It's game one of Buffalo's three-game swing through the NFC East. The Bills take on the Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday. Here's a preview of the top storylines leading up to game 13 on the Buffalo schedule:**
1. BUFFALO HOLDS THE KEY IN THE NFC EAST
It's the Eagles, then Washington, then Dallas—back to back to back for the Bills. And with the jumbled standings in the NFC East, the Bills may hold the key to the division title. The Eagles are 5-7, Washington is 5-7, the Giants are 5-7, and then Dallas is 4-8. The Bills have already lost to the Giants but now New York has lost three in a row. Philadelphia's upset win over the Patriots ended their three-game losing skid.
The Bills "won" the AFC South with a 3-1 record against those teams this year (wins over Indy, Tennessee, and Houston, loss to Jacksonville). And last year, Buffalo went 4-0 against the NFC.
2.**BILLS IN THEIR OWN PLAYOFF CHASE
Buffalo will have to make hay in the NFC East, because they've only got one AFC game left on the schedule, the season finale against the Jets. And even though they're focused on their game in Philly, Bills fans are likely to also keep an eye on the other AFC Wild Card Contenders, who are also going to be playing at 1pm Sunday.
The fifth seed, the Chiefs, are home against San Diego. The sixth-seeded Jets are home against Tennessee. The seventh seed, the Steelers, play on the road at 1pm at Cincinnati.
While Bills fans will be scoreboard watching, Rex Ryan insists his team will not be. "Definitely, you don't concern yourself with it," Ryan says. "It's just all about us. That's where the focus has to be, one game at a time. It better be one game at a time. If you focus down the road, you don't have to worry about it. To me, it's all about this week's opponent and putting everything we have into it."
3. "YOU ALL KNOW WHO'S NEXT"
That's all LeSean McCoy said Sunday after the Bills win over the Texans, when asked about returning to Philadelphia. He went to the Pro Bowl three times in his six years with the Eagles and led the NFL in rushing two years ago.
McCoy was not initially enamored with the thought of being traded away from Philadelphia last March, when the Bills made the deal. He grew up in Harrisburg, went to college in Pittsburgh, and broke into the NFL in the eastern end of Pennsylvania.
"He's from Pennsylvania; that was a huge thing for him," Ryan says. "He was drafted by the Eagles. He had some great years for the Eagles, he loves the fans. He's got a great rapport and respect for his former teammates. That's why I think it's going to be a huge game for him."
- MCCOY AND THE BILLS RUN GAME HITTING THEIR STRIDE**
Ground and pound has arrived for the Buffalo offense. And it's no coincidence it arrived when McCoy returned from a two game absence from the lineup. Since missing games against the Giants and the Titans, McCoy has averaged 19-carries in his last seven games and 5.0 yards per carry. The Texans win was his sixth consecutive game with more than 100-yards from scrimmage.
"From an offensive line perspective, I think as an offense as a whole, we've figured out what we do well and what Shady likes to run, and what we block well," says Guard Richie Incognito. "You've seen an emphasis on things we do well. There's a lot of things we get blocked up and Shady hits. There's a lot of things that aren't blocked up and Shady makes a great play."
The Bills bring the 4th best rushing attack in the league to Sunday's game. The Eagles defense is ranked 27th against the run.
5. GO BIG OR GO HOME
Buffalo's "ground and pound" offense has an explosive component. In fact, the Bills lead the NFL with 19 big play touchdowns (20-yards or more) so far this season. They've had 50-runs so far this year of ten yards more (3rd in the league) and 37 pass plays of 20-yards or more.
6. TYROD OWNS THE FOURTH QUARTER
Tyrod Taylor probably had very few end of game crunch time situations in his first four years in the league playing behind Joe Flacco. But you'd never know it. The first year starter is the NFL's leading passer in the fourth quarter this year. His 4th quarter QB rating is 117.1, with six touchdowns and one interception. And he's not dinking and dunking—Taylor average yards per pass play is 9.03 in the final quarter of play.
His teammate, Richie Incognito, says Taylor's strong 4th quarter performances are merely an extension of his approach to the entire game.
"I think the great thing about Tyrod is first quarter, fourth quarter—good play, bad play, he's exactly the same," Incognito says. "He's a real cool customer. He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. He stays at a consistent level and that's good for us."
"You don't want a guy at the quarterback position who is freaking out after a bad play or who's getting way too hyped after a touchdown. You want a guy who's composed is going to lead this team."
7. MCKELVIN CORNERED AGAIN
After spending the first seven games of the year on injured reserve, and starting one game at safety, it looks like it's back to the starting job at cornerback for Leodis McKelvin . The former 1st round draft pick would be the starter if Stephon Gilmore is not ready with his injured shoulder.
It's familiar territory for McKelvin. He's made 55-starts at cornerback since coming into the league in 2008.