It’s a chance for the Bills go to 5-1 to start the season. They haven’t started a season that well in 11 years. And since 1990, NFL teams that start a season 5-1 have an 83-percent chance of making the playoffs.
Here’s a look at some of the issues to watch for heading into this weekend for the Bills and the rest of the NFL:
1. HIGHER EXPECTATIONS FOR THE BILLS
With their 4-1 start, and the way the rest of the AFC season has begun, the Bills have quickly changed the narrative of their season from the outside. In many quarters, after just one-third of the season, they’re already viewed as a playoff lock.
Kyle Brandt of the NFL Network, co-host of the network’s “Good Morning Football” show, said as much this week on One Bills Live.
“They’re going to the playoffs,” Brandt said. “Unless they have some sort of a terrible meltdown or a bad rash of injuries – the Bills are going to be in the playoffs. The question is – who’s the team they’re going to get?”
Longtime Bills fans are more cautious, remembering seasons like 2008, when a 4-1 start to the season ended with a 7-9 won-loss record.
The point? There’s a long way to go.
2. DON’T EXPECT A BLOWOUT
It just doesn’t happen often in the NFL – most games are close, especially this year. The Bills may be heavy point spread favorites this week against Miami, but the numbers indicate it will be closer than that.
Through the first six weeks of the 2019 season, more games have been decided by seven-or-fewer points this season than in any other NFL season. Fifty five-percent of the games played in the league so far this year have been settled by seven-or-fewer points. And nine games have been decided by one-or-fewer points.
Four of Buffalo’s five games played have been decided by seven-or-fewer points and the Bills beat the Jets by one point.
3. HAPPY MOTORING
The Bills are likely to get ‘The Motor,’ running back Devin Singletary, back in the lineup this week. He’s been out three games with a strained hamstring.
And even though he’s only had 10 carries and caught five passes for the Bills so far this year, the rookie brings a dynamic presence the Buffalo offense can use.
“He’s a very explosive player,” quarterback Josh Allen said this week about Singletary. “Just the way he sees his read fits and how he attacks the hole. He's just a special player. He's been told his whole life he's too small, not fast enough and he comes out here he works extremely hard and then you see him on Sundays, every time he touches the ball, he’s looking to make a play and most of the time he does.”
It will be good to see ‘The Motor’ running this Sunday, for the first time in five weeks.
4. IF THE SHOE FITZ
Bills fans know all about Ryan Fitzpatrick, named this week as the Dolphins starter at quarterback. At age 36, in his 15th season, Fitz has shown who he is in the NFL.
He’s a Dow-Joneser. He’s up and down. He set Tampa Bay franchise records last year with 9.6 yards per pass attempt and a quarterback rating of 100.4. But this year, he’s already had four interceptions and completed just 56 percent of his passes with Miami.
“Ryan Fitzpatrick is the definition of a streaky quarterback,” ESPN NFL Analyst Field Yates told One Bills Live this week.
“At his best,” Yates continued, “Fitzpatrick can throw for 400 yards and guide comebacks and curry ‘Fitz-magic.’ He is also mistake-prone. Turnovers have been an issue for him in several junctures of his career.”
“If you give him opportunities to make mistakes, the Bills defense has shown they’re going to take those opportunities. It would not surprise me on Sunday, whether it’s Micah Hyde or Tre’Davious White or anybody else on that Bills defense, ends up with the football in his hands with an opportunity to take it back for a potential score.”
5. DOLPHINS SUFFERING MAY PAY OFF
It may be the only hint of blue sky in the Dolphins awful start to the season — the payoff to come in the NFL draft.
Miami is off to arguably the worst start any team has established in the modern NFL, with a record point differential of -138 through five games.
But thanks to trades, Miami has five first round selections to make in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. The Dolphins have a total of nine picks in the first two rounds of those drafts.
The Dolphins can point to the Browns, with five first round picks in the 2017 and 2018 drafts (Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, and others) as the model for their hopeful turnaround.
6. “CRISIS” FOR NFL OFFICIATING
The talk leading up to this weekend’s games has been dominated by discussion on the current state of NFL officiating after several questionable calls and continued confusion about replay’s role on pass interference.
This was a hot topic during this week’s NFL owners’ meetings in Florida we discussed it with the former league vice president of officiating Mike Pereira when he appeared on One Bills Live this week.
Pereira says the league has better officials now than it ever has, but the system is not working.
“I think that top to bottom, there are better officials now than there were when I was there, but the officiating is not as good,” he told the show.
“The reasons are complex, but probably not what people would think. It has to do with the rules and the communication system that officials are privy to now. And the actual rules themselves that have brought judgment into instant replay. It has made the game harder to officiate. And in some ways, it has allowed the officials to back off and rely more on the technology than we had to in the past.”
7. BIG TEST FOR DARNOLD
The resuscitation of the Jets season takes another step this week when they host the Patriots on Monday night. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold made a big difference in New York’s surprise win over the Cowboys last week. Can he do it again?
He’ll face the historically good Patriots defense. They’re allowing just eight points per game through their first six games, a record setting pace in the Super Bowl era. But in an interesting twist, five teams in that era have finished a season allowing less than 10 points per game and none of those five have gone on to win the Super Bowl.