The Buffalo Bills need a win on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. They need it to break a two-game losing streak, the first such streak they’ve had since the end of the 2019 season. They need it to prove they still belong in the conversation of the league’s contenders, as a team with playoff aspirations (and more) should win this game at home.
Most importantly, however, they need to win this game in order to realize those playoff dreams. Buffalo needs at least ten wins to think about the playoffs, and they may even need 11 depending on how things shake down around the league. Dropping this game wouldn’t quite be a death knell, but we would definitely hear a woman warming up her Soprano 1 in the distance.
Here are five key Bills we’ll be watching this week.
QB Josh Allen
It won’t just be Rex Ryan fixating on Allen’s feet this week. After suffering a sprained left foot late in last week’s 33-27 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bills’ quarterback will likely be a little limited this weekend. He was limping around the field at the end of last week’s game, and he even wore a walking boot in the game’s immediate aftermath. However, Allen was spotted at a production of Hamilton this week without the boot, and he has practiced so far. It would take something severe for him to miss the game, and it appears that, fortunately for the Bills, they have avoided something severe. Allen had a superhuman game on Sunday, and hopefully he won’t need that level of crazy for the Bills to pull off a win this week. If his line can protect him, he should have space to operate and room to throw.
RB Devin Singletary
While he only handled four carries last week, he was explosive, totaling 52 yards. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll ran away from the Bucs’ strengths, which meant that he stopped trying to ram his running backs into the middle of the line and instead allowed them to pressure the edges. Coincidentally, that plays into Buffalo’s rushing strengths, as well. The Bills don’t have a big, physical offensive line, but they do have a fairly athletic group. Spencer Brown is a freak athlete, and Mitch Morse is outstanding when he’s pulling in space. With Allen a little limited physically, I wouldn’t be angry at a few extra carries for RB1. Buffalo doesn’t need to “establish the run”—that’s not who they are—but they may want to avoid a scenario where they need their quarterback to run for 109 yards in order to compete.
RT Spencer Brown
Last week, the Bucs confused the right side of the line on stunts and games all throughout the day. I won’t place all the blame on Brown, as it takes two to tango in those situations, but defensive coordinators are definitely going to try to stress the rookie mentally rather than physically. Like I said above, the guy is a flat-out specimen, so it’s best to try to confuse him than it is to try to push him around. If Brown and right guard Daryl Williams are sharp in their communication, then everything should fall into place. The right side is where Buffalo should try most of their running, too, especially if Brown winds up opposite Haason Reddick, who is a great pass rusher but gives up 80 lbs to Buffalo’s mammoth right tackle.
DE Jerry Hughes
The veteran is limited this week with a foot injury, but even when he’s been out there this season, we don’t hear his name called very often. He still seems to generate some pressure, and he’s continued to improve as an edge setter as his career has progressed; however, notching a sack or two would sure be nice. Forcing Carolina into obvious passing downs is a win for Buffalo’s defense, as anything aside from “third-and-manageable” is not what Carolina wants to see.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
The man who will likely be responsible for shadowing quarterback Cam Newton has a lot on his plate as per usual. Edmunds leads the Bills with 82 tackles, but only six of them have gone for a loss. He has yet to register a hit on a quarterback. It hasn’t been a great year for Buffalo’s fourth-year middle linebacker, and while he hasn’t been as bad as some of his harsher critiques would suggest, he certainly hasn’t been anything close to who Buffalo thought they were drafting when they moved up to select him No. 16 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’ll need to be on his game in order for Buffalo to come out with a win.