It wasn’t too long ago that the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the safest bets to win each week in the National Football League. The Eagles find themselves at 11-2, with multiple dominant performances along the way. Their season was smooth sailing until Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14. With this stark reminder that a team’s season can hinge on one ill-fated play, SB Nation NFL blogs ask ourselves: Who is the one player that the Buffalo Bills can’t afford to lose?
At 7-6, the Buffalo Bills are solidly a middle-tier team. They find themselves in this spot (again) as a result of a roster with many solid players, but also a lack of star power to push them over the edge. With a singular star player on the roster, our choice is ultimately an easy one.
LeSean McCoy is the undisputed backbone of the Buffalo Bills. As one of few teams that consistently run more than they pass, the Bills rely on the legs of their backfield like few other rosters. Shady’s continued ability to make defenders lose their shoes makes him a true threat on every snap. Despite nearing the dreaded wall of 30 years old, McCoy gives fans a show and defensive coordinators headaches nearly every week.
The stats only back up the eye test on McCoy. Fans are encouraged to keep track of Shady’s yardage this week as the Bills take on the Miami Dolphins. Shady is a scant 39 yards away from reaching the career milestone of 10,000 yards. He’s managed this while maintaining high efficiency, with a career average of 4.7 yards per attempt.
This year, McCoy has already broken the ,000-yard mark on the ground, reaching 1,007 yards this last week with an insane performance in the snow. A career high number of carries (32) combined with 4.88-yards per attempt gave McCoy 156 yards in the game. His agility in nearly unprecedented conditions led to his game-winning touchdown in snowvertime. McCoy has also added over 300 yards in the receiving game and 6 touchdowns this year, making him the central piece of Buffalo’s offense.
It’s unmistakable that McCoy is a true impact player. But to consider him the one player we can’t lose, we must also examine the depth of the position, or lack thereof, as a whole. Mike Tolbert is considered the RB2, but he averages a less-than-inspiring 3.8 yards per attempt. With 2 fumbles on only 56 carries, he hasn’t earned a reputation as a secure ball carrier, either. Travaris Cadet was picked up by Buffalo on November 4th. While he is a bit of an unknown, it is noteworthy that he has been in the league since 2012 and is now on his fifth team. In five years in the NFL, he has failed to generate much excitement.
The offense of the Buffalo Bills will run as LeSean McCoy does. And for this reason, he is the one player they can’t afford to lose.
- Steven Hauschka, K - The Buffalo brand of football has not created a team that amasses yards at a high rate. “Hausch-money” has been consistently excellent, providing the Bills with a security blanket for a mediocre offense.
- Tre’Davious White, CB - A legitimate candidate for defensive rookie of the year, White’s first season has been outstanding. The rookie corner epitomizes hope for the future as a significant building block of young talent.
- E.J. Gaines, CB - Initially a major question mark when he was acquired as part of the Sammy Watkins trade, Gaines has turned heads with effective play. It’s been clearly noticeable when he’s out of the lineup due to injury as his understudies have been consistently picked on.
- Reid Ferguson, LS - With the battle for field position so important, Ferguson’s efforts can’t go unnoticed. His excellent long snapping has transcended the worst conditions Buffalo has to offer and allowed both the field goal kicking unit and the punting unit to shine. (It’s the NFL’s secret disaster scenario, after all.)