1. Former William & Mary teammates to face off for the first time in the NFL
Sean McDermott and Mike Tomlin, who will be on opposite sidelines Sunday night, have not squared off in a regular season game as head coaches before. But the familiarity between the two is lengthy going all the way back to their days as teammates in college at William & Mary in 1993 and 1994.
Tomlin was two years ahead of McDermott in school.
"I was the younger guy you know when I came on campus," said McDermott. "And he was one of the captains on the team and a leader on the field, leader off the field. He's a guy I learned a lot from just by watching. And then to see him have the success that he's had in his coaching career. You know, just being able to watch and follow and then ask for advice, every now and again he's been very willing to share. So, you know, really I consider a real strong relationship and I've got a lot of respect for him and what he's done in Pittsburgh."
Knowing the magnitude of this game Sunday night for both teams with respect to playoff implications, McDermott doesn't see their friendship being impacted by what each of them has to do in their respective roles.
"The first thing that comes to mind is respect, and I think Mike would probably feel the same way without putting words in his mouth," said McDermott. "He's got a job to do. I've got a job to do and we both understand that. Other than that, you know, we're going to prepare to play a game and Mike's doing the same I'm sure."
McDermott and Tomlin's college coach at William & Mary, Jimmye Laycock, is supposed to be in attendance at the game in Pittsburgh this weekend.
2. Creating culture of expecting to win
When coach McDermott and his staff arrived in Buffalo, there had not been a culture of winning over the last several years through what had become a revolving door succession of head coaches. But McDermott and his staff set about building a foundation rooted in a process that involved commitment, a growth mindset based on daily improvement and love for one another.
It took some time to take hold, but here in season three under McDermott, he feels that the growth and full-scale adoption of that culture has his team and the organization at a point where they don't just hope to win each week, but expect to win.
"I think we've moved the needle drastically with that since we've been here," said McDermott. "And that's not just the team, but the entire building. You know it's been a long time since this since this organization has been in a position like this, this late in the season, and we don't take it lightly."
McDermott said the two main ingredients to getting to this point have been team chemistry in creating a culture that adheres to the process that leads to sustained success and the tactical strategy to be successful.
3. Adjusting to a physical secondary
There were several adjustments for the various Bills position groups coming out of last week's game against Baltimore. One of the main adjustments for Buffalo's receiving corps is finding better answers against a physical secondary.
The Ravens secondary was very physical with the Bills wide receiving corps, which was smaller in stature. It made separation on routes as well as the timing on routes difficult at times.
"It's one of a handful of things for sure," McDermott admitted for his receivers. "We just have to continually adjust and that's what we do every week. That's what we do as coaches. That's what our players embrace that's a growth mindset. And you come out of every game saying, 'Okay what are the what are the things that showed up that caused us to get the result we got?' Whether it was positive or negative and you have to continually adjust and grow and evolve. That's our process."
Buffalo's receivers will experience a similar style of play from Pittsburgh's secondary, which ranks fifth in the league against the pass.