Just because the Buffalo Bills are only looking at their next opponent, that doesn't mean we can't jump the gun and see what's coming. Each week, we'll be looking at the next few opponents on the schedule to see what might be in store when they face off against the Bills. We call it our Pro Personnel Department series.
Week 7: Bills at Jaguars (London)
Week 6: Jaguars (1-4) vs. Texans (1-4), Sunday, 10/18, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 5 recap: Having watched the last three Jaguars games, I think I finally understand why they keep losing. As you may have guessed, our old friend Doug Marrone is probably a big reason for that. Blake Bortles was sacked six times, and on most of those he never even had a chance. His mobility saved him from a few more, as well. T.J. Yeldon can generate a lot of power at the point of attack, but if he doesn't have holes opened up for him his legs can only take him so far. There's really no other way to put it: the Jaguars' offensive line is the worst in the NFL. It's a shame, too, because there is a lot of talent at the skill positions in Jacksonville. Bortles has me convinced that he was worth the third overall pick in the draft last year, and I feel confident in going out on a limb and saying that Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are going to be the best 1-2 wide receiver combination the Bills will face all year. Of course, all that goes to waste when the line can't hold up long enough for them to make plays.
The offensive line isn't the only area they struggle in, though. Paul Posluszny was missing their 38-31 loss to Tampa, and it showed. Doug Martin ran for a season-high 123 yards, added 35 more through the air, and found the end zone three times. They allowed Jameis Winston to have the best game of his short professional career, completing 68% of his passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. They also only sacked Winston twice and failed to generate any turnovers, which made a huge difference in a one-score game. Even kicker Jason Myers knocked a kickoff out of bounds, although he did convert four extra points and a field goal.
What to watch for: Can the offensive line stop J.J. Watt, especially given the relative weakness of the rest of the Texans defense? Watt has been his usual dominant self, recording four sacks and generally creating havoc for opposing lines, but the rest of Houston's defense has combined for half that total, and Watt's four pass defenses are second on the team. Given that, and Jacksonville's line troubles, they should roll some extra protection his way, but will it help? I get the feeling that, given their blocking troubles, double-teaming Watt will lead to former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney having his best day as a pro (side note: Clowney has nine games under his belt and has yet to record a sack). If they can't stop Watt, Bortles (who is nursing a shoulder sprain but should play) is going to be in for a long day.
Player to watch: TE Julius Thomas. Having finally returned from a finger injury he suffered in the preseason, the big offseason acquisition for the Jaguars caught two passes for 20 yards. It's hard to say whether his presence had anything to do with Bortles setting career highs in quarterback rating and touchdowns, but given their struggles it will help to have a reliable safety valve going forward. He's also fairly decent in the blocking game (at least compared to other top receivers at the position), so his presence could help them in that regard as well. Of course, what they really need from him is his first 100-yard receiving game since week one of last season, or at least his first touchdown since week ten last year.
Week 9: Bills vs. Dolphins
Week 6: Dolphins (1-3) vs. Titans (1-3), Sunday, 10/18, 1:00 p.m. ET
Season in review: Even though the Bills and Dolphins have already played, this should be a different Dolphins team than the one we saw get blown out in week three. Miami responded to their 1-2 start by heading to London and embarrassing themselves in front of the Brits, a loss that cost perpetually-beleaguered head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle their jobs. Filling in for the remainder of the season is the team's tight ends coach, Dan Campbell, who can bring a new perspective to the role but still has to deal with the problems that cost his predecessor his job. The offensive line is still a wreck, so it'll be a tall order for them to improve on the league's second-worst rushing attack (69.3 yards per game). The team also ranks 28th in adjusted net yards per passing attempt, a figure that adjusts for sacks, touchdowns, and interceptions. We saw in week three that Ryan Tannehill tends to struggle when he's forced on the run, so improving his protection is going to be the key to turning around the Dolphins' season.
What to watch for: How does the defense respond to their new coordinator? The demise of Philbin and Coyle means that, in addition to a new head coach, the Dolphins will be breaking in Lou Anarumo as their new defensive coordinator. Anarumo has been the Dolphins' defensive backs coach since 2012. He's been a defensive backs coach at the college level going back to 1990, but Miami is his first professional stop. If he can draw up a scheme to get the most out of Ndamukong Suh, it most likely won't be the last job for the 49-year-old. Judging by the game last week, it's not likely that the Titans will offer much of a hurdle, so it's a great chance for him to get his feet wet running an NFL defense.
Player to watch: non-player Dan Campbell. I usually stick to players for this segment, but the style of Campbell as a head coach is certainly going to be worth watching. Will the play calling change at all, given that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is staying in his role? How aggressive will he be on fourth down, or when he's at the edge of Andrew Franks' field goal range? How will he handle the clock (a task that seems obvious, yet has doomed many coaches in the past)? Campbell has only been in the coaching ranks since 2010, so he'll probably have to learn some things on the fly. How well he does with that will determine whether this season ends up being a lost year for the Dolphins or if it sees them make the rare jump from 1-3 to a playoff spot.