After one quarter of the NFL season, the Bills (3-1) are alone in first place in the AFC East, one game up on the New England Patriots (2-2) and the New York Jets (2-2). It is the first time Buffalo has been in sole possession of first place in the division this late in the season since Week 7 of the 2008 season.
Here is our Week 4 stock watch:
Stock on the rise
TE Charles Clay
Clay carried the passing attack, as Buffalo’s tight end was targeted a team-high seven times. The veteran pass catcher hauled in five passes for 112 yards, logging his first 100-yard effort since a nine-catch, 111-yard performance during a loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 4, 2015. In posting just his second 100-yard game of his Buffalo tenure, Clay had several big catches, none bigger than his impressive, 44-yard catch that set up Buffalo’s first touchdown. On the play, Clay was interfered with and still managed to create enough separation to make the catch against Keanu Neal. Clay also added a 34-yard catch that set up a field goal for a 20-17 Buffalo lead in the fourth quarter.
S Micah Hyde
Hyde came over to the Bills from the Green Bay Packers in the offseason, and through his first four games with Buffalo, Hyde has certainly shown himself to be a worthwhile free agent acquisition. The safety delivered seven tackles, including one huge stop that kept the Falcons from scoring a touchdown. When the game’s outcome was still in the balance, Hyde delivered a pair of interceptions as the new-look defense picked off reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan three times. Following Tre’Davious White’s fumble recovery for a touchdown, Hyde picked off a deep ball to preserve Buffalo’s 14-10 lead. With Buffalo leading 20-17, Atlanta was at midfield poised to tie the game — or take the lead — when Hyde stepped up and picked off another Ryan deep ball, giving him an NFL-most three interceptions.
K Stephen Haushcka
One week after earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, Hauschka continued to demonstrate his immense value as a scoring weapon. Hauschka booted three fourth-quarter field goals to cement the win. Hauschka made a 24-yard field goal to extend Buffalo’s lead to 17-10, then converted field goals of 56-yards and 55-yards to keep the high-flying Falcons at bay. His inauspicious start to his Bills career has quickly been forgotten, as Hauschka has now made four field goals from outside of 50 yards in four games, two shy of Dan Carpenter’s team record of six during the 2014 season. Hauch-Money has now made 11 straight field goals from 50+ yards.
HC Sean McDermott
My how quickly things have changed at One Bills Drive. Less than six weeks ago, Bills Mafia and the rest of Buffalo’s die-hard fans were wondering if this team was openly eyeing a tank job, trading away No. 1 wide receiver Sammy Watkins and No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby. Now, following Sunday’s win over the Falcons, arguably the biggest road win during the 17-year playoff drought, the Bills have positioned themselves as one of the biggest early-season surprises. Trust the process was McDermott’s motto from day one, and through the first quarter of the season, fans have to love what they see. The defense is back to playing at its pre-Rex Ryan dominating level, the offense hasn’t committed a turnover in a franchise-record 15 quarters, and the players believe they can beat anyone.
DT Marcell Dareus
So much for McDermott lighting a fire under the much-maligned but talented Dareus. Dareus, the team’s highest-paid defensive player, has logged a grand total of ONE assisted tackle, with no sacks and no quarterback hurries. He is one of only three current Bills without a solo tackle along with Jerel Worthy, who just made his season debut, and Tanner Vallejo, Buffalo’s rookie linebacker. After signing a six-year, $108 million extension with $60 million in guaranteed money in 2015, it’s safe to say McDermott and the rest of the Bills’ brass were expecting more from their star defensive tackle.
WR Zay Jones
Jones’ future in Buffalo appears to be bright, but through his first four games, the rookie has struggled to establish a rapport with Tyrod Taylor. Jones had several drops, including a huge drop on a well-thrown deep ball from Taylor in the second quarter. Jones finished with one catch (on five targets) for 18 yards, and has just four catches (on 17 targets) for 57 yards through four games.