If you’ve been following along at home, the Buffalo Bills appear at a crossroads in Week 10. The team is currently 5-4, and mired in a slump unfitting for a team with as all the talent, potential, and expectations Buffalo possesses. The reality is that the rest of the NFL doesn’t care about the Bills’ troubles. every team deals with the same adversity, whether it’s a strange, difficult slump, or a rash of injuries that tests almost every corner of the roster.
When the Denver Broncos head east this weekend for Monday Night Football in Orchard Park, NY, they’ll do so having weathered one of the league’s most difficult storms — which, truthfully, dates back to last season. At this stage, the Broncos appear to be headed in the right direction, having gone 3-2 in their last five games after starting the season 0-3. They’re fresh off their bye and at near full health, roster wise. So what was once billed as a certain win for the Bills five weeks ago, suddenly feels a bit less convincing based on current trends. What Monday night’s game is for Buffalo? A must-win situation. Wins of the stacked variety are desperately needed, especially so against AFC teams.
The Bills are currently seven-point favorites with DraftKings Sportsbook for Week 10, with the over/under set at 46.5 points. Many still view this game decidedly in favor of Buffalo, but there’s much to consider that could bring caution to bold predictions. Perhaps the biggest human-interest story this week belongs to edge rusher Von Miller, who’s set to face off for the first time in the regular season against the Broncos, who drafted him second overall in 2011, and traded him just over two years ago. After spending a decade with Denver, Miller claims no hard feelings exist between him and the organization. It’s also true that the Broncos look vastly different than they did even when he left for the Los Angeles Rams.
On offense, the Bills still rank among the top of the NFL in most categories, widely viewed as an elite unit led by quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs. That’s a pair of players on offense that almost every other NFL team would love to roster. Allen looks like one of the best QBs in the league, with stats that, by and large, back up that notion. His completion percentage speaks to the overall efficiency in the passing game. But what isn’t tethered to Allen is an impressive win total to this point. Diggs, too, has put up incredible numbers, but Allen and Diggs aren’t enough, and Buffalo’s still struggling to find the right complementary balance through a traditional running game.
But there are problems on offense, which came to a head following the Week 9 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals. Too often, the Bills have been unable to start fast, settling for too many field goals instead of touchdowns. When the offense picks up the pace, as it did to begin the game against the Bengals, things appear far more fluid for Allen and company. But for whatever reason, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey got away from it in Cincinnati, and appears content to only mix in up-tempo work in the closing minutes of each half. Most have argued that getting away from a fast-paced system doesn’t favor Allen’s strengths, and that it’s foolish to pick any style that doesn’t best-feature QB17.
Dorsey has been the most-criticized person at One Bills Drive, but the burden isn’t his alone to bear. When head coach Sean McDermott mentioned to members of the media this week that against the Bengals they wanted to try other types of offenses out, the feasting began. Certainly, any NFL head coach is going to have their hand in all facets of a team, but for many within Bills Mafia, it didn’t sit well when the team’s defensive-savvy leader implied that he might have a sizeable hand in the offense’s scheme. In fairness, it’s possible that McDermott simply wanted to protect Dorsey. We’re not going to know for sure. But none of it matters. Dorsey and the offense have proven capable of producing dominant efforts against good teams, and the numbers alone tell us that all’s not wrong on offense. Does room for improvement exist? Absolutely. Will they find it? Don’t bet against them.
Compounding issues is the extensive list of injuries on defense. Having lost cornerback Tre’Davious White to a season-ending Achilles injury, then soon after both linebacker Matt Milano and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones — Buffalo remains void of key starters at each level of the defense. There’s a sliver’s chance that Milano and Jones return late this season or for the playoffs, but no guarantee. If those three alone were injured it would be devastating to the team’s chances. Adding in additional players dealing with nagging injuries or worse has made things nearly untenable. Heading into Week 10, the Bills find themselves in dire straights trying to field a linebacker unit, though improvements to the health of A.J. Klein and Baylon Spector is seen as welcome news. With linebacker Terrel Bernard now in concussion protocol, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be available Monday night. If he can’t go, that would mean the tandem of Dorian Williams and Tyrel Dodson hit the field as starters, with Klein, Spector, and even special teams stalwart Tyler Matakevich waiting in the wings.
Also on the injury front at defense, safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde continue working through ailments. Poyer appears to be heading toward an active status for Monday’s game, while Hyde’s status remains up in the air due to the uncertainty of a neck injury that somewhat resembles the situation he faced last season, that necessitated surgery (and which landed him on Injured Reserve in Week 2). McDermott stated that the current injury isn’t to the same degree of concern as last season’s, but the Bills may be without Hyde in the short term. That’s also possible with cornerback Christian Benford, who played through a hamstring injury last weekend. It appears he may have made the situation worse by suiting up. Thankfully, One Bills Drive made a trade for cornerback Rasul Douglas, but once again Buffalo’s defensive back depth is likely to be tested.
Lastly regarding injuries, the hope is that edge rushers Von Miller (ACL, 2022) and Greg Rousseau (foot), as well as Ed Oliver (toe), are all able to soon re-gain pre-injury form. The Bills could use a strong pass rush against the Broncos. Since the team’s slump began in Week 5, the defense has struggled to create turnovers. Giving the offense extra drives would help immensely.
Until recently, Buffalo’s offense was largely spared major injury concerns. Then tight end Dawson Knox had to have surgery to repair a wrist injury suffered after Week 4. That put Knox on IR for at least four weeks, giving rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid the lion’s share of snaps at the position. That’s been a good developments, and less ideal for Knox. But Knox plays an important role as a more traditional in-line tight end. Kincaid profiles more as a game-changing pass catcher, but hardly a threat to adeptly engage with defensive linemen. While many suspect Knox could become a cap casualty (which wouldn’t make fiscal sense until after next season), the team would lose an important key to its offense. Instead, it’s possible general manager Brandon Beane looks to restructure Knox’s current deal if he’s in the long-term plans. But that’s a conversation for much further down the road.
For now, the Buffalo Bills and its fans will have to dig deep to find the confidence needed to secure a win Monday night against what should be a still-inferior opponent in the Denver Broncos.
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