The middle game of the three-game Buffalo Bills homestand. And an opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, just a season and a half removed from their Super Bowl Championship.
It’s a big matchup at New Era Field and here are seven things to watch for in this game and around the NFL this weekend.
1. MCDERMOTT UP AGAINST HIS OLD TEAM
He’s a Philadelphia native, with much of his family still in that town. And Bills coach Sean McDermott got his first NFL job with the Philadelphia Eagles 20 years ago. Now he and the Bills are trying to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.
McDermott began his NFL career with the Eagles in 1999 as a scouting administrative coordinator, then became an assistant to head coach Andy Reid at the age of 25.
“I was such a young guy back then, I was just trying to soak it all in—being around Andy (Reid) and his mentorship that year in particular,” he remembers.
McDermott eventually went to work under legendary Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. He told the Philadelphia media this week he went to school on Johnson’s leadership.
“The first thing that comes to mind is how to put a game plan together and how to attack an opposing quarterback,” McDermott said. “The lessons are numerous. I’m reminded of things every day. And then having Leslie Frazier here, I see the same things, when I sit back and watch, in terms of things we both learned and how he tried to apply the same things.”
When Johnson went on medical leave in 2009, McDermott replaced him and served two years as the Eagles defensive coordinator.
2. THE HUNT FOR A BILLS OCTOBER
The Bills close out their three-game October schedule this Sunday with a chance with a chance to finish the month undefeated. It would be Buffalo’s first undefeated October since 1998, when the team went 4-0.
The Bills have been unbeaten in October five times (’98, ’93, ’90, ’74, ’64) and made the playoffs in each of those seasons.
3. ATTACK THE EAGLES IN THE AIR
The usually solid Philadelphia defense has shown some cracks so far this season. Their opponents average 27 points per game and the Eagles give up 271 yards passing per game – the 27th ranked pass defense in the NFL.
NFL Network host Kyle Brandt says Buffalo’s offensive approach this weekend is obvious.
“I think you need a big game out of the Bills passing game. And that hasn’t been called upon a ton this season — not when they really need it,” he told One Bills Live.
Brandt thinks the Bills must call on their inconsistent passing attack to beat the Eagles.
“I’m going to be fascinated by this matchup because I feel like the way that you beat Philly is to throw the ball,” he said. “They’re good against the run, they’re terrible against the pass. So, you look at John Brown or Cole Beasley – these are the guys that are going to have to have a big game here.”
4. AN UNDER-VALUED DEFENDER
The Bills third-ranked defense has plenty of standouts — Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and others. But backup defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is getting noticed for his steady play.
He leads the team with 4.0 sacks. And Phillips played 40 snaps last week against the Dolphins – more than any other defensive tackle on the roster. Phillips credits the Bills coaching staff with firing him up.
“The coaches here have given me a lot of confidence and I feed off the confidence,” he told One Bills Live. “I wouldn’t say they’re cutting me loose but they’re giving me opportunities, and I’ve been able to take advantage of them.”
Phillips has become a favorite of the fans at New Era Field with his constant encouragement — waving his arms to get the crowd roaring when the defense is on the field.
“Any time you get the fans into it, it’s a different ballgame,” he says. “It takes out the hard counts, they have to go on silent (count), so you can get off the ball faster. It just helps the defense out a lot.”
5. EAGLES MISS DESEAN JACKSON
Carson Wentz and the Eagles can still throw it, but not the way they were hoping to when the season began.
They traded for 32-year old wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason, bringing him back to the Eagles where he made three Pro Bowls. And he started out fast with eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the opener this year. Jackson injured his abdomen in week two and he hasn’t played since. He’s not expected to play this weekend again.
Since Jackson’s performance in week one against Washington, the Eagles have only two catches of 30-or-more yards from a wide receiver. He’s missed.
6. DO THE BILLS NEED TO MAKE A TRADE?
If they do, it’s got to be soon. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 pm. Some observers think the Bills should acquire talent, maybe at wide receiver, maybe on the offensive line, to cement their status as serious contenders. Others think they’re doing just fine with the current roster.
ESPN NFL analyst Field Yates appeared on One Bills Live this week and was asked if the Bills need to make a trade.
“They don’t need to, but I think they’re one of a few teams in the NFL that is right there, in terms of being a legitimate playoff contender who have the flexibility to make any kind of move,” Yates responded.
He thinks good management of the Bills salary cap has put the team in position to explore the trade market.
“The Bills are in a position where they have so much cap space available, not endless cap space, but they’ve got enough cap space available, that they can dip their toes into looking at any player that might become available through a trade,” Yates said.
“I think the Bills have the mindset, they have the assets, I think they have the cap flexibility to potentially some moves.”
Scroll through to see the top photos of the Buffalo Bills working out during the eighth week of the 2019 regular season. Bills weight room photos are presented by Crunch Fitness.
7. THE REST OF THE AFC EAST
The division-leading Patriots play a big game late Sunday afternoon against the Browns in Foxboro. If they win, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick will become just the third coach in NFL history to win 300 games, including postseason wins. Hall of Famers Don Shula and George Halas are the only coaches to hit 300 career wins.
The 0-6 Dolphins get the Monday Night spotlight for their road game at Pittsburgh. The 1-5 Jets hit the road for a game at Jacksonville Sunday at 1 pm.