W2W4: Buffalo Bills

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (8-6) will travel cross-country to meet the Oakland Raiders (2-12) on Sunday at O.co Coliseum (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

Here is what to watch for from the Bills' side:

1. Strength against weakness: We led off the past two weeks dissecting how the Bills' defense was meeting its opponent's strength, namely the offenses of the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. This week, the situation is almost entirely reversed, and the Bills' defense is meeting the Raiders' main weakness -- their offense. Consider some of their league rankings:
  • QBR: 27th (Bills' defense: 1st)
  • Yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 5th)
  • Yards per play: 32nd (Bills' defense: 4th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 9th)
  • Passing yards per game: 24th (Bills' defense: 5th)
  • First downs per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: tied-8th)
2. Easing in Spiller: The Bills activated C.J. Spiller to their 53-man roster Friday and he's expected to play Sunday. But how much will he play? That could be a more of an issue of "feel" and how Spiller reacts to his first contact and first live reps in over two months. "The only concern I have is -- it’s not really being in shape, but to be able to play and run plays in and out, in and out, in and out and to make sure his conditioning is right at that level," coach Doug Marrone said Thursday. "It seems to be OK. I think it will just get better. I know he looks explosive. He’s moving well." With Fred Jackson on the field for more than 70 percent of the snaps the past three weeks, I wouldn't expect Spiller to return and all of the sudden take the lion's share of carries in the backfield. Instead, it's more reasonable that the Bills will ease him into some plays as both a runner and receiver and if the results are there, keep at it.

3. Scoreboard watching: While it's necessary for the Bills to secure a victory Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll need a lot of help during the next two weeks from other teams. That means they'll have to watch the scoreboard Saturday, Sunday, and Monday with several AFC contenders in action in the three-day span. FiveThirtyEight has a terrific tool that lays out each game's impact on the Bills' playoff chances, which currently sit at 5.2 percent. Here are the positive outcomes for the Bills:
  • Bills defeat Raiders: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.4 percent.
  • Houston Texans defeat Baltimore Ravens: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.1 percent.
  • Denver Broncos defeat Cincinnati Bengals: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.7 percent.
  • San Francisco 49ers defeat San Diego Chargers: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.5 percent.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers beat Kansas City Chiefs: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.4 percent.
4. Going for first win in Oakland since 1966: If the Bills take care of business Sunday and improve to 9-6, it would be their first victory in Oakland since 1966. Here are their previous meetings with the Raiders, in Oakland, since that game:
  • Oct. 23, 2005: Loss, 38-17
  • Sept. 19, 2004: Loss, 13-10
  • Nov. 28, 1977: Loss, 34-13
  • Oct. 15, 1972: Loss, 28-16
  • Oct. 19, 1969: Loss, 50-21
  • Nov. 28, 1968: Loss, 13-10
  • Dec. 24, 1967: Loss, 28-21

RB C.J. Spiller active for Bills

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
2:32
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller is expected to play against the host Oakland Raiders on Sunday, a league source told ESPN's Adam Caplan.

The Bills activated Spiller on Friday, after he missed the last eight weeks due to a broken collarbone. He suffered the injury against Minnesota in Week 7.

Buffalo had until 4 p.m. ET Saturday to activate Spiller.

Spiller's return should be a boost for Buffalo's struggling running game. The Bills rank 24th in the league in rushing with an average of 97.5 yards per game.

The Bills (8-6) opened a roster spot for Spiller on Tuesday when they released fullback Frank Summers. Spiller is officially listed as probable for Sunday's game against Oakland (2-12).

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


(Read full post)


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills submitted paperwork Friday morning to add running back C.J. Spiller to their 53-man roster.

Spiller
Spiller, who has been on injured reserve with a designation to return, is probable to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.

Spiller (collarbone) was a limited participant in each practice this week.

Here is the Bills' full injury report for Sunday's game:

Questionable:
TE Chris Gragg (knee; limited participation)

Probable:
S Duke Williams (concussion; limited participation)
RB Anthony Dixon (chest; full participation)
K Dan Carpenter (groin; limited participation)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring; limited participation)
RB Spiller (shoulder; limited participation)
WR Marcus Thigpen (foot; limited participation)
CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder; limited participation)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee; limited participation)

Prediction: Bills will beat Raiders

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
1:00
PM ET
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At 8-6 in a crowded AFC playoff field, this is a game the Bills absolutely must win. At 2-12, the Raiders aren't playing for much at this point.

That makes this a favorable matchup for the Bills, even considering their cross-country trip. If Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ top-scoring offense could only muster 13 points against the Bills’ defense, there is no reason for the Raiders to score any points.

They rank 32nd in a slew of offensive categories, including yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per play, net yards per pass attempt and first downs per game.

In other words, game over.

My prediction: Bills 17, Raiders 3

Bills vs. Raiders preview

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
8:00
AM ET
video When: 4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland TV: CBS

The Buffalo Bills have the longest playoff drought in the NFL. It’s been 15 years since this franchise has tasted the postseason.

The Oakland Raiders are right behind them in the playoff futility chase. Oakland is tied with Cleveland for the second-longest playoff drought. Oakland hasn’t been to the postseason since 2002.

The Raiders are going to try to keep from moving up on this dubious list by attempting to knock off the visiting Bills Sunday. The Bills are 8-6 and their playoff hopes are alive. Oakland is 2-12 and is in play for the No. 1 overall pick.

ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson preview the game:

Rodak: Bill, what's your gut feeling on the Raiders' future in Oakland? Could this be the last game they play at O.co Coliseum?

Williamson: Yes, we could be on the cusp of the final game in Oakland. It is not out of the question that the Raiders move back to Los Angeles for the 2015 season. Oakland owner Mark Davis is on the record as saying he wants to stay in Oakland, but it has to be with a new stadium. The team does not have a lease to play in Oakland next season. Davis is also saying he’d be open to playing in L.A., or even San Antonio, if a new stadium deal in Oakland isn’t reached. The Raiders are not close to a new deal in Oakland. While L.A. is possible and we hear a lot about it, I think we have to actually see the Raiders move to Los Angeles before I'll believe it. Everything is in play.

Mike, the Bills, on the other hand, are set with their new leadership. Do you think the stability has changed the entire feeling around the franchise?

Rodak: Without a doubt. There were always fears about the team moving to Los Angeles, or more recently, Toronto. The team faced blackout issues for games in recent seasons, while funding for a new stadium was an issue in a small market. In truth, there would have been more outside suitors for the team had the Bills’ lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium not been so restrictive -- a victory for the county and state. In the end, the Bills found owners for the team in Terry and Kim Pegula who had both local ties and the capital necessary to win the bidding. While much remains to be decided about a new stadium, when it will be built and how it will be funded, any thoughts of the team relocating have passed.

Bill, if the Bills are going to draft a quarterback this spring, it will almost certainly have to be in the second round or later -- they don't have a first-round pick. The Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round last May; has he shown signs he can be Oakland's franchise quarterback?

Williamson: The Raiders could trade their top pick to a team wanting to draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston for a gaggle of selections. The Raiders like Carr. Even if there is a brand-new regime in Oakland, which is very likely, I’d think Carr will be the guy. He has a great arm, he’s poised and he’s a leader. Give him more talent and he should be a quality player for the long haul.

Mike, the Bills made a big trade up in the draft this year to get Sammy Watkins. Could you see them perhaps being a trade partner with the Raiders in their search for a quarterback?

Rodak: I do think that the Bills must get creative at quarterback. Given what we saw out of EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton this season, it would be a tough sell to fans to turn back to either next season without a clear backup plan. I don’t see the Bills having interest in either of the Raiders’ backups, Matt Schaub or Matt McGloin. The names that have been the subject of media-based speculation include Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III, although it’s unclear if either will become available or if the Bills would have interest. As far as the Bills and Raiders trading draft picks, I see that as unlikely. The Raiders could select as high as first overall, and having already sent their first-round pick to Cleveland in the Watkins trade, the Bills don’t have anywhere near the ammunition to move that high in the draft.

Bill, wins have been a rarity for the Raiders this year, but they were able to beat the Chiefs, a team that is fighting with the Bills for an AFC wild-card spot. What would be the formula for Oakland to repeat that sort of performance against Buffalo?

Williamson: Playing at home won’t hurt. Both of their wins came at home. The Raiders get a lot of energy from their fans. The Raiders won those two games with timely offense. They ran the ball and Carr was terrific when it counted in both games. The offense has not been good for most of the season. If this offense can play a clean, clutch game, Oakland can end the home slate on a good note.

Mike, could you see the Bills letting down against the Raiders after their big win over Green Bay?

Rodak: I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility. The Bills put a lot of energy into trying to topple Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers over the past two weeks, and now they’ll need to take a six-hour plane ride across the country Friday night. Road trips that long can be draining at this time of the season. If the Bills have a “letdown” game in Oakland, I think the formula would be what has plagued them in other losses this season: an inability to score on offense. The Bills have the NFL’s 31st-ranked red zone offense and might not have won against Green Bay had they not scored on defense and special teams. Unless the Raiders have a meltdown as the Jets did against the Bills twice this season, the Bills most likely will need to find a way to put the ball in the end zone.

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As impressive as the Buffalo Bills' defense has been this season, their offense has been inconsistent, mostly at quarterback.

Some of the heat for that has fallen on offensive coordinator Nate Hackett, but coach Doug Marrone -- who brought Hackett along from Syracuse last season -- deflected blame away from Hackett on Thursday.

"If there's any blame, it should be on me [for] anything that happens with our football team, first of all," Marrone said. "I think secondly, if it was a problem with one thing, it would be very easy to fix. It's really collective.

"And that's probably 99 percent of all the problems that occur when you're on the team. Sometimes a play will point out somebody, but at the end of the day when you're evaluating all the plays, it's just a matter of trying to get 11 guys to be [as] efficient as they can, and when everyone has a clean opportunity to get it done, does that player get it done or not, and that's how you evaluate it."

How would Marrone sum up Hackett's job as coordinator?

"Those are things that I would talk with Nathaniel about," Marrone said. "[When] we go through a process after the season, like everybody knows, we'll sit down and talk. It's been two years now. We've gone through, I don't know, how many quarterbacks that we've played. We're playing with a quarterback that wasn't in our training camp.

"I think all of those things are pretty big challenges when you're trying to get things going from an offensive standpoint."
 ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills had perfect attendance at practice Thursday in advance of their trip to Oakland this weekend.

Here is the team's full injury report:

Limited participation:
WR Marcus Thigpen (foot)
K Dan Carpenter (groin)
S Duke Williams (concussion protocol)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
TE Chris Gragg (knee)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring)
CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder)
RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)

Full participation:
RB Anthony Dixon (chest)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice with an illness.

 With Chandler returning, the Bills had perfect attendance at Thursday's practice, with all 52 players on their 53-man roster practicing.

Running back C.J. Spiller, who remains on injured reserve, also took part.

Wide receiver Mike Williams, on injured reserve, watched the start of practice from the sideline.
As the Buffalo Bills' defense has emerged as one of the NFL's best, one veteran player has been lost in the shuffle.

Rivers
Linebacker Keith Rivers -- a former first-round pick who started 47 games from 2008 through 2013 -- has seen his role virtually evaporate in recent months.

Rivers, 28, was an opening-day starter for the Bills before a groin injury knocked him out of the next two games. He returned to start in Weeks 4 and 6, but since then has barely seen the field behind top linebackers Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham.

Here is a look at Rivers' snaps this season:

Week 1: 38 defense, 7 special teams
Week 2: Inactive (injured)
Week 3: Inactive (injured)
Week 4: 58 defense, 12 special teams
Week 5: 17 defense, 6 special teams
Week 6: 41 defense, 4 special teams
Week 7: 6 defense, 0 special teams
Week 8: 1 defense, 8 special teams
Week 10: 6 defense, 11 special teams
Week 11: Active, did not play
Week 12: 10 defense, 1 special teams
Week 13: Active, did not play
Week 14: 0 defense, 4 special teams
Week 15: 1 defense, 0 special teams

Has this season met Rivers' expectations for his playing time?

"It's fine," Rivers said Wednesday. "I'm just enjoying being part of the Buffalo Bills and potentially getting to the playoffs."

Rivers signed a two-year deal in March that includes a $1.6 million base salary next season. The Bills' group of linebackers is already shaping up well for next season, with Brown and Bradham set to be joined by Kiko Alonso once he returns from a knee injury.

That could spell trouble for Rivers, but he hasn't given much thought to his future quite yet.

"I have no idea," Rivers said. "Just see what happens."
Ask any other Oakland Raiders player about Elmo's restaurant in Getzville, New York, and you'd probably get a blank stare.

Mack
But ask defensive end Khalil Mack about the University at Buffalo-area hangout, and he knows exactly what you're talking about.

The former UB standout and Raiders rookie -- selected fifth overall by the Raiders in May -- gave the establishment a shout-out on his conference call with Buffalo reporters Wednesday, in advance of the Buffalo Bills' trip to play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

"I would be lying to you if I told you this wasn't a game that I knew was coming," Mack said. "My guy from Elmo's, my guy Adam, told me, "Y'all play the Bills at home later on in the season. Take it easy on those Bills, OK?'

"And I was like, 'Oh, man. You know I can't do that Adam.'"

Mack is a Florida native but spent four years in Buffalo, emerging as one of the draft's best prospects last spring.

"You know this game is a big deal, especially for them, because they're die hard down there in Buffalo," he said. "It's gonna be a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Despite releasing fullback Frank Summers on Tuesday to clear a roster spot, the Buffalo Bills have yet to add running back C.J. Spiller to their 53-man roster.

Spiller
Spiller remains on injured reserve with a designation to return. The team has until Dec. 24 (21 days after he returned to practice) to add him to their 53-man roster, but they must make that move by 4 p.m. ET Saturday for him to be eligible to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.

The Bills listed Spiller as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, the beginning of his third week of practice since returning from a broken collarbone.

"I'm not gonna sit up here and say he didn't look good," coach Doug Marrone said after Wednesday's practice. "He looked good, but he's still working his way back into the football part of it."

Spiller last played in a win Oct. 19 over the Minnesota Vikings.

"I feel good," Spiller said Wednesday. "We'll see how the rest of the week goes, to be honest."

The Bills have yet to make a decision on whether Spiller will play Sunday in Oakland. If the Bills' want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, it's a game they must win.

"Obviously that does play a big factor," he said, "but at the same time, be smart about it."
Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus topped fan voting among defensive tackles for the 2015 Pro Bowl.

Dareus
Fan voting, which accounts for one-third of the selection process, ended Dec. 15. Final selections, which will be announced Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET, will also take into account votes from players and coaches.

Dareus received 331,006 votes, with Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea (297,826 votes) finishing second at the position.

No other Bills players topped fan voting at their positions for the 2015 Pro Bowl, which will be played Jan. 25 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Last season, Dareus and linebacker Kiko Alonso both topped fan voting at their respective positions but were not initially selected to the Pro Bowl. Dareus was later selected as an alternate.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler missed Wednesday's practice with an illness.

It's unclear if Chandler will return to practice Thursday. He is the fifth player in the past three weeks to miss Wednesday's practice with an illness. In each case, the player returned the next day.

Here is the Bills' full injury report Wednesday:

Did not participate:
TE Scott Chandler (illness)

Limited participation:
K Dan Carpenter (groin)
S Duke Williams (concussion protocol)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
TE Chris Gragg (knee)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring)
CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder)
RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)

Full participation:
RB Anthony Dixon (chest)
The Buffalo Bills helped their playoff cause with an an upset win against the Green Bay Packers, but it might not be enough.

Even with a victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders, the Bills can still be eliminated from postseason contention by Monday night.

In fact, the entire AFC playoff field can be determined by the end of Week 16. Here's how that could happen, per ESPN Stats & Information: Even if the Chargers defeat the 49ers, preventing the Ravens from clinching a spot, it would be bad news for the Bills. The Chargers, with a Week 3 win in Buffalo, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills.

Likewise, a Steelers' loss could also have a negative effect on the Bills, as the Chiefs also hold the head-to-head advantage over the Bills.

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