Monday Morning Breakdown

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Eric Wood | 5 observations on the Bills as they prepare to close the 2019 regular season

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1. How the offense can sustain drives

It's hard to truly judge this offense against the best defense in the NFL in the New England Patriots. They have been extremely dominant this year allowing an average of 12.9 points per game going into this one. We knew it would be a tough day for the offense facing New England's scheme and personnel in Foxboro that bends but doesn't break. The Bills didn't run the ball efficiently enough yesterday putting themselves in too many 2nd-and-9's or 10's, even some loss yardage plays. There were also a number of penalties at terrible times after important first downs that backed them up. If you put yourself in a 1st-and-20 or a 2nd-and-22, those situations are mostly likely too difficult to overcome against a defense like the Patriots that allows 4.5 yards per play.

The last two games against the Patriots, Josh Allen has struggled with settling in early. Part of that problem is due to the fact that they run a different scheme. When you play them, you're getting press-man across the board at times, they mix and match coverages, along with blitzing and bringing pressure on a number of third downs. Often times there were players in Allen's face which made it unable for him to step into his throws. They needed to sustain more drives yesterday, especially when you look at the time of possession. The Patriots had the ball for almost 39 minutes, while the Bills had the ball for just about 21 minutes. It's hard for a defense to stay strong when they are on the field for that long. It all goes hand-in-hand, the defense has got to get themselves off the field and when the offense can sustain drives, that helps the defense get their legs back under them.

2. Hitting on the deep ball and what that does for Josh Allen

Josh Allen hitting on two deep balls in this game is great for this offense because the M.O. going against the Bills has been you can bring cover zero and they're not going to punish you deep. Buffalo proved that theory wrong yesterday. The two completions to Dawson Knox and John Brown both weren't necessarily cover zero blitzes, but they were plays where it was man coverage or man-free, single-high and Josh made them pay. Heading into the postseason being able to click on a couple of those gives you the confidence that you are going to complete those passes in games to come. Yesterday was a bit of a reverse script from what we've seen in several weeks this season, the offense usually sustaining drives but struggling to hit the deep balls. Most of the drives against the Patriots were all or nothing based upon the big plays.

3. Playing close against tough opponents says a lot about the Bills

The Buffalo Bills have proven they can compete with anybody anywhere. They are 6-2 on the road this season, which is absolutely phenomenal. The two losses being this New England team who is now a 12-win team and the Cleveland Browns, both one-score games. This team is extremely competitive and sound. Yes, they still need to grow to get over the hump and finally win these late games against New England. But, the Pittsburgh game is a great win for them and what they did against Baltimore in slowing down Lamar Jackson and that offense, you have to like how competitive they can be in the postseason. I don't think teams are lining up to play the Buffalo Bills right now. This is a well-coached team who has had a dominant defense pretty much all season, no one wants to play against that in the postseason.

4. Looking ahead: Should the Bills rest players in Week 17?

I would imagine that some players will get rest in this Week 17 game against the Jets with the AFC East title no longer on the line. It could be players who are dinged up, players who have had a really high snap count on the season or veterans who will benefit a lot off of sitting out for a game. You have to remember some of these guys have been going at it since camp trying to compete for a spot, then straight into preseason games and on into the regular season. Camp started mid-July; it is now the end of December. This team is very healthy right now, but there is nobody on this team who is 100% at this point going into Week 17. 

I think it could even be smart to rest Josh Allen for a week, not having to worry about him taking any shots with the playoffs right around the corner. It's important to make sure he's very involved in the game-plan mentally but beneficial to allow him a week to refresh. Sean McDermott is a very competitive coach; he wants to win every game including preseason games. But there is no postseason bye coming up, so I think it would be beneficial to let this week be your bye week for a number of players who need the rest.

5. Around the NFL: Scouting Buffalo's likely playoff opponents in Houston or Kansas City

The Bills locked up the 5th Wild Card spot after the loss to the Patriots and their opponent is likely to be the Texans or the Chiefs in the first-round. Both teams have extremely talented young quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. The Chiefs were close to making the Super Bowl last season. They are a team that knows how to play once the regular season ends. Kansas City used to be vulnerable on defense but as of late the Chiefs have been a lock-down defense allowing only 9.3 points per game in the last three going into Week 16. One of the Chiefs' strengths is their pass offense and a strength of the Bills is their pass defense which ranks second in the NFL. Arrowhead would be a very tough place to play in the postseason.

Between these two likely opponents, you would think the Bills have a better chance against Houston going up against the 28th ranked defense heading into Week 16 and one that has allowed an average of 411.6 yards per game in the last six. Their defense has been excellent in the past, but this team is without J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney which makes a big difference. Houston won't be an easy place to play either, but I like that matchup better.

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