margin is probably the biggest reason why a team littered with so much budding talent is only 2-8. Conversely, Buffalo is one of the leagues top teams when it comes to ball security, in fact through 10 weeks, their six total giveaways ties a record for the least amount of turnovers through this point of the season. Their plus eight turnover differential ranks fourth overall in the NFL. If the Bills can stay true to form in that regard and force a turnover or two like they did a week ago, they’ll have no problem beating Jacksonville.
2) Do what they do best, run the football
It’s no secret at this point, the Bills love to run the football. They’ve done so to the beat of a league best 157.8 yards per game. So against a defense that is yielding 113 yards per game (22nd most in the NFL), they should stick to what they do best; pound the rock. There is some concern in that LeSean McCoy is still recovering from the thumb procedure he had following Buffalo’s win over the Bengals. And that there’s no safety net behind him with Mike Gillislee, who’s already ruled out for the game. However, Rex Ryan said McCoy is ready for his usual workload, and will put his trust in the duo of Reggie Bush and rookie Jonathan Williams to spell him throughout.
3) Keep the penalties to a minimum
Through the first seven games of the season, Buffalo was actually doing a pretty good job limiting their penalties. Over that span they didn’t have a single contest with double-digit penalties, and the only game they even came close was when nine flags were accepted against them in Week 3 vs. Arizona. In those seven weeks they had amassed 49 total penalties. In the three weeks since, 32 penalties have gone against them. 12 against New England in Week 8, 11 out in Seattle in Week 10 and nine against Cincinnati. Now, of those nine last week, eight of them came in the first half, so the Bills made adjustments – adjustments that can hopefully become a trend for the rest of the season.
It’s all about the Bills 5-5 record. Over the course of their 16-year playoff drought, Buffalo has been 5-5 through 10 games, six times, including each of the last two season. Their final record in each of those six seasons: 8-8 in 2004, 7-9 in 2007, 7-9 in 2008, 6-10 in 2011, 9-7 in 2014 and 8-8 in 2015. Of those six occasions, they’ve gone on to win their next game only twice – in 2008 and 2014. This is very familiar water for the Bills and they’ve drowned short of the playoffs every time.
Interesting storyline: The obvious option would be Doug Marrone’s return to Buffalo, but there just isn’t much to that story considering Marrone is the O-line coach and that it doesn’t seem like most of his former players are concerned with, you know, winning a football game. It’s fun for us to talk about, but not really that important in the grand scheme of things. That said, there is a lot to focus on Sammy Watkins. Ryan declared him “good to go” after practice on Friday, so expect to see him used in a limited capacity. Can he be effective? Is his foot truly healed and will it hold up? These are questions that need answering on the field.
Three Bills have been ruled out for tomorrow’s game, including S Robert Blanton, RB Mike Gillislee and WR Robert Woods. It’s not looking good for Corbin Bryant as well who is listed as Doubtful. Gillislee is probably the biggest blow here, especially after the solid performance he had last week, filling in for LeSean McCoy. It goes without saying that Buffalo can’t afford another injury to McCoy without Gillislee at their disposal.
Seven players are listed as questionable: LB Lorenzo Alexandr, TE Charles Clay, T Cordy Glenn, WR Percy Harvin, T Seantrel Henderson, McCoy and of course Sammy Watkins. The biggest concerns of the group are Harvin, who missed the final two days of practice this week due to illness, and Henderson, who was absent from practice for what Ryan called “personal reasons.”
The Jaguars have ruled four players out at this point, including TE Julius Thomas. Another key offensive player, RB T.J. Yeldon is listed as questionable at this point.
Despite the 2-8 record, Jacksonville is a team riddled with talent. For whatever reason it just hasn’t led to many wins this season. The Bills defense still has to be mindful of their playmakers, regardless. Offensively, Sammy Watkins’ return to the field is a boost for the offense, but it’s unlikely he leaves a huge handprint on this game in a limited role. As usual, the run game will be their bread and butter. Assuming Shady avoids further injury, especially to his healing thumb, Buffalo should win this game on the back of that rushing attack and a solid defensive effort. The Bills need this game more and they’re still a little salty after last year’s pass interference debacle across the Pond in London. They’ll exact their revenge, 24-17.
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