1. Bounce back Bills
Although the Bills have found it tricky to string wins together over the past six weeks after a three-game win streak in September, Buffalo has managed to avoid stacking losses. Since Week 5, the Bills have alternated wins with losses in each of the last six games, but head coach Sean McDermott remains resolute in his belief that his team can achieve great things this season.
"(I'm) confident," McDermott said. "Confident in our team. Confident in our coaches. Confident in our players. Confident in our staff. It doesn't mean we don't have work to do. It doesn't mean we don't have a gap to close. And so, we've got to continue to drill down on those areas and play better as an overall team, complementary-wise and reset some things that we need to reset.
"You go back and re-teach certain things or re-establish certain things this time of year when you're going through things. Even when you're not going through things, it's the right thing to do. But my confidence remains high in our group."
The good news is Buffalo's Monday night contest is at home and it is following a loss. The Bills are a perfect 4-0 at Highmark Stadium this season. Even better, when Josh Allen starts at quarterback for Buffalo the team is 21-5 coming off a loss, the best win-loss record in the Super Bowl era.
"We've got our best football to play," said Allen. "It's in front of us. We're not going to let the fact that we're 5-4 divide us apart. We've had stretches where we haven't played up to our standard in the past and we've always found a way through those. So that's what we're doing right now. We're trying to find a way through it. We've got an opportunity Monday night at home against a hungry team in the Denver Broncos. So, we've got to be ready. We've got to do everything we can do to get a win."
Allen has been a point-producing machine this season as he leads the league in total touchdowns with 24 in the Bills first nine games. He has at least one rushing and one passing touchdown in six of his last seven games. The Bills QB is also closing in on Patrick Mahomes' NFL record for most total touchdowns in a player's first six seasons.
He enters Monday Night's game with Denver with 201 total touchdowns in his five and a half seasons, just three behind Mahomes record mark of 204 in his first six NFL campaigns.
The last time the Bills lost back-to-back games was almost a full calendar year ago, Nov. 13th, 2022, when they lost in overtime to Minnesota a week after losing to the New York Jets.
2. Kincaid climbing
In training camp, it was clear that rookie tight end, Dalton Kincaid was on the fast track to be a major contributor to Buffalo's offense in his first NFL season. It took almost until midseason, but Kincaid is clearly coming into his own.
Since Week 7, Kincaid has the second-most receptions in the league among tight ends (23) and ranks fourth in receiving yards (221) and yards after the catch (114) during that span.
"I think that he's been able to win his matchups and we've been able to get him involved and he's had more opportunities the past few weeks being the primary tight end," said offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. "He's been able to take advantage of that and has done a great job for us. We expect that he'll continue to grow and become what we think he can be, which is a complete tight end because he's also done some good things on the blocking end as well, so he's more than just another receiver out there."
Even more promising for Kincaid is Denver's defense has given up the most receiving yards to tight ends in the league this season (569), despite playing just eight games.
Opposing tight ends are averaging 6.25 receptions and 71.1 yards per game against Denver so far this season.
3. Motion potion?
The Bills are still trying to find a reliable way to kickstart their offense early in games. The results have admittedly been mixed. Going up tempo worked for them against Tampa Bay in Week 8 and had some success in Week 9. But ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, believes there's another way to get Buffalo's offense into an early rhythm, which has also been a successful tactic against Denver's defense this season.
"I would motion the heck out of this Denver defense because teams have done it a little bit less than they were in the beginning of the year like when Miami hung a ton of points on them," Orlovsky said in his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live.’ "Chicago had success against them and it was a ton of motions and the Broncos were very quiet and you would get guys pop uncovered essentially. I would motion them.
"I'm not talking like moving a guy from across the field. I would shift the formation and then motion a guy. Motion one guy and then I would change the surface level constantly against their defense to force them to talk a ton. I think that's still a place where you can get after them. I think the Bills' offense is okay right now, but it needs to be great with the injuries on the defensive side of the ball. There's more room for growth when it comes to formations and motions to help those players execute easier."
Bills radio color analyst, Eric Wood, agrees feeling that Buffalo much seize better control of the game by forcing the opposing defense to react to them rather than the other way around.
"It's finding ways to dictate to the defense and I think the ways you do that is the up tempo offense at times," said Wood in his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live.’ "I think it's scripted plays at times, similar to the screen pass to Diggs last week and the short pass to Kincaid off the same motion. I think that's a great way to dictate to the defense and then also it's personnel wise, it's formationally just dictating to make them shift so it's not always the Bills offense reacting. I just feel at times it's so hard for them to just consistently react to the defense play in and play out."
Offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey, believes they have to tighten up execution on the field and continue to find solutions off the field.
"For us as a team it comes down to focusing on us and making sure we're in lockstep in what we're doing and how we're doing it and that we as coaches are putting our players in position to make plays," said offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey. "It's a team effort."
"I definitely feel like we're on the verge of being the offense that I know we can be," said Allen. "Obviously, every possession counts in this game especially in the later part of the year. We have to make those drives count. So making sure that we're extremely detailed in practice and continuing to trust each other and get better and ultimately executing on game day. That's what it comes down to."
The Bills offense is still the top-ranked third down conversion unit in the league (50%). They rank second in sacks allowed per play, third in red zone touchdown efficiency (69%) and fifth in passing and scoring.
4. Denver's newfound ground and pound
The Broncos under new head coach Sean Payton were at a crossroads after a humiliating Week 3 loss at Miami by a final score of 70-20. It forced the veteran head coach to revamp their offensive approach, which flipped their run-pass percentages.
"The scheme that they ran in Denver at the beginning of the year, playing the hero ball with Russell Wilson, throwing the ball like 40 plus times against Washington, running it like 15. That's how you lose. That's how you go 3-5," said Denver podcast host and former NFL offensive lineman, Matt McChesney in an appearance on ‘Bills by the Numbers’ this week.
So, Payton flipped the play calling script and began leaning on Denver's run game to not only keep the ball out of the hands of elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, but also to control the time of possession to protect a Broncos defense that was still working out the kinks.
Following a nine-point loss to the Chiefs in Week 6 (18-9) in which they ran the ball more than they passed and held Kansas City to their second-lowest point total of the season, the Broncos were committed.
Two weeks later using that same approach, Denver upset Kansas City holding them to a season-low nine points in a 24-9 victory.
"Against Kansas City the second time they ran the ball 40 times and only threw it 19," said McChesney. "Three of those throws turned into touchdowns. It was just 114 yards passing but three touchdowns."
Another reason the Broncos have taken a run-first approach is their pass protection is suspect at best. On 19 pass attempts against the Chiefs, the Broncos offensive line gave up six sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. It helps explain why Denver ranks 28th in the league in sacks per play.
Russell Wilson has been sacked 26 times this season, twice as many times as Buffalo's Josh Allen (13).
Buffalo's pass rush, which ranks fifth in the league in sacks, will need to take advantage of their limited opportunities when Wilson drops back knowing Denver is likely to take a similar ball control approach to keep the ball out of Josh Allen's hands.
Denver ranked 20th in the league in rushing entering Week 4. They've improved that ranking to 11th over the last five weeks.
5. Double trouble backs
If Buffalo's run front can slow Denver's rushing attack, it could put the burden of the offensive load on Russell Wilson and with the Broncos' leaky pass protection circumstances could play favorably into the Bills hands.
But by no means will it mean they've foiled Denver's running back contingent. That's because Denver makes a point of incorporating their backs into the passing game. So much so, that Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLauglin rank third, fourth, and fifth on the team in receptions behind top wideouts Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
"The pass catching outside of like Jerry Jeudy, their best pass catchers are honestly their backs," said Orlovsky. "They're doing a really nice job getting their backs in the pass game both on check downs and screens. It's a heavy screen team. You'll see Wilson under center, some play action shots. So, their offense is doing a nice job. This is going to be a game where they've got to cover really good low (near the line of scrimmage) and be very aware of the shots downfield in their play action game."
Perine (22), Williams (17) and McLaughlin (12) have a total of 51 receptions, just nine shy of the total by Sutton and Jeudy (60) so far this season.
"What they do really, really well is the play action pass screen," said Orlovsky. "That's something that Sean (Payton) has always been good with, and it's become a bigger part of their plan in the past two or three weeks. You'll see four or five of them on Monday night."
Scroll to see photos from the Buffalo Bills Week 10 Practice as the team prepares to take on the Denver Broncos.