1- Micah Hyde: We have to play our ‘A’ game
It doesn’t happen very often, but this Sunday, a playoff rematch will double as a contest between two 3-7 teams who are looking to turn their respective seasons around.
Buffalo and Jacksonville last met in the 2017 postseason, a hard-fought Wild Card round matchup that came down to the final play. Through the first 10 games of the 2018 season, however, neither team has played like a playoff contender.
The Bills have lost four out of their last five contests. After a promising 3-1 start, the Jaguars have dropped six straight games.
Buffalo will host the Jags in a Week 12 battle this weekend. Bills’ safety Micah Hyde, who totaled four tackles in last season’s playoff matchup, is aware of just how strange it is to see two playoff teams struggling simultaneously.
“That’s how competitive the NFL is,” Hyde said. “You have to win the close games, and unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do that this year. I think for them, also, they haven’t been able to pull away and win the close games.”
Hyde, however, does not feel as though either team’s record properly reflects their strength.
“That’s the NFL, man,” Hyde said. “From season to season, you can have two totally different teams with the same personnel on the squads. It’s tough. We believe that our record, 3-7, does not indicate how our football team is, and I’m sure they can say the same thing. We know they’re a very good football team, and we have to go out there and play our ‘A’ game.”
2- Hughes generating pressure at career-high rate
Don’t look now, but Jerry Hughes is quietly playing some of the best football of his professional career.
That’s right - Hughes, who has hit the double-digit sack plateau twice throughout his nine years in the NFL, is getting after opposing quarterbacks at a career-high rate.
Through the first 10 games of the 2018 campaign, the 30-year-old has recorded 5.5 sacks, already besting his 2017 sack total of four. He’s only one half of a sack away from matching his 2016 total. One more sack would put him at 6.5 on the season, which would be his highest total since the 2014 campaign.
Though Hughes’ production has been stellar through the first part of the season, his biggest impact cannot be found in the box score. According to Pro Football Focus, Hughes is generating pressure at a career-high rate. The 30-year-old is currently averaging a quarterback pressure on one out of every 4.9 pass rushing attempts.
Should Hughes close out the year on this pace, he’ll set a new career high in the metric. He set his current career high in the 2014 campaign, averaging one pressure per 5.2 snaps en route to 10 total sacks.
The importance of quarterback pressures often goes understated. Though Hughes isn’t taking an opposing passer down every time he gets close, he’s still getting in their face, forcing a poor decision that could result in an incompletion, fumble, or interception.
Hughes’ pressures have often resulted in fumbles this season, as he’s already tied a career-high in forced fumbles with three.
3 - Bills vets taking pride in mentorship roles
Buffalo’s front office has constructed a roster that features a unique blend of new and old - young, hungry players who are having the way they approach the game shaped by veterans who have been around the NFL for some time.
The primary motivation behind this building strategy is culture. Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane hope that Buffalo’s veterans will pass on their character and work ethic to the young core, creating a culture built on the idea of class both on and off the field.
At the midway point of his second season in charge, McDermott is starting to see his plan come to fruition. Buffalo’s experienced players have taken pride in mentoring the team’s foundational pieces, serving as leaders both on the field and in the locker room.
“That speaks to [Kyle Williams’] character as a man, the fact that he remains upbeat and positive and takes the time to teach these young players,” McDermott said. “I would say the same for some of the other leaders, Lorenzo Alexander being one of them. Stephen Hauschka. That’s important that those guys have stayed true to who they are, and their character has shown through.”
Buffalo’s veterans - Williams and Alexander, in particular - lead by example, as they’re still incredibly productive players. Through 10 games this season, Williams has recorded 17 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Alexander has totaled 37 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
McDermott credits Williams’ high level of play to his strong work ethic.
“If you were to follow him when he comes in the door on Monday mornings through Sunday just before game time, you would see why he's able to [compete at a high level],” McDermott said. “With his routine and the way he prepares.”