Less than a year removed from being a playoff team, the Buffalo Bills have crashed to the bottom of the NFL hierarchy this season.
When the Bills, who sit at 2-5, meet the New England Patriots on Monday night in a familiar AFC East clash, the gulf between the two teams will be as wide as it has ever been.
Buffalo are lacking talent across the board, but their problems start – as they usually do for most struggling teams – at the quarterback position, where they’ve not found their short-term answer, or potentially their future solution.
Josh Allen is supposed to be the latter. The Bills traded up in this year’s draft to select the talented but raw prospect, who was taken seventh overall after Buffalo gave up the 12th overall pick along with two second rounders (53 and 56).
It appeared as if the Bills would take it slow with the 22-year-old and allow him to learn as a back-up in his rookie year, but that plan was quickly thrown out the window after Nathan Peterman’s abysmal performance in the opener.
Allen was thrown into the fire in his second game as a pro, and while he’s shown flashes of promise – mainly in the shock defeat of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 – he’s also proven to be a bit of a project and someone with plenty of flaws in his game.
His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-5 and passer rating of 61.8 don’t scream ‘franchise quarterback’, but considering the draft capital Buffalo spent on him, Allen will be given time to develop.
That time has been cut short this year with Allen currently sidelined by a right elbow sprain, forcing the Bills to turn to veteran Derek Anderson, who has been no better than the rookie or Peterman so far.
In his first game under centre last week, Anderson threw three interceptions for a passer rating of 39.8 in a 37-5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. His life will get no easier on Monday when he goes up against Tom Brady and the surging Patriots, who can pile on to Buffalo’s misery.
New England have scored at least 38 points in four straight games, but they likely won’t need anything close to that to beat the Bills, who are fielding one of the worst offences in recent memory.
Congratulations Buffalo Bills, who at -53.4% now have the worst offensive DVOA ever tracked through 7 games, and by a good margin. 1992 Seahawks second at -45.5%, then 2013 Jags, 2010 Panthers, and 2004 Dolphins.— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) October 22, 2018
Buffalo rank second-to-last in yards per game (234.0), last in yards per play (3.9), third-to-last in giveaways (16), second-to-last in third-down conversion rate (27.4 per cent), and last in scoring (11.6 points per game).
The ground game continues to be the focal point of their attack, but after three consecutive seasons or ranking in the top six in rushing yards, the Bills have been mediocre at best running the ball this year. Their 3.9 yards per carry places them 28th in the league, while their 104.6 yards per game slots them 19th.
LeSean McCoy finally appears to be fading after years of mileage on his legs, with the 30-yard-old running back managing just 244 yards on 3.9 yards per carry so far. He’s been rumoured to be on the trading block with the Bills going nowhere this year, but he apparently won’t be moved ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, according to reports.
Buffalo’s defence under defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott has been the team’s best unit, ranking fourth in the league in yards allowed per game (320.9) and 16th in points surrendered (25.0), but it hasn’t been good enough to completely mask the shortcomings on the other side of the ball.
As such, the Bills are on their way to grabbing one of the top picks in next year’s draft, as well as a full rebuild.
There’s little reason for optimism right now, but in the NFL, things always get worse before they get better.
Here are five players worth picking off your bench or waiver wire and inserting into your starting lineup.
A golden opportunity awaits the San Francisco 49ers’ unheralded running back if starter Matt Breida is sidelined with an ankle injury this week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Mostert has really come on in the past two weeks, totaling 146 rushing yards on 19 carries, along with 19 receiving yards on four catches.
It appears the 49ers would be more likely to ride him, and not Alfred Morris, if Breida can’t go against a Cardinals defence that is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Been hittin the drum but I’m gonna say it again...— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) October 23, 2018
Raheem Mostert 🔥
could be a stretch run hero in #FantasyFootball
- Last 2 gms: 23 touches 165 yds
- SF 2nd ranked Run Blocking Line per @fboutsiders
- Next 2 gms (ppg allowed to Rb)
Az (1st), OAK (9th)
If you want to take the kind of deep shot that would make Drew Brees proud, roll with the guy who’s quickly becoming his number two wideout.
Smith has seemingly surpassed Cameron Meredith in the New Orleans Saints offence and could be leaned on this week with top target Michael Thomas potentially having his hands full against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
There are a lot of mouths to feed in New Orleans, but also plenty of opportunities.
You could do a lot worse than Mayfield as a streamer at quarterback this week, with the Cleveland Browns rookie coming off his best fantasy performance of the season.
Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, Mayfield should have the benefit of a positive game script as the Browns are expected to be chasing points.
Plus, there’s always the chance Mayfield adds points with his legs, like he did last week with 43 rushing yards.
Despite barely any chances to run the ball, Richard continues to hold value in PPR leagues thanks to what he can do as a receiver.
The Oakland Raiders scat-back has at least six catches in three of the past four weeks, and with Marshawn Lynch now on the injured reserve, Richard should see the field even more.
Doug Martin is expected to lead the backfield on early downs, but if Oakland are trailing and need to throw, that will favour Richard.
The Pittsburgh Steelers tight end hits that sweet spot of players who’ve produced fairly well this season, yet are still available in many leagues.
McDonald isn’t just worth streaming this week – he’s probably worth a roster spot on your team considering how volatile the tight end position has been this year and bye weeks.
As for right now, McDonald could thrive against the Cleveland Browns, who have given up four touchdowns to tight ends so far.
If the New Orleans Saints want to get some redemption for the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’, they’ll have to do what they couldn’t at the very end of their nightmare playoff loss.
Stopping the Minnesota Vikings’ passing attack – specifically wide receiver duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs – will be of utmost importance for the Saints in a battle featuring two of the NFC’s heavyweights.
Diggs is the man who stuck the dagger into New Orleans’ heart in the Divisional Round contest, but it will be Thielen who commands the most attention on Sunday night.
The 28-year-old has been the best receiver in the league this season, leading all players in receptions (67) and receiving yards (822) while eclipsing the century mark in yards in all seven games.
The Saints secondary has been much better over the past three weeks after a disastrous start to the season, but they’ve still been susceptible, allowing the second-best passer rating in the league at 112.2.
That’s why New Orleans went out this past week and traded for cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants in an effort to shore up their pass defence. Apple has yet to allow a touchdown this season, but it’s unclear how much he’ll be on the field after just joining the team.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are expected to have Everson Griffen back after the defensive end was away from the team the past five weeks, which will strengthen a Minnesota defence that is starting to look like itself.
Regardless of the result on Sunday, it may not be the last time these two teams get together this season.
Here are more talking points in Week 8.
RESTED AND READY
If there’s any player in the league capable of putting the first blemish on the Los Angeles Rams’ undefeated record, it’s Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers and the Packers offence haven’t been at their best this season, but coming off a bye week, Green Bay are a dangerous underdog for the Rams. Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy are 9-2 together coming off the bye, and the week off will have given the star quarterback more time to heal the knee injury suffered in Week 1.
The key against a lethal Rams pass rush will be keeping Rodgers upright, which Green Bay have managed to do for the most part this season. The Packers offensive line ranks first in pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus at 91.2, while allowing just 59 pressures on 296 pass-blocking snaps.
They’ll need to be on top of their game against Aaron Donald, who is coming off his best performance of the year in which he notched four sacks and two stuffs in an absolute domination of the San Francisco 49ers.
BECKHAM v NORMAN, ROUND FOUR
As far as individual match-ups go, it doesn’t get more contentious than the one featuring Odell Beckham Jr and Josh Norman.
The NFL was robbed of two encounters between the New York Giants wide receiver and the Washington cornerback last season when Beckham was injured, but Sunday will mark the third time the two line-up against one another since they fought on the field in 2015.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them involved in more heated exchanges this week, especially with Norman using his trash talk to get in Beckham’s head.