1. HEALTHY BILLS LOOK LIKE THE REAL BILLS
It's been awhile since the 2015 Bills went into a game with a full complement of weapons. It could happen this week. Tyrod Taylor says he's 100-percent healthy, backup running back Karlos Williams is likely to return, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins is "very close" to returning. The right side of Buffalo's offensive line, guard John Miller and tackle Seantrel Henderson, are both back after missing the last game. And the Bills will probably get cornerback/punt returner Leodis McKelvin on the field for his first game of the year.
There was a tangible boost evident at the Bills Monday practice in the sunshine at One Bills Drive with all of the key players back on the field.
"Having a bye week definitely gives us a chance to get some of our weapons back," Taylor said. "I'm looking forward to having guys on the field. Going out there and being explosive again. I'm looking forward to that."
- CAN TYROD PICK UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF?**
With three wins in his first five NFL starts, Tyrod Taylor was off to a very good start this year. He had to scramble his way to victory in his final appearance, the win at Tennessee last month, and he's been out of the lineup since then. The Bills are looking for Taylor to make it through the practice week healthy, and then resume his solid play.
Taylor is the sixth-ranked passer in the NFL, ahead of luminaries like Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Russell Wilson. Only Ben Roethlisberger and Brandon Weeden have completed a higher percentage of their passes (Taylor has completed 70-percent).
When you add Taylor's "T-Mobile" component to his efficient work in the passing game, the Bills will embrace his return to the lineup this week.
3. BOUNCE BACK AFTER THE BYE?
The first game after the bye week has not been kind to Head Coach Rex Ryan and he knows it.
"My record off a bye week is horrendous," Ryan said Monday. In six years at the helm of the Jets, Ryan's teams went 1-5 after the bye, including last year's 38-3 loss to the Bills in Detroit.
Ryan went to a different approach this year giving his players the entire bye week off away from One Bills Drive. The long trip from London, the compressed schedule coming up (Thursday game after Sunday's), and the fact that the Bills were so ravaged by injuries played into his decision. He privately worried that with all the injuries, the Bills might not be able to field enough players to practice last week.
So the Bills came back to work Monday for practice and brief meetings, had Tuesday off this week, and then resume a regular practice schedule starting Wednesday. We'll see how it works.
4. IT IS ON IN THE AFC EAST
The Bills have just dipped their toe into the AFC East water through the first seven games, with a loss to the Patriots followed by a win in Miami. This week, they begin a three-game stretch in the division which may define the rest of their season.
Two of their three division games are on the road – the Bills head to the Meadowlands to play the Jets just four days after the Dolphins game. Then they go to Foxboro to face the Patriots the following Monday night.
Buffalo went 4-2 in the AFC East last year. With the Patriots big lead in the division so far, the Bills, the Jets and the Dolphins are all positioning themselves for the runner-up spot and a possible Wild Card playoff berth. With a win over the Dolphins Sunday, the Bills would sweep the season series against Miami for the second time in three years.
5. ARE THE DOLPHINS DIFFERENT THAN SIX WEEKS AGO?
Buffalo played its most complete game of the season back on September 27 when it beat the Dolphins 41-14. The Bills scored on three of their first four possessions in the game. They ran for a season-high 151 yards and produced a defensive touchdown on an interception return by Preston Brown.
But Miami will tell you they're a different team than they were six weeks ago. The Dolphins replaced Head Coach Joe Philbin with Dan Campbell one month ago, and since then, they've gone 2-1. Campbell's high-energy, physical approach seems to have resonated most on the defensive side of the ball, where Miami's talented defensive line has come alive. And his in-your-face approach is popular with players.
Bills guard Richie Incognito was a part of the Miami teams where Campbell assisted with the offensive line in 2010, and coached the tight ends for the next three seasons. Incognito says Campbell is very popular among Dolphins players.
"I love Dan. Dan started in the offensive line room, he started as an assistant offensive line coach," Incognito said in an appearance on The John Murphy Show. "He's a genuine, energetic, hard-working guy's guy."
"His energy permeates their whole program right now," Incognito said. "I spoke with a bunch of guys (Dolphins) and they love playing for him. I even spoke to Dan himself to congratulate him on getting the job. It will be interesting to see which Miami Dolphins team shows up."
6. IS THIS THE GAME WHERE THE BILLS D-LINE ROUNDS INTO FORM?
They'll have to do it without veteran Kyle Williams, but Buffalo's defensive line is due for a breakthrough performance. The Bills sacked Ryan Tannehill two times in their first meeting six weeks ago, but they're looking for more consistent performance up front.
The Bills are 29th in sacks per play on defense for a variety of reasons. At their current pace, they would wind up with 25 sacks at the end of the season, way off their pace of 54 sacks in 2014. It's time for the heat to be turned up on opposing quarterbacks.