Following last Sunday’s shutout win over the Washington Redskins, the Buffalo Bills are 5-2 and tied for first in the AFC East. Who would’ve imagined this time a year ago that right now the Bills have positioned themselves to be a playoff contender and giving New England all they can handle for bragging rights in the division?
But that’s currently the wild world we’re living in. A blowout, two thrilling comebacks, getting the best of Tom Brady and Michael Vick, flustering Bill Belichick, nine sacks and a shutout later Buffalo is relevant again and with each passing Sunday afternoon, the games are taking on a decidely bigger feel.
Following their latest win, here’s my top 10 things I took away from Buffalo’s Week 8 win over the Washington Redskins:
1. Dareus dominates when Bills’ D needed it most. They lost Shawne Merriman earlier last week and suddenly face the possibility of playing without Kyle Williams or at the least on a very limited basis the rest of the year. The Bills decided to move Dareus inside to nose tackle for the first time all season and the switch brough immediate results. Dareus had his best game as a Bill totaling four tackes and 2.5 sacks. Washington’s offensive line had zero answers as to how to keep Dareus from terrorizing John Beck. Dareus dominated from start to finish and gave Buffalo’s coaching staff plenty of reasons why they should leave him at nose tackle.
2. Fred Jackson. Need I say more? It’s hard to imagine where Buffalo might be if Fred Jackson wasn’t in the backfield. The Bills are 5-2 with him, but my question is where they would be without him? He rushed for 120 yards and added 74 receiving yards. He’s gone over the century mark in rushing five times in seven games and only once this season has Jackson not combined for at least 100 yards rushing and receiving. His value has increased each and every week to the point where we now expect big things whenever No.22 gets his hands on the football. He’s hands down Buffalo’s MVP and certainly he’ll garner some league wide MVP votes as well.
3. Which brings me to my next point which is rather simple. So simple it’ll take only four words: BUFFALO, PAY FRED JACKSON. I don’t care Jackson is 30. I don’t care they drafted C.J. Spiller. Do not let those factors be deterrents for not rewarding Jackson for all his hard work, dedication and tremendous play on the field. He’s loved in the locker room and in the stands. It’s time to show Jackson the love. And the money.
4. Scott Chandler challenging his inner Chris Carter. All the guys does is catch touchdowns. Six of his 15 catches have been touchdowns this season, tying him for the most by a Bills tight end.
5. Toronto turnaround. The fourth time was just what the doctor ordered for Buffalo. After three stinkers north of the border, the Bills finally solved their problems at the Rogers Centre with a convincing, top-to-bottom victory.
6. The defense doesn’t rest. Perhaps the team’s biggest Achilles this season, Buffalo’s defense has been given up staggering chunks of yardage on offense. You’d expect crooked numbers to be produced by New England, Philadelphia and even the New York Giants. But the Bills had been gashed by lesser offenses in Oakland and Cincinnati. Short handed and facing a must-have bounce back effort to avoid losing two straight, Buffalo’s defense answered the bell and then some. The Bills shut out a Mike Shanahan coached team for the first time in Shanahan’s career spanding 267 games. They sacked John Beck nine times and blocked a field goal attempt for the second consecutive game. If the Bills’ defense continues to play with that kind of energy and determination, they’re going to be tough to beat.
7. Controlling their own destiny. Yeah, when was the last time anyone ever said that about the Bills? But right now, that’s the scenario in Buffalo. Sitting at 5-2 tied for first in the AFC East, there’s a lot of work left to be done. An eternity is left to go in the season, nine games to be exact. There’s a logjam of teams in the AFC jockeying for playoff position. Including the Bills, there are five teams with a 5-2 record and five teams sitting at 4-3. Winning keeps pace and creates some seperation for the Bills while a loss here and there brings them back to crazy mixed up pack. So the best way for Buffalo to control their own destiny is to continue to win football games.
8. Nasty November looms. The Bills return to their real home in Ralph Wilson Stadium this Sunday for the first time since Oct.9. That’s the good news. The bad news is that their next home game after this Sunday won’t be until Dec. 4. Buffalo plays the New York Jets twice, a talented yet enigmatic Dallas Cowboys bunch and as it stands right now a winless Miami Dolphins squad. The Jets will have a prime chance to get back into the discussion for AFC East supremacy. The Cowboys will be fighting for their perverbial playoff lives and the Dolphins could be battling for their first win of the season.
9. Buffalo’s other MVP not named Fred Jackson? The offensive line. After another strong performance, this group of no names is making a big name for themselves. Missing both left tackles, the Bills just shuffle players around along the line and it seems as though they continue to gel and get better each week. Andy Levitre and Eric Wood have been great. Kraig Urbik has been solid and steady after a shaky preseason, while Erik Pears seems to have solidified the right tackle position.
10. Washington’s running game never cleared customs. Mike Shanahan loves to run the football almost as much as he loves to utilize as many running backs as he can get his hands on. But his zone blocking scheme that’s been successful for him as far opening and achieving running lanes falied miserably last week. Buffalo devoured Washington’s run game holding the Redskins to just 26 yards on 12 carries for a measley 2.2 yards per carry average.