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Four Downs: Arrow is pointing up for A.J. Epenesa

The second-round pick has shown improvement this season

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Buffalo Bills v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are on the road this week, ready to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. This edition of Four Downs will help you get ready for kickoff.

Epenesa making more of an impact

Many of you know that A.J. Epenesa was a pre-draft favorite of mine for the Bills. When the team drafted him in the second round, I was ecstatic that general manager Brandon Beane had found an eventual replacement for Trent Murphy along the defensive line. Fast forward to Week 1 of the 2020 season, and Epenesa was a healthy scratch against the New York Jets. A crowded defensive end group made it hard for the rookie to find snaps, which left many fans scratching their head about the rookie.

Epenesa has shown steady progress in recent weeks, even earning an A- grade from The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia in his All-22 review from last week. Epenesa played 31 snaps against the Los Angeles Chargers, and his showing progress in time for the regular-season stretch run. Lets hope that Epenesa can continue to make progress with the Bills, as an “X” factor for the improving defense heading into the playoffs.

Congrats to A.J. Klein

The 2020 season did not get off to a great start for linebacker A.J. Klein, but the free-agent linebacker has certainly made an impact in recent weeks. Klein deservedly was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his stellar performance against the Los Angeles Chargers. A stat line that includes 14 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks is a fantastic performance, and has fans singing his praises. Hopefully the new-and-improved Klein can continue to make an impact throughout the rest of the season.

Pod of the Week

It is not very often that I will include one of my own episodes in this space, but this is worth an exception. Earlier this week I had a chance to catch up with Greg Tompsett of Cover 1 to discuss the 2021 salary cap, and how the Bills could re-sign a number of pending free agents (Matt Milano, Jon Feliciano, Daryl Williams). Greg goes in depth around the flexibility the Bills have, and how they can free up cap space without releasing a number of valuable players like John Brown. Give it a listen, as I think it gives a great perspective on some options for Brandon Beane heading into the offseason.

Prediction: Bills 27, 49ers 20

The Bills look to improve to 9-3, while exorcising some demons at State Farm Stadium in Arizona. The passing game returns to form, with the Bills getting into an early rhythm behind quarterback Josh Allen. Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley both go over 100 yards, as the Bills pull out a hard-fought victory.