IT AIN'T OVER TILL WE SAY IT'S OVER
There's no doubt after two straight losses and a 5-5 record, with five teams between the Bills and the final playoff spot, it looks like a straight uphill climb for Buffalo. But that type of climb has been done before.
Just last year, the San Diego Chargers were 4-6 after a loss at Miami on November 17th. The Chargers won five of their final six games (including two wins over KC and one over Denver) to finish 9-7 and clinch an AFC Wild Card. Then they went out and won a playoff game at Cincinnati.
The Chargers made a similar run in 2005, when they were 4-6 after ten games, and went on to lose their next two. After starting the year 4-8, San Diego won its final four games to finish 8-8 and squeak into the playoffs. They beat Indianapolis in a Wild Card game that year.
Longtime Bills fans may remember the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars, who only had four wins after their first ten games that season. The Jags, in their second year of existence, went 5-1 down the stretch to finish 9-7 and claim a spot in the playoffs. They knocked the Bills out in the Wild Card round and won another game, before losing in the AFC Championship Game that year.
So while it's a heavy lift for the Bills to put themselves in the playoff picture, it is not impossible. Don't let anyone tell you it is.
WATKINS IN THE DRAFT: "YOU GO GET HIM"
On his first day in Buffalo after being picked 4th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Bills, Sammy Watkins got a look around One Bills Drive and met his coaches, Bills personnel and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas.
Sammy Watkins ran into another quality cornerback last Thursday in Miami. Dolphins veteran Brent Grimes held the Bills rookie to just three catches. But with 45 catches for five touchdowns, Watkins is building a strong resume in his first year in the league.
Respected NFL observer Matt Bowen, the former Bills safety who spent seven years in the league, says the Bills made the right move by moving up in the draft last May to get Watkins. Bowen, the lead NFL writer for Bleacher Report.com says Watkins is a future superstar.
"I think Sammy Watkins is a star, I do," Bowen said Monday on The John Murphy Show. I think he's going to be a Pro Bowler for a long time."
Bowen has no doubt the Bills made a strong, bold, smart move when they traded away next year's first rounder to get Watkins with the fourth overall pick.
"There were a lot of questions about the Bills making the big move in the draft to go up and get Sammy Watkins," Bowen said. "But when you see a player with this type of talent and you know he's going to be a superstar, you make a move like that. "
" There's going to be some criticism any time you trade away a top pick to move up in the draft, but when you see a player like that and you trust your scouting department and you trust your eyes, you go get him. You go get him."
HOGAN WANTS TO DO MORE
Second year wide receiver Chris Hogan becomes more important to the Bills offensive attack on a weekly basis. Against Miami, Hogan established career highs with 7-catches for 74-yards. He was featured over the middle and made some tough catches in traffic, some of which required him to absorb very big hits from Miami defenders.
Hogan says he's happy to be a part of the Buffalo offense, but he's looking to do more with the ball after the catch.
"I'm running my routes pretty well, catching the ball pretty well," he told me Monday. "That's what I get paid to do, so hopefully I do that well."
"As far as running with the ball, I think I can be a little more physical." I asked Hogan if he's looking to use that physicality to break tackles.
"Not as much breaking tackles, but when I have the ball in my hands, delivering the blow, not getting hit," he answered. "There was that one hit I took on the sidelines in Miami that was a pretty good hit. Just having my shoulder down when I have the ball in my hands. I think it's really just lowering my pad level and trying not to be so upright, so I'm not as exposed as that out there on the field."
DAREUS GETS EXTRA ATTENTION
On and off the field, Bills DT Marcel Dareus is getting respect and recognition for his outstanding play in his fourth year in the league.
On the field, Dareus drew double-team blocking from Miami's offensive line on about 75-percent of the Dolphins snaps. On one of the rare plays where he wasn't double-teamed, Dareus made a big play. He stopped Miami QB Ryan Tannehill for a one yard gain on a 2nd-and-4 play in the final minute of the first half at the Bills 42-yard line.
Off the field, Dareus is the leading vote-getter in the fan balloting for the 2015 Pro Bowl at the Defensive Tackle position. The Jets Muhammad Wilkerson, who will line up against the Bills again Sunday, is second at the DT spot. Buffalo's Mario Williams is 5th in fan balloting at the Defensive End position.