1. Sean McDermott coming off of Bye Weeks
The Bills are coming off their late bye with a Week 12 game against the Chargers and six remaining games in the regular season. Buffalo has at least three primetime games left, two of which will be on Monday Night Football. Since coming to Buffalo, head coach Sean McDermott is undefeated following a bye week.
In 2017, the Bills had a Week 6 bye and beat the Buccaneers 30-27 in Week 7. The next season, Buffalo had a Week 11 bye and defeated the Jaguars 24-21 in Week 12. In 2019, the Bills had another Week 6 bye and took down the Dolphins 31-21 following the off week. Under McDermott, the most points the Bills have scored after a bye is 31 against the Dolphins in 2019.
McDermott said going into the week off the team wanted to use the time to rest, heal and get ready for the rest of the season.
"We've really gone 10 straight weeks in addition to training camp without a break here," McDermott explained. "I think the guys need some rest. I feel like again the rest is needed, with what we've been balancing with COVID and trying to play the season. Quite a few West Coast trips, too. Just been really proud of the way the guys have handled it."
2. Anthony Lynn's return to Buffalo
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn will return to Buffalo for the second time since becoming the Chargers head coach. Lynn spent two seasons with the Bills in 2015 and 2016 where he was the running backs coach, assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and interim head coach. The Bills lead the league in rushing yards in 2015 and 2016, averaging 152 rushing yards a game in 2015 and 164.4 rushing yards a game in 2016.
Lynn became the Bills interim head coach on December 27, 2016 after Rex Ryan was relieved of his duties as head coach. He went on to coach the final game of the 2016 season, which was a loss to the Jets. Lynn was then hired less than two weeks later as the head coach of the Chargers. Buffalo has played the Chargers twice since 2017 and lost both games with the most recent being an 11-point loss in 2018. Lynn has two winning seasons in his first three full seasons as the Chargers head coach.
Former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor will also return to Buffalo for the first time since playing for the Bills. Taylor was a member of the Bills from 2015 to 2017 and played against the Chargers in his final season with the Bills. Taylor started in the first game of the 2020 season before rookie quarterback Justin Herbert took over.
Bills owner and president Kim Pegula said after having Lynn in Buffalo for two seasons, it was easy to see he would have success as a head coach.
"Anthony Lynn was our running backs coach and an offensive coordinator for us and was really a high candidate for the [Bills] head coach position," Pegula said as she recalled his two seasons in Buffalo. "I would tell you we love the guy. We knew he was going to be a great coach. I'm excited to see him and his family again."
3. Bills to face their first rookie QB of 2020 season
The Bills will face their first rookie quarterback of the season on Sunday. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert may be a rookie by experience, but his stats are far from that. The rookie was drafted by the Chargers with the sixth overall pick. He was the third quarterback off the board following Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Since becoming the starter, Herbert has played in nine games so far posting a 2-7 record.
While the new QB doesn't have too many wins under his belt, his talent does not reflect their record. He ranks third in the NFL averaging 299.9 passing yards a game and has the sixth most passing touchdowns in the league with 22. Herbert also ranks eighth in total passing yards with 2,699 and has the eighth-best passer rating at 104.7. The rookie picked up his second win in Week 11 beating the Jets 34-28 while posting one of his best performances yet. Herbert completed 37 of 49 passes for 366 yards and threw for three touchdowns.
Sean McDermott said Herbert doesn't exactly look like a rookie.
"He's does a lot well," McDermott said. "When you turn the film on he's unlike most young quarterbacks that get confused and see ghosts once in a while, he sees none of that. He's very accurate, he's very poised, tough in the pocket.
"He's got a good cast around him in terms of the running game and weapons he has around him at tight end and wide receiver. He does a good job of checking the ball down when the coverage drops deep. I think he's off to a real fine start."
4. A chance to capitalize on the run?
The Week 11 bye gave the Bills time to look ahead at the rest of the season, but also time to look back and see what can be improved upon in the last six weeks of the regular season. At the top of the list was finding out how to have a more productive run game. The Bills average 97.6 rushing yards a game, which ranks 27th in the league. Their best rushing performance came in Week 8 against the Patriots where they totaled 190 rushing yards. Running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss each rushed for at least 80 yards in that game.
The Chargers run defense won't be the easiest team to run over as they rank 15th allowing an average of 115.3 rushing yards per game. The most rushing yards they've allowed in a game came in Week 9 against the Raiders when they gave up 160 rushing yards in a 31-26 loss. Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said the run game issues aren't on one person and that it will take a group effort to turn it around.
"We need to do a better job," Daboll said. "It starts with me. We've got to do a good job of designing things for those guys, so they can go out there and execute at a high level. Then we need to make sure we get hat on hats at the line of scrimmage, and make the proper reads, and block the guys on the perimeter.
"It takes all of us to get that job done. We're not where we need to be in regard to the running game. We acknowledge that. We look forward to working on it particularly in this bye week, and getting ready for the Chargers."
5. Another test for the Bills pass defense
The Bills secondary have faced some tough challenges going against talented offenses loaded with receivers and tight ends. The secondary is tasked once again with trying to slow down one of the best offenses and a receiver who ranks among the NFL's best in several categories on Sunday. Los Angeles has the third-best offense in terms of total yards per game with an average of 400.9 total yards a game. The Chargers average 279.6 passing yards a game, which also ranks third.
The secondary will have their hands full trying to stop receiver Keenan Allen who ranks first in the NFL with 81 receptions and 112 targets. Allen has 835 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns through 10 games. He had his best game of the season in Week 11 against the Jets totaling 16 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown. Allen has scored a touchdown in each of the last four games.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he poses a threat anywhere on the field.
"He's one of the best slot receivers in our game," Frazier said. "He can make plays outside as well, but he really makes his money on the inside. The performance that he had on Sunday was really magical in a lot of ways. It seems like their quarterback really targets him, looks for him. His numbers have gone up because of that. They've got a great rapport between the two of them. We're going to have to find ways to slow him down."
6. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs still rank among the NFL's best after bye
Usually following a bye, player ranks drop as other teams and players get a chance to add onto their stats. This wasn't the case for two Bills players as they still rank high among their peers. After the Week 10 Cardinals game, Bills quarterback Josh Allen ranked first for passing yards and receiver Stefon Diggs had the most receiving yards and receptions in the NFL. They dropped a bit in rank after the week off, but both still remain in the top 10.
Allen currently ranks sixth in passing yards with 2,871. Diggs has 906 receiving yards, which is second best in the NFL. The wide receiver also has the second most receptions with 73. Brian Daboll said Diggs is the type of player who has worked tirelessly on his connection with Allen.
"He's just a dependable player who has really good instincts," Daboll said. "He works extremely hard in practice. That's the timing and the execution that you need between a quarterback and receiver.
"You can go out there and talk and play video games all you want, but you do it on the practice field. And he does. He works at it. He works at it in one-on-ones and individual. And if it's not exactly right with him and Josh [Allen], he does it again. He's a very good leader for us. He's smart. We try to use him in a lot of different roles, and move him to different spots."