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  • Buffalo Bills DT Harrison Phillips has a torn ACL
    by Matt Warren on September 23, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images That really stinks. Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips has suffered a torn ACL, ending his sophomore season according to ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques. Phillips was injured on a non-contact play against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s the same ACL he tore in college. The Bills will likely up Star Lotulelei’s snaps in the wake of the injury. Phillips had played about 37% of the team’s defensive snaps to Lotulelei’s 40%, making him very valuable. Also seeing an uptick in snaps will be Lorenzo Alexander, who has rotated in on passing downs. Ed Oliver could end up playing more, as well, as Buffalo had been subbing Alexander for Oliver from time to time. They also have solid depth with Jordan Phillips at the position. Buffalo has Kyle Peko on their practice squad, who was behind Phillips during training camp and the preseason. He’d be a natural call-up option to the active roster and has seven games of NFL experience, all coming with the Denver Broncos. The same could be said for former Miami Dolphins DT Vince Taylor, also on their practice squad, who has played in 21 career NFL games. Luckily, it’s a position of depth for the roster.

  • Opinion: Bills do just enough to win, but not enough to create confidence
    by nickbat on September 23, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports 3-0 feels good, but it could feel better. If someone had asked me before the Buffalo Bills and Cinncinati Bengals played what I thought the Bills’ chances were against the New England Patriots in Week 4, I would have said they had a puncher’s chance. If someone asked me the same question now, my answer would be literally identical. The Game The Bills' beatdown-turned meltdown-turned-comeback win over the Bengals was a must-win game in the sense that it was a game that would bring the stench of fool’s gold to the Bills 2-0 start to the 2019 season. Road wins or not, they were against foes who are now both 0-3. And the Bills third win on Sunday was also against a now winless team almost a quarter of the way into the season. In case you hadn’t heard that yet, it merits repeating; the Bills opponents thus far are all winless across the NFL (or should be after the Bucs kicker shanked a 34-yard attempt in the final seconds). That is not the Bills’ fault. They can only play the teams in front of them and they don’t make the schedule. That being said, the thirst for “clean” wins has yet to be quenched. At the two-minute warning before halftime, the Bills had a 14-0 lead, had held the Bengals to one first down (on the previous play) and were dominating in almost every phase of the game. A missed 62-yard field-goal attempt allowed box-score watchers around the league to imagine a far more conventional game than was happening on the field. In what felt like déjà vu mixed with PTSD, the second-half Bills offense oscillated between anemic and careless while the Bills’ defense seemed to be doing their best imitation of the first-half Bengals defense. Again, an opportunity to put a team away in the third quarter was squandered and the Mortal Kombat narrator was left wondering if anyone is ever going to finish anyone else ever again. But this is not a “no good news scenario”. Not in the least. Josh Allen is not a fluke Josh Allen looked sharp for much of the game and after the first half there were even people using words like “transcendent” to describe his progress from his rookie season. The Allen-o-meter—which ranges from “Reckless” on one end to “How Did He Do That?!” on the other—is likely seeing an orthopedist on Monday because of the whiplash it experienced during this game. Despite his warts still being present, Allen continues to show field-reading skills and confident command of the offense, meeting even the most optimistic fan’s expectations. Perhaps most exciting, he is not outmatched when the team needs to come back to win. Playoffs should be the expectation Sean McDermott has been preaching “playoff caliber” to his team for months. Part of being playoff caliber is beating the teams you should beat. The Bills have done that three weeks in a row. With what seem to be winnable games ahead like Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins (x2), Washington, Cleveland Browns (suddenly mortal), Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers (sans Big Ben), and the New York Jets again at home, the path to 10-6 or even 11-5 is quite clear. If the new beat-who-we-should Bills are here to stay then it’s not hard to figure out the road map ahead. That puncher’s chance still exists for next week The reason they call it a “puncher’s chance” is because in boxing, when a heavy favorite gets upset it’s typically because they were going up against a fighter who maybe wasn’t completely well-rounded but could hurt their opponent bad if they didn’t watch themselves. The Bills offense has shown exciting flashes of scheme and creativity this season. The run-pass balance is leaning heavily into Josh Allen’s hands, which means the coaching staff is not handling him with kid gloves. That’s very good, because if the Bills are going to upset the Patriots, Allen is definitely going to be given a big-boy-game-plan by Brian Daboll. The Bills’ defense is still a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps Tom Brady will adjust our perspective on that, but the defense under McDermott has historically been one that disguises what it’s doing and makes life difficult for Brady more than most. The Elephant in the Division The prospect of going into this game 3-0 while the big bad Patriots come to New Era Field has been looming over all of Bills Mafia for weeks. The stage is set exactly as everyone in Western New York had hoped. The only thing left to do is send the message we have been waiting to send; that the big bad elephant in this division isn’t so big anymore. Is it going to happen? Vegas, most pundits, and most of America is going to say “no”. But that’s why they call it a puncher’s chance.

  • AFC East Roundup: Perfection and defeat
    by Corey Giacovelli on September 23, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports Two teams stayed perfect while two are still defeated. Week 3 is in the books and for the teams in the AFC East it has been two sides of the same coin with the four teams. On one side you have the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots who were trying to build on their 2-0 start to the season. On the other side are the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins who were trying to get their first win of the season after an 0-2 start. Let’s see how the teams did on the AFC East Roundup. Buffalo Bills It was an up and down day for the Bills during their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. They started off strong by getting out to a 14-0 lead, but then the team stalled in the second and found themselves behind 17-14. Give this team credit, however, as Josh Allen led another game-winning drive connecting on a big play to rookie Dawson Knox before Frank Gore pounded in a rushing touchdown. Then the defense held firm on the last drive as Tre’Davious White picked off Andy Dalton for the second time to seal the victory. The Bills are 3-0 for the first time in a while but the fun will be next week when they host the New England Patriots where the league will see what Buffalo is made of. New England Patriots The Patriots never had a problem dealing with the Jets while cruising to a 30-14 victory. Tom Brady continued to do Brady things, completing 28 passes for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Their defense continues to dominate, only allowing the Jets to score when the game was already out of hand. It will be interesting to watch the injury report for the Patriots going forward, however, as they are banged up on the offensive line and in their receiver corps. New York Jets As for the Jets, it has been a struggle with Sam Darnold still out recovering from mono. Luke Falk didn’t even pass for 100 yards and Le’veon Bell couldn’t even crack forty yards rushing. If there’s any bright spot to come away from this game it’s the fact that New York managed to cover the spread. Miami Dolphins Lastly, there are the Dolphins who got pounded once again, this time 31-6 by the Dallas Cowboys. Unlike the Jets, Miami was unable to cover the 20-point spread and the positives are getting harder and harder to come by as the team clearly seems to be looking ahead to the future. Josh Rosen got his first start for the team passing for an even 200 yards on 18 completions. So as it stands, Miami and New York may already be packing it in as they each find themselves 0-3. On the other hand, there will be a big-time game next week as the undefeated Patriots will take on the undefeated Bills. It may only be Week 4, but don’t be surprised if this game ends up deciding who will be standing on top of the division when the season ends.

  • 2020 NFL Draft: College Football Recap, Week 4
    by grif on September 23, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports Seniors get the spotlight For most draft observers, underclassmen always seem to get the attention during draft season. As a general rule, they’re the ones who generally make up most of the upper echelon of prospects because they (1) have the most athletic talent and (2) haven’t been picked apart yet. With that process in mind, it’s always good to highlight some of the seniors who have been playing well across the country. Thankfully, this week had plenty of prospects to choose from, including the six players below. QB Josh Love (San Jose State) Love doesn’t get much notoriety as he plays for the San Jose Spartans, but perhaps he should after his big performance in Arkansas against the SEC Razorbacks in which he passed for 402 yards. From the first play of the game—where the senior stood tall and delivered a 50-yard strike—to the final game-winning drive. Love was mostly pinpoint on slants, quick-outs, back-shoulder throws and generally any throws across the middle of the field. This may be just the type of performance that gets him an invite to the Senior Bowl next January. WR Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) Pittman had his third-string quarterback throwing him the ball and was going against a very strong secondary in Utah, but he still managed to lead the nation in receiving yards during Week 4 with 232. Utah thought they could leave the 6’4”, 220-lb senior in man coverage all day, but he made them pay. His jump-ball ability was elite on a couple long balls, but it was his ability to beat a safety over the top on one particular long reception that was the most impressive. Scouts will no doubt take a second look at Pittman’s tape after such a dominant week. RB Darius Anderson (TCU) This writer has been wanting to highlight Anderson for a while now, and he definitely deserves a mention after his game against SMU. Although the TCU defense got embarrassed by the Mustangs, Anderson kept the Horned Frogs in the game not only with his rushing ability—161 yards on 19 carries—but also his pass-catching chops and his special-teams ability. His 47-yard kickoff return set TCU up for another score. His best qualities are his patience and his second gear when he gets to the second level. EDGE Zack Baun (Wisconsin) Wisconsin loves their versatile outside linebacker/edge-rushing hybrids, and Baun is another in a long line. Against Michigan, he tore apart the Wolverines’ blocking scheme and finished the day with seven tackles (two for a loss), a sack and two quarterback hits. That’s great production against a talented defensive line. One of his sacks came on a speed rush in the fourth quarter, which forced a Shea Patterson fumble, helping to preserve the Badgers win. DB Dane Jackson (Pittsburgh) Another week, another Pitt cornerback—this time Jackson. The Panthers beat UCF in one of the biggest upsets of the season, thanks to their ability to somewhat contain the Knights’ dynamic passing attack. Jackson’s coverage, mostly of UCF receiver Tre Nixon, led to several sacks and throw-aways and the defense was able to make several stands to allow the offense to win the game. LB Joe Bachie (Michigan State) When your defensive coordinator praises you as “all over the place” during a game, that means you’ve done a good job. The senior linebacker for the Spartans had a career-high 14 tackles, (two for a loss), a sack, two passes defended, and an interception. Now that’s production. As the defensive leader, Bachie’s instincts and knowledge of the defense allow him to swarm to the football and get there faster than most other defenders. His skill at choosing the right second to blitz also stood out on his sack—the first play of the game. Another guy who should get an invite to Mobile, Alabama.

  • Buffalo Bills in prime position for playoff push
    by Matt Warren on September 23, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports The breaks keep coming. After three weeks of NFL action, the Buffalo Bills are one of just three teams in the AFC with an undefeated record. As they continue unblemished, Buffalo's chance for a playoff position keeps improving, despite fans who think it's too early to discuss. Here's reality: The Bills and New England Patriots are playing for first place in the AFC East on Sunday when they put their identical undefeated records against each other. There will be great fanfare this week. In addition to that, Buffalo has a two-game lead in the Wild Card race for the sixth and final spot. Beyond their current lead, Bills fans can look ahead on their schedule a bit. They have two games remaining against the awful Miami Dolphins and one against the winless New York Jets. They still play the Philadelphia Eagles (1-2), Washington (0-2), Tennessee Titans (1-2), Denver Broncos (0-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3), and Cleveland Browns (1-2). If they just beat the currently winless teams remaining on their schedule, they'll get to nine wins with seven in the conference. Throughout the team's long playoff drought, we consistently talked about how the NFL can be fluky and it's surprising Buffalo didn't take advantage of a down year in the AFC. This year seems to be shaking out that way and, so far, Buffalo is in prime position to take advantage. Even if they lose to the Patriots this week.

 

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