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Bills Today: ESPN: Bills had NFL's hardest first half schedule


1 - ESPN: Bills had NFL's hardest first half schedule

There's no such thing as an easy game in the NFL. The first half of Buffalo's 2018 schedule proved this sentiment, according to ESPN.

Per the outlet's Football Power Index, the Bills played the league's toughest schedule through the first eight weeks of the season. Their first set of opponents finished the first half of the season with a combined record of 33-26-2, the strongest in the league. Buffalo escaped this tough stretch of games with a record of 2-6.

The Bills will look to rebound in the second half of the season, and they'll do so with the benefit of the league's easiest schedule. According to the Football Power Index, Buffalo's last six opponents currently hold a combined record of 30-32.

Five of Buffalo's six division games will take place in the second half of the season. They'll also host the Bears and Jaguars and take on the Lions on the road over the final eight weeks. Four of the Bills' final six opponents currently hold a sub-.500 record.

2 - Bills to honor military members in Week 9

The NFL commenced its annual Salute to Service campaign on Nov. 2, a league-wide effort that aims to honor veterans and active military members.

The Bills will kick off the ceremonies Sunday, as they'll celebrate the United States military before and during their Week 9 matchup with the Bears. Military members will take to the field during pregame warmups, where they'll be greeted by players and coaches.

Roughly 20 minutes before kickoff, the Salute to Service ceremony will begin. Ten members from each military branch will join five veterans from the Honor Flight organization at midfield. Mark Lindquist, an Air Force soldier, will sing the National Anthem, and the event will be topped off with a flyover.

At halftime, a Salute to Service themed scrimmage will take place. After the third quarter, Radio Officer Bill Cooper, a World War II Navy veteran, will be honored on the field.

As part of the annual Salute to Service celebration, the NFL and USAA present the Salute to Service Award, an honor given to an NFL player, coach, or alumni who is actively involved in the military community. Bills' guard Ryan Groy has been nominated for this year's award.

The lineman, whose grandfather served in the U.S. Army, is a supporter of Operation Second Chance: No Person Left Behind. According to the organization's website, Operation NPLB is a non-profit that "provides wounded combat veterans with various outdoor experiences."

3 - Former Bills S Mark Kelso breaks down Bears rushing attack

Buffalo's run defense has been stout throughout the first half of the 2018 season. The unit, which ranks in the top half of the league against the run through eight games, held the electric Patriots offense to just 76 rushing yards last week.

The Bills' defensive front will be tasked with containing another talented rushing attack this Sunday when they host the Bears in a Week 9 contest. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has emerged as one of the league's top dual-threat passers this season, as he's already rushed for 296 yards. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have combined for 616 yards on the ground and 485 yards through the air thus far.

Chicago has a two-headed monster in the backfield and a quarterback who isn't afraid to run with the ball if needed. Former Buffalo defensive back Mark Kelso broke down the Bears' run game during a recent appearance on One Bills Live.

"On the inside, if they're going to run the ball on the inside, they're going to do it with [Jordan] Howard, who has a lot of power, but more of a one-step guy and drop his shoulder guy," Kelso said. "[Tarik] Cohen's an elusive guy, a guy that's a big part of the game plan, there's no question about that. Executes the screen game, had a big touchdown against the Jets in that game. He's used extensively out of the backfield and in the passing game."

Given their unique styles of play, Howard and Cohen allow the Bears to deploy an extensive offensive playbook. Kelso feels as though the duo form a dynamic one-two punch.

"That's why they complement each other so well," Kelso said. "You have guys inside that you think you can handle Howard, who has a lot of strength and kind of a one-step acceleration, one step cut guy and he'll drop his shoulder on you, then you've got Cohen, who you've got to be really careful you don't miss him in the open field. They complement each other really nicely."

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