1 – What do you need to know about the playoff race in the AFC?
Chris Brown:The Bills, despite their performances the past two weeks, still hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. They remain one of only six AFC clubs with a winning record. Buffalo also still has a winning record in the conference at 3-2. Their last seven games are all against the AFC leaving their playoff destiny in their own hands.
Donald Jones:If the playoff started this week the Bills would be in the playoffs. Right now they hold the sixth spot and control their own destiny. The rest of their games are against AFC opponents (including four divisional games). They must play much better than they have the last two weeks in order to reach the postseason. The Bills are 4-1 at home this year and have three games still to play at New Era Field. I expect them to get back to the formula of playing well at home and find a way to pull out a couple of road wins in order to find themselves in it at the end.
2 – What will be the difference between winning and losing in Los Angeles this week? CB:It will be about running the football on offense and getting off the field on third down on defense. Fortunately for the Bills those are both areas where the Chargers have struggled this season. Los Angeles is 29th in the league in third down conversion percentage and last in the NFL in run defense.
DJ:The biggest difference this week in LA will be the battles up front. The Bills need to control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense to be successful. On offense, they have to get back to what they have done well for the last two years – which is run the ball. The Chargers rank tied for second in the NFL with 29 total sacks so running the ball effectively could slow the pass rush. … On defense, they have to get back to what they were good at in the beginning of the season, which was stopping the run. The Chargers rank 26th in rushing offense (88.7 yards per game), so it might be a good week for the Bills defense to regroup.
3 – What was the biggest surprise in the NFL this past weekend?
CB:I'm going to have to go with Atlanta's Adrian Clayborn's six-sack day in the win over Dallas. I remember watching the menace that Derrick Thomas was when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs when he had a couple of big sack games. He still has the single-game record with seven against Seattle set in 1990 and had another six-sack game in '98 against the Raiders.
But for Clayborn to do what only three other NFL players have done since the sack became a stat in 1982, and to do it against a mobile QB like Dak Prescott was the biggest eye popper for me this past week.
DJ: The biggest surprise in the NFL in my opinion was the Bills performance at home. They were 4-0 heading into last week. I knew this Saints team was good but I didn't expect the Bills to play the way they played.
4 – Storylines in the NFL you're following this week ... CB:It's where the AFC playoff race goes from here. If the Bills can get a win against the Chargers, none of the teams behind them in the AFC can catch them this week. Every other AFC club behind them in the conference standings has five losses or more.
DJ:There are two big storylines I'll be following this week … First of all, we'll start to find out who will be the playoff contenders and pretenders. The results of this week's games will bring some clarity to the playoff landscape. … The Patriots vs. Oakland game in Mexico City should be interesting to follow as well.
5 – Pro Bowl voting starts today. What Bills player is deserving of a spot?
CB:While I believe there are a good deal of Pro Bowl caliber talents on Buffalo's roster, the player who has earned a vote to this point would be Micah Hyde. He's been among the league leaders in takeaways, which as history has shown, has been a critical statistic in getting a defensive back to the Pro Bowl.
As I mentioned, there are a bunch of other players with Pro Bowl talent, but the team is going to have to put together better performances here over the next month if more Bills are going to enter the Pro Bowl conversation.
DJ:Micah Hyde is second in the NFL right now in interceptions (5). He has 43 tackles from his safety spot. He has been all over the field and is a huge part of why this team sits at 5-4 right now. Jordan Poyer, I think, will be in strong consideration, but ultimately if the season ended today he would probably be an alternate. Poyer has 50 tackles 2.0 sacks and two interceptions from the safety spot. The Bills need him to continue to make plays if they want to be in the playoffs.