1 - Peterman prepared for this moment
At just 23-years-old, rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman is ready to make his first NFL start. He'll lead the huddle of a 5-4 team who's on pace to end a 17-year playoff drought.
You've seen various players step in and make an impact in each of Buffalo's five wins this season. Jordan Poyer in Week One (sack and INT), Micah Hyde in Week Four (two INTs), and Deonte Thompson in Week Seven (four rec, 107 yards) are just a few examples.
Head coach, Sean McDermott, has witnessed Peterman prepare for this moment against the Chargers.
"He prepares. The great part about our guys is they prepare every week like they're the starters, even though they may not be, because they know they're one snap away. When you prepare that way, when your name is called, you're ready to go. You've seen that over the course of our season already, with different guys that have stepped in and stepped up," he said. "Nathan, no different. He's prepared all season long like he's the starter and that's what you have to do. He's had a great week. He looks sharp and crisp."
Peterman will have plenty of targets on the field he's comfortable with. He'll have Kelvin Benjamin making his second start with the Bills. Benjamin and Peterman have already connected twice for 33 yards in live action. Zay Jones will be returning after missing one game with an injury. Peterman tossed a touchdown to Jones in the 2017 Senior Bowl.
The rookie QB has a couple of receivers who are questionable to play. Charles Clay and Jordan Matthews, both with knee injuries, will be game-time decisions. Peterman's first career touchdown pass was thrown to Clay's backup tight end, Nick O'Leary.
Peterman took first team reps in all three practices this week. McDermott mentioned how his rhythm has progressed with his receivers.
"It has, obviously, he has not had the time maybe that Tyrod [Taylor] had up to this point with some guys," he said. "Now, other guys he's had more time in fact with. He's thrown a number of balls through practice up to this point in time with these receivers and I'm confident in the more opportunities he gets, the more comfortable they'll get together."
If Peterman can notch a win in his first career start it will create some separation between Baltimore, Oakland, and Miami in the AFC playoff picture. It would also boost Buffalo's record to 6-4 for the first time since 2000.
2 - Bills rookie class among the most productive in the NFL
The Bills hit a home-run with their 2017 draft class. It's seen as one of the most productive rookie groups in the NFL, and Nathan Peterman will look to add his mark to that against the Chargers.
Danny Kelly, of The Ringer, came out with the nine most productive rookie classes in the NFL. He had Buffalo among those teams and spoke highly of their young guns.
*A trio of rookie standouts were crucial in getting the team to where it currently sits, with a 5-4 record and what looks like a shot, still, at the postseason. Even after the team's decision to bench starter Tyrod Taylor. Cornerback Tre'Davious White (27th overall) is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate with one pick, one forced fumble, and 13 passes defended in nine starts this year, and he's been a huge part of head coach Sean McDermott's reshaping of the Buffalo defense.
Offensively, as left tackle Cordy Glenn has struggled with an ankle injury, rookie offensive lineman Dion Dawkins (second round) has come on to start four games for the team and played well in relief. Meanwhile, receiver Zay Jones overcame an early-season bout with the drops and has caught 16 balls for 168 yards and a touchdown. The rookie contributor list is about to grow for the Bills, too, who will start quarterback Nathan Peterman (fifth round) in the team's upcoming matchup with the Chargers.*
Head coach, Sean McDermott, spoke during Friday's press conference about the rookie contributions.
"Well that's why you draft these guys. That's why you do the research you do. Our scouts are out there now busting their tail trying to find the next group to add to this group. We just keep adding," he said. "This is the foundation we're building towards what we want to become and where we're going. I'm very happy with the draft class this year in terms of their contributions and the way they've attacked this season."
3 - D-line looking to get back on track
After two weeks they'd like to forget, Buffalo's defensive line will look to return to old form against the Los Angeles Chargers. Today's matchup will present a good opportunity for the Bills, as the Chargers rank 26th in rushing.
The Bills were one of the NFL's best defenses at stopping the run prior to Week Nine. Against the Jets the Bills allowed 194 rushing yards, at the time that was a season-high against them. In Week 10, versus the Saints, they erupted for 298 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Buffalo's rank slipped from third in the league to 22nd over those two weeks.
Head coach, Sean McDermott, knows his unit is more than capable of controlling the line of scrimmage.
"We've done that. We've shown we can do that," he said. "We did it all the way up until the Oakland game. I think we were top five, give or take, in run defense."
Before Buffalo's two-game losing streak, they were winners of two straight games in Weeks Seven and Eight. In those games, they held the Bucs to 69 rushing yards and the Raiders to just 54. Stopping the run has translated to success for the Bills.
"You've got to go back and reestablish the standard and re-train the fundamentals. That's what we've done and we'll continue to do that," McDermott said. "Good wake-up call for us, you know? All good teams, every good team goes through some of these types of moments."
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