Through five weeks of the season, the Buffalo Bills have gotten off to a 3-2 start to the season, which has shown they’re at least ahead of the generally accepted schedule both fans and media had for the team heading into the 2017 season.
As is the case for NFL teams through a bye week, it’s a time for reflection about what has happened, and what’s to come. With that said, what are the biggest questions for the Bills as the season continues? We’ll be counting down the top seven throughout the week.
No. 7 Can the Buffalo Bills stay healthy enough to continue winning in 2017?
Heading into the season, the Buffalo Bills reshaped basically the entire back half of the 53-man roster. It made for a lot of open competitions throughout the spring and summer, while also putting that much more pressure on the starters on the team to stay healthy and perform at a high level.
The top-end talent has always been good enough to win for the Bills, and we saw that once the Bills went through the first four weeks of the season really without any injuries to the top players on the roster. That all changed again in Week Five against the Cincinnati Bengals and pointed to just how thin the depth chart was in a few spots.
And really, there were only three main injuries that had a significant impact on the game — to the point that it quite possibly cost the Bills the outcome of it. Those three injuries:
CB E.J. Gaines
WR Jordan Matthews
TE Charles Clay
Gaines was out due to a groin injury, and we saw right from the first play on that the Bengals wanted to exploit backup Shareece Wright, the recently called up Greg Mabin, and even attacked the impressive — but still learning — first-round pick Tre’Davious White. Green had an incredible statistical game, and it could have been even bigger had he not had a lapse in his hands.
Matthews was lost in the Atlanta game as well, and that left the Bills not knowing what to do with their remaining wide receivers. Rookie Zay Jones has been in a consistent battle with his mind as his struggles with catching the ball have defined the early part of his season. As for the rest, between Kaelin Clay, Brandon Tate, and Andre Holmes, there is not much consistency there to speak of between the trio.
It led the Bills to depend on tight end Charles Clay, and once he was injured in the first quarter, the entire complexion of the offense changed. Nick O’Leary has dependable hands but doesn’t offer up much of anything in the yards after catch realm unless he is running completely wide open. As a result, the offense had a total of 160 net yards after Charles Clay left the game — in about 48 minutes of work.
Those injuries are for starters, but what happens if they suffer any more significant injuries, say, to LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor, Richie Incognito, Jerry Hughes, or either one of the starting safeties Micah Hyde or Jordan Poyer? While it’s true for all teams that they want to stay healthy throughout the season, the Bills just don’t have the depth to sustain injuries to many of their core starters of the team.
So, if the Bills want to shock the world and finally end the playoff drought way ahead of schedule, they’re going to need a bit of good luck on the injury front to do it. Without that, we could potentially start to see the lack of depth of this roster really inhibit their game plans, as well as their ability to win the games necessary to make it to the postseason in 2017.