By Mary Pesarchick //@HeyMom418
To paraphrase Elmer Fudd, “Be vewy, vewy quiet. We’re hunting pwayoffs!”
Along with the turkeys, Christmas lights, and the shopping frenzy of late November/early December comes another seasonal hallmark: the posting of the NFL playoff rankings during the televised broadcasts.
You have your three columns: Division Leaders, Wild Card, and, the ever-hopeful, “In the Hunt.” Over the last 17 years, the Bills have become such regular members of the “In the Hunt” club, the players should be issued camo and a tree stand along with their helmets and pads.
Seventeen years of having our noses pressed against the postseason window have made Bills fans a bit touchy about the subject. Unfortunately, head coach Sean McDermott must be unaware of the Bills perpetual “in-the-hunt-ness.” In his press conference on Wednesday, he proclaimed no less than six times, each time with escalating joy, that the Bills were “in the hunt.” Moreover, he said fans should be happy about that as there were many other teams who’d love to switch places with us.
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) November 22, 2017
The problem is, before McDermott’s mind-boggling decision to bench quarterback Tyrod Taylor and play backup quarterback Nathan Peterman in the epic disaster that was the Bills-LA Chargers game, the Bills had possession of an honest-to-goodness, genuine, wildcard spot. With last week’s loss, the Bills dropped out of that sixth place, surrendering it to Baltimore.
And that hurts. A lot.
At 5-5, the Bills still have a shot at the postseason. But the schedule gets much harder from here, starting with Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills are listed as 10 point underdogs.
Despite the fact that the Chiefs have fallen on some hard times themselves, dropping four out of their last five games after starting the season 5-0. While the Bills lead the series 25-21-1, Arrowhead Stadium is never an easy place to get a win and has been the scene of several last minute, soul-crushing losses for the Bills.
While quarterback Alex Smith will provide a formidable challenge–he is 10-1 at home against the spread against AFC East opponents–the greater challenge for the Bills will likely be Kansas City’s outstanding rookie running back Kareem Hunt. The Bills run defense was absolutely shredded over their last three games and must get its collective act together if it has any hope of keeping Hunt from having a huge day.
As far as the Bills offense is concerned, thankfully, Taylor is back under center. He handled the benching with grace, saying only, “I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. This just made the chip bigger.” Hopefully he’ll use the opportunity on Sunday to cut loose a bit and break away from the conservative, check-down throws that have characterized his play during the Bills’ three-game losing streak.
Unfortunately, as it has been all season, Taylor will have to depend on rookie wide receiver Zay Jones as his number one receiver, as wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is out with a knee injury. His other favorite targets, wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Charles Clay are questionable for the game.
With four games remaining against AFC East opponents, two against the Patriots and two against the Dolphins (with a home game against the Colts thrown in there to break the monotony), this is a must-win game if the Bills are to have any hope of climbing back into the playoff race.
We shall see if the Bills can finally bag the big one or if they’ll shoot themselves in the foot yet again.
Talk Bills with Mary on Twitter @HeyMom418