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WEEKEND LOOK-AHEAD

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7 things to watch in Bills-Bears and around the NFL this weekend

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It’s been a practice week dominated by the injury report for both the Bills and the Bears. Chicago may be without dominant pass rusher Khalil Mack for the second straight game and starting right guard Kyle Long is out the rest of the year with a foot injury.

Bills quarterback Derek Anderson and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Quarterback Nathan Peterman is preparing to start this week.

So, Bills fans can keep one eye on the injury updates and the following news and notes as week nine looms on the NFL schedule.

1. PETERMAN NEEDS TO FINISH WHAT HE STARTS

He’s not a rookie, but he might as well be. Sunday will be just the fourth NFL start for second year quarterback Nathan Peterman if Derek Anderson is not available. He’s started three NFL games over the last two years and has yet to finish one of them. Peterman was benched against the Chargers last year and in the opener against the Ravens two months ago. And he got hurt last November in his start against the Colts last year as well.

What’s especially critical this week is for Peterman to finish the game with a brand-new backup behind him. Matt Barkley was just added to the Buffalo roster Tuesday and he’ll go into the weekend with only three full practices with the Bills.

Peterman has been around Brian Daboll and the offense longer than any other quarterback on the roster (since OTAs in April). The Bills need him to play a complete game this week.

2. WAITING FOR SHADY

LeSean McCoy remains the most dynamic playmaker the Bills have on their roster. But his production has slipped this year, and McCoy expressed sincere frustration about it Monday night after the loss to the Patriots.

He’s only rushed for 257 yards in seven games this year. And he hits the midway point of the season with the fewest rushing yards he’s ever had at this point.

It’s frustrating. And it’s debilitating for the Bills offensive production. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll says ‘Shady’ missed some runs, but he didn’t get much help Monday.

“Sometimes, there was a guy sitting in the hole, too,” Daboll says. “LeSean’s a competitor. I have the utmost respect for him. I’d say I share his frustrations. You know, he’s a competitor, and he’s going to try to do everything he can do on every play to get the most yards he can get on them.”

It could be a challenge again this week. Chicago’s run defense is ranked third in the league.

3. TRUBISKY TURNAROUND

Chicago’s second year quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, was surrounded by new offensive weapons this year, and he’s used them. He started 12 games last year and completed 59 percent of his passes, with seven touchdown passes. This year, in seven starts, Trubisky has more than twice as many touchdown passes (15) and he’s completing 65 percent of his throws.

He’s already won four games, as many as he engineered in 12 starts last year. And Trubisky has picked up his play in the last four games, with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions in those four starts.

On top of all that—Trubisky can run. He’s got 296 yards on the ground this year, the second-most among quarterbacks, behind only Cam Newton.

4. STANFORD READY

Sunday won’t be Julian Stanford’s first NFL start, but it could be his first in a while. Stanford has been getting first team reps at middle linebacker this week, with rookie Tremaine Edmunds in concussion protocol.

Stanford played the second half Monday night and came up with a couple of tackles. In his sixth year in the league, Stanford has started a total of 10 games, but six of them came in his rookie year in Jacksonville. In his last five years, Stanford has started a total of five NFL games, the last one last December, when he was playing with the Jets. He’s been primarily a good special teams player in his NFL career. Now he’s being asked to play a much larger role.

5. FROM TAILGATING TO HANG-TIMIMG

Punter Colton Schmidt will be back with the Bills this Sunday, added to the roster Tuesday to replace injured rookie Corey Bojorquez. Schmidt was Buffalo’s punter for four years before being released in the final cutdown in September.

Since then, he’s kept his punting leg in shape. But he also spent some time enjoying another part of the Bills experience – tailgating.

Schmidt says he checked off a box on his ‘bucket list’ by tailgating with Bills fans at the home opener back in September.

“It was an experience all its’ own,” Schmidt said this week. “I’m glad that I was able to experience it. It was awesome.”

6. NO MORE TRADES

Neither the Bills nor the Bears got involved in NFL trade deadline deals Tuesday. The dust is no doubt still settling after Chicago’s blockbuster deal for Khalil Mack two months ago.

But there were nine NFL deals made at or near the deadline. The NFL deadline has become an important milestone in the regular season timeline in recent years.

How did that happen?

Longtime NFL writer Peter King says its timing and a new generation of decision makers.

“They moved it back two weeks,” King said this week on One Bills Live. “So now, instead of it being six weeks into the season and maybe you’re 1-4 or 2-4 and you’re not really sure whether you’re still in it--now, basically you’re halfway through the season, you kind of know you're out of it by that point.”

“There’s that, and I really believe that the caliber of general manager in the league has changed,” King continued. “If you look at the young, aggressive general managers -- Brandon Beane is one of them, Howie Roseman over in Philadelphia, John Schneider in Seattle - There are a lot of general managers right now that are aggressive, really aggressive and they play for today. This is not ‘draft picks are so sacred we don’t want to get rid of them.’ They’re playing for today and I think those are a couple of reasons why it’s happening this way.”

7. GOATS GO HEAD TO HEAD

Bills fans just saw Tom Brady. And they got an eyeful of Aaron Rodgers five weeks ago at Lambeau.

Those two are in the Sunday Night Football spotlight this week, as Green Bay travels to New England. They’ve got five MVP awards between them (Brady has three, Rodgers two). And they rank first (Rodgers) and third (Brady) in league history in career passer rating (Russell Wilson ranks second).

As far as the rest of the AFC East is concerned, the Jets head to Miami to play the Dolphins in a rematch from earlier this season at 1 pm.  Miami won the first meeting 20-12 back in week two.

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