Edwards, Bills face critical four-game stretch (buffalobills.com)
Things went well for the Buffalo Bills during their bye week, both in their own clubhouse as well as around the league. Though the New York Jets beat the winless Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, elevating their record to 3-2 and putting themselves a game behind Buffalo in the AFC East, both the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins lost yesterday. That means that entering Week 7, the Bills retain sole possession of first place in the division, with one-game advantages on the Patriots and Jets, and a two-game cushion over the 2-3 Dolphins.
Quarterback Trent Edwards continues to recover from the concussion he suffered in the Week 5 loss to Arizona (and as an aside, does anyone want to gripe about a loss to an "average Cardinals team" after they beat Dallas yesterday?). Though it's still unclear whether or not Edwards will be ready to play in this coming Sunday's tilt with the Chargers, all indications are that Edwards will practice this week and play on Sunday. Cornerback Terrence McGee is set to return from a left knee injury, and there's also a chance - a remote one, but it's still there - that WR Roscoe Parrish, recovering from thumb surgery, could play against San Diego as well (though it's more likely he'll return the following week in Miami).
The Bills got some help this weekend from their bye week and from the rest of the league. They'll take it. With four straight huge games coming up, however, it's now on the Bills to take control of their destiny.
Here come the Chargers
The Bills are 2-0 after bye weeks under Dick Jauron. The team put together a 24-10 win over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in 2006, and last season, the Bills beat the Baltimore Ravens 19-14 in Trent Edwards' third career start. Both of those wins came after big defeats leading into the bye week, as well; those include a 28-6 home loss to the Patriots in 2006, and the famous 25-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football last season. The Bills fell to Arizona 41-17 leading into this year's bye week.
The trend needs to continue coming off of the bye week. Buffalo is healthy and re-focused after their humbling defeat, but the Chargers pose matchup problems across the board, as they're one of - if not the - most talented teams in the NFL. The Bills will have their hands full, but the Chargers have had their problems making trips to the east coast. The last time they did so, they lost to Miami 17-10; the last time they traveled to Buffalo, they squeaked by 24-21. This is a game the Bills can and should win.
We'll have much more on the Chargers game throughout the week, obviously; it's quite clear, however, that if the Bills are to consider themselves legitimate contenders, this is a game they should win. Another loss would be crippling as the team gets set to open up their division slate.
Division slate must wait
Quick: name the one NFL team that has yet to play a division game. When the Chicago Bears took on the Detroit Lions in Week 5, the Bears became the thirty-first team to play a division rival this season. Three weeks later, the Bills will travel to Miami as the last NFL team to take on one of their rivals.
Following this week's tilt with San Diego, the NFL's schedule-makers play catch-up for Buffalo, as the Bills will play three straight divisional games, and only one of them - Week 9's matchup with the Jets - will take place at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills must travel to Miami in Week 8, as mentioned, and they follow that with a trip to New England in Week 10.
Currently, the Bills fancy themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC East. That's going to change quickly if the Bills can't keep their heads above water during this critical four-game stretch. These four games represent the most critical juncture of Buffalo's season, as how they emerge through these games will either leave them in position to control their own destiny, or leave them trying to claw back into contention during the season's stretch run. A 2-2 record in this stretch is a minimum to keeping themselves alive in the playoff race. Having two home games clearly helps.
It starts with San Diego on Sunday. Bills football is back, folks, and we're about to see some of the team's biggest games in recent memory. Get fired back up after your bye week. These are winnable games, including the Chargers; Sunday can't come soon enough.