The Bills at 3-3 aren’t the same as the Patriots at 3-3. In fact, it is hard to believe that the Bills have arrived at the same record as the team that rolled them only two weeks ago.
However, sports are more about the destination, not the journey. So far the destination for the Bills is the exact same as a number of teams who, on paper, would likely be considered vastly superior. Yet, the Bills head into their final game before the bye against a beatable opponent and the opportunity to climb back above .500.
Tennessee is a team that has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, but they certainly are a good matchup for the Bills. Considering the Bills nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Arizona, there will still need to be a few improvements made in order to beat the Titans.
Run, run and run some more – The run game is clearly the strength of the offense. Not only has the line proven capable of holding up well without two starters, they’re still capable of road grading for the Bills’ two backs. CJ Spiller’s draft position is really becoming quite clear as he picks up more and more chunk yardage on a weekly basis and may just be establishing himself as the primary option in the Bills backfield.
Fred Jackson is equally effective, picking up just over 50 yards on Sunday in roughly half the time a typical starter would get. So he is still a fine option for the Bills on the ground. The apparent issue is that Chan Gailey is still somewhat committed to throwing the football. A perfect example of that being his play calling in overtime. Given the culture of the NFL, the Bills cannot ignore the passing game. However, they can certainly allow the run to dictate the pass. That is something they haven’t done yet.
Corner Support – It may not have been blatantly obvious during the game, but it appeared as if Aaron Williams was taken off the field by the coaching staff when the game got tight. Williams hasn’t proven much of anything this season as he has been torched at least once a week for a deep ball. Williams’ biggest issue is that his makeup speed is sacrificed since he can turn his hips well to run with receivers. While Stephon Gilmore seems to be progressing with his abilities, Williams has been relatively stagnant and ineffective at times.
Ron Brooks is on his way back from his foot surgery, but he won’t be able to be counted upon for at least a few weeks after his return to the lineup. In the meantime the only options outside of Williams are a one-legged Terrence Mcgee and the always enigmatic Ledois McKelvin. Can the Bills survive this week with Williams as their starter? Probably. But heading into their matchup with Houston and their trip to New England, things will need to change.
#FitzNoodle – Ryan Fitzpatrick just hasn’t been what the Bills need him to be this year. Well, he’s been about on par with the type of quarterback he’s been for a long time. It just so happens that isn’t the quarterback the Bills need. The 2011 version of Fitzpatrick was lights out for six weeks and then lights off for the next nine, or so. The chunks of good play last year have been substituted with streaks of good and bad within individual games this season. A safe bet would be that some of the blame can be placed on the new mechanics he was shown this offseason. More blame can be placed on opposing coaches having tape on him and knowing to sit on outside routes and feasting on weakly thrown passes.
For the Bills to succeed, the passing game needs to be a realistic threat. Stevie Johnson has proven to be an impressive commodity and has been difficult to cover. However, his quarterback can’t get him the ball in situations to score points. Finding a way to tweak the offense a bit more in Fitz’s favor (in terms of playcalling) should not only put him in better situations to find open receivers, but would also give Gailey the opportunity to feature his team as more of a run-first bunch.