The Buffalo Bills are 5-5 and reeling. Critical losses to division and conference opponents are starting to stack and loom large for playoff hopes later in the season. Typically I’d be writing an opponent preview with an intro about righting the ship this week against the New York Jets. For the record that’s still true. This week I felt other plans were in order.
Misfortunes aplenty befell key AFC competitors and the plans changed further. Injuries to star players have made the sledding a bit easier for Buffalo. Please be tactful to not revel in the misery of others, but let’s discuss some football topics.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Controversy entered the fray for Thursday Night Football when Joe Burrow was spotted with what appeared to be a supportive wrap or device on his right wrist prior to the Bengals’ tilt against the Baltimore Ravens. Though the official news is that this was unrelated to what occurred during the second quarter of the game.
On the Bengals’ fourth drive, Burrow was brought down. The drive was capped off with a touchdown pass by Burrow, but that would be the end of his night. Less than 24 hours later, news broke that Burrow suffered a torn ligament that will require season-ending surgery.
Cincinnati currently sits at 5-5 just like Buffalo, but with the head-to-head victory in their pocket. The Bengals had seemingly rediscovered some of their mojo in recent weeks in a very competitive AFC North, looking to climb out of the Division cellar.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson
After the Browns took down the Ravens on last Sunday, complaints of increased pain in his shoulder led to quarterback Deshaun Watson undergoing an MRI that resulted in a diagnosis of a displaced fracture. Much like Burrow, this will require surgical repair, ending Watson’s season.
The Browns now sit at 6-3, which only has them in third place in the North. Speaking of how competitive the North is...
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews
The 8-3 Ravens lead the Division. The entire North has split wins and beat each other up, making for a potential tight close to the regular season. With such a competitive race, the Ravens could be reeling after their own bad news from Thursday night.
Tight end Mark Andrews exited the game in the first half against Cincinnati with an ankle injury. The theme here remains intact with the injury of the season-ending variety. Andrews is currently planning to evaluate options to move forward but was diagnosed with a broken fibula and ligament damage.
The loss of Andrews is likely to create a bit of a void for the Ravens. This season Andrews ranked second in targets, receptions, and yards. Andrews led the team with six receiving touchdowns and provided a versatile route tree with reliability over the middle for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Road Forward
Buffalo’s only direct opponent on the list was Cincinnati who they already lost to a couple weeks back. When it comes to the playoff race, the AFC North looked like a strong candidate to send one and perhaps two Wild Card teams into the bracket. With the Bills needing all the help they can get at this point, any of these teams slipping is a benefit to Buffalo.
Winning the AFC East isn’t yet out of the question with the Miami Dolphins only stacking one more win than Buffalo. That’s certainly the best option, but the Bills don’t control their own destiny in that regard as of right now.
The Las Vegas Raiders have the same record as Buffalo and are second in the West. Buffalo’s win over them gives a little security in that regard. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts sit at 5-4 and 5-5 respectively for second and third in the South. Buffalo won’t face either to force an advantage there.
Add it all up and the Buffalo Bills can’t afford to fall behind. With plenty of tough games left on the schedule, the battle will be an uphill one. If Buffalo has Championship aspirations they’ll need to show they can beat the best. Despite the help due to the AFC North misfortune, the Bills will need to begin doing exactly that in Week 11.