W2W4: Bills at Jets

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (4-3) will look to string together back-to-back wins as they travel to face the New York Jets (1-6) on Sunday.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Addressing the backfield: By far the biggest story coming out of Western New York this week was a reshuffled backfield following injuries to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. As far as how the Bills will split carries, let's keep it simple: They know what they have in Anthony Dixon and he's been productive when called upon this season (5.1 yard average on 27 carries), so the Bills aren't suddenly going to turn away from him. Rather, expect Dixon to be the "lead" back and for Bryce Brown to work into the mix. If he shows well, he could get more carries; if he doesn't, he probably won't.

2. Getting ahead on scoreboard: The Bills' offense hasn't started a drive with a lead for their last 46 possessions, or since EJ Manuel was intercepted by J.J. Watt in the third quarter of Buffalo's Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans. That means Kyle Orton has gone under center either trailing or locked in a tied game. In general, that has created more of a dependence on the passing game, so if the Bills fall behind again Sunday it won't matter whether Dixon or Brown is receiving carries; what matters will again be Orton's ability to move the ball through the air.

3. Containing Harvin: The greatest challenge for Jim Schwartz and the Bills' defense will be to figure out what the Jets are doing with Percy Harvin, their new offensive chess piece. Even if he doesn't touch the ball, it would make sense for the Jets to use Harvin in as many formations and motions as they can. The big-play threat that Harvin poses might be enough to draw the Bills defense's attention away from other players. Something to consider, however: Schwartz, as coach of the Detroit Lions, coached seven times against Harvin when he played for the Minnesota Vikings. There's a level of familiarity there for Schwartz that could translate to a higher comfort level in scheming against Harvin.

Here's a deeper look at how Harvin has fared against Schwartz:

Harvin against Schwartz-coached defenses (seven games):
Receptions per game: 5.4
Receiving yards per game: 51.9
Yards after catch per reception: 5.8
Pass targets per routes run: 35.6 percent
Rushing yards per game: 17.6

Harvin against all other defenses (53 games):
Receptions per game: 5.0
Receiving yards per game: 58.3
Yards after catch per reception: 6.5
Pass targets per routes run: 33.7 percent
Rushing yards per game: 12.3

4. Finishing first half strong: After going winless in their final game before the bye week for more than a decade, the Bills snapped that skid last season with a 37-14 win over the Jets. Another win over New York could pull the Bills even in the AFC East again if the Patriots lose at home to the Chicago Bears. If the opposite happens, and the Bills drop to 4-4 while the Patriots improve to 6-2, the Bills will return from their bye week in a tough spot, effectively down three games in the division with eight remaining.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) is doubtful for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

Goodwin pulled up with the injury in practice last week and did not participate this week.

Meanwhile, special-teams ace Marcus Easley (knee) is questionable for Sunday's game. Coach Doug Marrone said they will test Easley before the game to see if he can play.

Safety Aaron Williams (neck) is also questionable.

Here is the Bills' full Friday injury report:

LB Ty Powell (ankle; did not participate)
RB Fred Jackson (groin; did not participate)

WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring; did not participate)

WR Marcus Easley (knee; limited participation)
S Aaron Williams (neck; limited participation)

DE Mario Williams (thumb; full participation)
WR Sammy Watkins (groin; full participation)
LB Brandon Spikes (ribs; full participation)
CB Ron Brooks (groin; limited participation)

Prediction: Jets will beat Bills

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Can the Buffalo Bills snap their streak in the Meadowlands? They have never won in MetLife Stadium, losing each year there since that facility opened in 2010.

The New York Jets haven't done too much well this season but they've been able to get to the quarterback. Their 20 sacks are tied for sixth in the NFL. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton has been sacked 11 times over the past two weeks. Pass protection has been a creeping problem for the Bills and their deficiencies might catch up to them in the Meadowlands.

With question marks at running back, a shaky offensive line, and a Jets team desperate for a win at home, this is a game that could pose trouble for the Bills.

My prediction: Jets 17, Bills 13

Bills vs. Jets preview

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Since taking over the New York Jets in 2009, Rex Ryan is 7-3 against the Buffalo Bills -- the only team in the AFC East he can beat on a fairly consistent basis. Now Ryan and the Jets could be on the verge of losing that.

The Jets (1-6), losers of six straight, are heading nowhere. The Bills (4-3), in their second season under Doug Marrone, still have a chance to make something of their season. They meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini and ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak discuss the matchup:

Cimini: Let's start with the quarterbacks. The Kyle Orton-for-EJ Manuel switch has worked out well. Why is that? What does it mean for Manuel's future? It's interesting because the Jets have a similar dynamic with Geno Smith and Michael Vick, yet they decided to ride it out with Smith.

Rodak: I'm not sure if the change has been night and day, but in general, Orton has shown a greater willingness to sling some passes where Manuel may have been more tentative.

Through the first four games, Manuel had a QBR of 19.8, a completion rate of 58 percent and 6.4 yards per attempt. In his three starts, Orton has a QBR of 40.7, a completion rate of 68.5 percent and 7.2 yards per attempt. Orton hasn't played mistake-free football, with an interception in each of his three games, including a pick-six. But unless those mistakes multiply, don't expect Manuel back in the lineup anytime soon. Orton gives the Bills the best shot at the playoffs. If Orton leads the Bills to the postseason, he is likely their full-time starter going forward. If he doesn't, perhaps Manuel gets another shot, but it's no guarantee it's under the current coaching staff.

Why have the Jets decided to ride it out with Smith? What happened to the quarterback who lit up the Bills for a career-high 331 yards at MetLife last September?

Cimini: That quarterback is like a telephone bill; he shows up once a month. Smith is sometimes solid, rarely spectacular and often mistake-prone. Now I will say this: He is coming off his best game of the year, a no-turnover performance in last week's crushing loss to the New England Patriots. Smith is at his best when he uses his legs to get out of trouble, and he ran seven times for 37 yards in the game. The question is, can he sustain it? Unlike the Bills, the Jets decided to endure the weekly growing pains instead of turning to the veteran backup. Two explanations: They are really down on Vick, or they made a predetermination to devote the entire season to Smith's development. Either way, it doesn't cast the organization in a positive light.

With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson injured, who's left at running back, Mike? Can Thurman Thomas still play?

Rodak: Well, Thomas has been out at practice a few times this season and still looks the part. Maybe, with one more injury, he'll get his call. Until then, the Bills are going to roll with Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown in the backfield. When you consider some of the other backup situations around the league, it could be a lot worse. They are both experienced backs who were somewhat phased out of their former teams' offenses. I get the sense both have a chip on their shoulder. Marrone said Wednesday that he wasn't "as concerned about that situation" as some may think. In truth, while Spiller was injured on a 53-yard run, he was one of the NFL's worst running backs from a statistical standpoint over the past month.

I guess the big story in New York is Percy Harvin. How much of a role will he have in this game?

Cimini: The Jets haven't revealed too much, as you'd expect, but I expect him to play a good chunk of the snaps on offense. Will he play 50-plus snaps? I doubt it, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's out there for 20 or 30. They will have a Percy package that will include his signature plays -- jet sweeps, bubble screens, etc. -- but I also think they will give him an opportunity to be a conventional wide receiver. This much we do know: He will return kickoffs and, possibly, punts. Harvin's arrival definitely adds intrigue to the season. Now we'll see if he's worth the hype. My gut tells me he won't make a significant impact. It's hard to integrate a new receiver into the offense without having had the benefit of training camp.

Speaking of fast receivers, Sammy Watkins is coming off his best game. Give us your take on his progression, Mike. Do the Bills have any second thoughts about making the trade for him?

Rodak: Watkins has shown few, if any, limitations that you might expect from a rookie. He had a few quieter games, but generally he has been one of the best players on the field each week. That's what the Bills expected -- a player who can step in right away and perform -- and that's what they're getting. Still, I think time will tell if trading up for him was the right move. The Bills consider him a "generational" talent, but it's debatable whether it was worth giving up two first-round picks for a nonquarterback. The Falcons, who gave up the house to grab Julio Jones, are one example of a team that may have benefited from saving their draft choices and building across the roster.

In particular, the Bills could be hurting next spring when they don't have a first-round pick to use on a quarterback. That's the underlying problem with the Bills' trade; Watkins can be a perennial 1,000-yard receiver, but if the rest of the offense isn't up to snuff, what good does he do you? Consider that Watkins is on pace for 990 yards this season but the Bills still rank near the bottom of the NFL in most offensive categories.

What has happened to the Jets' defense? They ranked 13th in third-down defense last season; they rank 27th this year. They were fourth-best in the red zone in 2013 and are fifth-worst this season. What's to blame for the drop?

Cimini: Oh, man, I could ramble for a long time on this topic. First, let me throw out a couple of other numbers: The defense has allowed a league-high 11 touchdowns on third down and generated only three takeaways -- and one of those was a gift, a botched snap.

What makes the swoon so puzzling is that the Jets are one of the better pass-rushing teams in the league (20 sacks), which should be the foundation to a strong defense -- in theory. The problem is they have no playmakers in the back seven/eight. Their linebackers and defensive backs have combined for one interception and two forced fumbles. The cornerback play is pedestrian. They have been undermined by injuries (Dee Milliner), defections (Dimitri Patterson) and poor personnel decisions. It's so bad that Ryan has resorted to playing more zone coverage than ever before. Somehow the Jets are ranked ninth in total defense, but don't let that fool you. This isn't a top-10 defense.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills had no changes to their Thursday injury report.

 Special teams ace Marcus Easley remained a limited participant in practice. Coach Doug Marrone did not rule him out of Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin remained out of practice with a hamstring injury.

"I'm just rehabbing and trying to get better each day," Goodwin said Thursday.

Did not participate:
WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
LB Ty Powell (ankle)
RB Fred Jackson (groin)

Limited participation:
WR Marcus Easley (knee)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

Full participation:
DE Mario Williams (thumb)
WR Sammy Watkins (groin)
LB Brandon Spikes (ribs)

Inside Edge: Bills-Jets

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23


ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Buffalo at the New York Jets.
What's the best way to rank defenses?

Is it points allowed? Yards allowed? Turnovers forced? There isn't one right answer, but one of the better methods is to combine a group of statistics and create an index.

ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi's defensive index does just that, and the Buffalo Bills' defense is treated favorably, ranking second in the NFL behind the Detroit Lions.

Bruschi combines a defense's ranks in turnovers, third-down conversions, red-zone efficiency, points allowed per game and sacks to arrive at his index ranking.

One surprise on the list? The Seattle Seahawks' vaunted defense falling to dead last in the ranking.

Bills have NFL's third-most penalties

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
Through seven games, the Buffalo Bills are outpacing their 2013 squad in penalties.

The Bills rank third in the NFL with 61 penalties for 527 yards. Entering Week 8 last season, the Bills ranked seventh with 52 penalties for 452 yards.

Buffalo has good company atop the penalty leaderboard, however. Five of the NFL's 10 most-penalized teams have winning records, including the 5-2 New England Patriots, who lead all teams with 63 penalties this season.

Here is a look at the most penalized Bills players:

DE Jerry Hughes -- 7
CB Leodis McKelvin -- 6
S Duke Williams -- 4
CB Stephon Gilmore -- 4
G Cyril Richardson -- 4
TE Lee Smith -- 3
WR Sammy Watkins -- 3
(10 tied with 2 apiece)

Holding (offensive) -- 11
Holding (defensive) -- 9
Pass interference (defensive) -- 8
Offsides (defensive) -- 8
False start -- 7
Unnecessary roughness -- 4
Illegal formation -- 4

Christopher Harris analyzes what Bryce Brown will bring to the Bills and your fantasy team.

John Clayton shows why the value of defensive tackles has skyrocketed with the quicker pace of the passing game.
Two weeks ago, we checked up on FiveThirtyEight's weekly ratings, which gave the Buffalo Bills a 32 percent chance at making the playoffs.

Let's take another stroll through Nate Silver's neighborhood.

His latest Elo ratings have the Bills projected to finish with 8.1 wins, down from 8.4 wins two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Buffalo's chances of winning the division have decreased from 24 percent to 10 percent.

Most notably, the Bills' chances of making the playoffs -- based on Silver's model -- have dropped to 20 percent. The Miami Dolphins now have a greater chance (23 percent) of making the postseason.

Buffalo has seen an increase, however, since last week. In Week 7, Silver's model pegged the Bills with an 18 percent chance of reaching the playoffs.

The Bills haven't moved too much in the standings, dropping from No. 20 to No. 21 over the last two weeks.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- For the second time in two months, Rex Ryan played reporter.

The New York Jets' coach popped his head into an interview room Wednesday during a conference call between the media and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Ryan joined the group and fired away.

"Sammy, I've got a question," Ryan said. "How did you help Seth Ryan out? How'd he do out there? And if you could really help him, you wouldn't play this game [on Sunday]. This sounds like Rex Ryan -- I know it does -- but this is a reporter."

Watkins laughed, but never really answered the questions.

The back story: Ryan's son, Seth, is a wide receiver at Clemson. Seth Ryan and Watkins were teammates last season, so it was only natural for the elder Ryan to pay close attention.

Earlier on the conference call, Watkins was asked by a reporter -- a real reporter -- about his relationship with Rex Ryan.

"I know Rex, I have seen him down there at Clemson a couple of times," Watkins said. "He’s a great guy, great coach, great dad and he’s always been funny with me at times, but he’s a great coach."

Ryan has a high regard for Watkins, comparing him to A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

"He's like he’s one of those guys that doesn’t come around very often," Ryan said.

You may recall Ryan pulled a role reversal in training camp. In mid-August, during the dog days of camp, Ryan sat with the reporters one day and fired questions at a grizzled beat reporter.

He loves coaching, but it sure seems like he has a hidden desire to be a sports writer.

The NFL Live crew make their picks for Buffalo at the New York Jets.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A week after he was deactivated against the New England Patriots, Mike Williams played just five snaps in the Buffalo Bills' 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bills have turned to Chris Hogan as their third receiver in recent weeks, leading one reporter to ask Williams on Wednesday if he was discouraged being behind Hogan on the depth chart.

"I'm actually behind a lot of guys," Williams said. "I think Chris Hogan is just one of the guys. I'm just out there doing what they tell me to do. If they put me ninth string again, I guess that's where I'm gonna be at."

Williams has a diminished role in the offense after catching eight passes for 142 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown grab, through the first five games.

Hogan, who ran ahead of Williams as the third receiver during offseason practices, has impressed the coaching staff.

"Chris is a guy that -- and I've never said this to Chris -- that you looked at and say you're looking for reasons why he shouldn't be on the team," coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday. "I think he's a resilient type of guy. Attention to detail. You can trust what he's doing out there on the field. He knows exactly what to do, knows all three positions.

"We as coaches -- I always tell the players -- you gotta put yourself in a position where the coaches have to play you [because] that's how well you're playing. I think Chris has done that."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins was added to Wednesday's injury report with a groin injury but did not miss any practice time.

"I'm fine. I'm participating," Watkins said. "I had a great day today."

Watkins and defensive end Mario Williams (thumb), who was also added to the injury report Wednesday, were both listed as full participants.

Meanwhile, special-teams ace Marcus Easley was a limited participant after missing the last four weeks with a sprained MCL. He worked with trainers during warmups and was not on the practice field at the end of the session, making his chances of returning for Sunday's game against the Jets less likely.

Here is the remainder of the Bills' injury report:

Did not participate:
WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
LB Ty Powell (ankle)
RB Fred Jackson (groin)

Limited participation:
WR Marcus Easley (knee)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

Full participation:
DE Mario Williams (thumb)
WR Sammy Watkins (groin)
LB Brandon Spikes (ribs)