Maybe next year. It's the mantra of Buffalo Bills fans. Following Buffalo's 23-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo's playoff hopes are on life support. The team hasn't officially been eliminated from the playoffs but their odds of getting in are right up there with one of us winning the lottery at this point. After a disappointing loss, here are five things I 'Bill-ieve' about the Bills.
The offensive line was offensive
Buffalo's offensive line picked a bad game to deliver their biggest dud of the season. Richie Incognito, the team's best OL, had a rough afternoon against Fletcher Cox and the Eagles. It was by far his worst performance of the season. Eric Wood was called for holding on a nice run by LeSean McCoy late in the game and Jordan Mills also had his hands full throughout the game.
The worst play along the line came from rookie John Miller. He's had a rough season and had some costly penalties for the Bills on Sunday. At this point, Buffalo needs to let Miller finish the season at right guard. That said, despite his youth and inexperience, Buffalo may need to consider bringing in competition for Miller in the offseason. Some players make a big leap from year one to year two but Buffalo shouldn't leave themselves without legitimate competition for Miller.
Questionable playcalling/decision making
One of the toughest things to decide is who is to blame on poor plays. Does Greg Roman deserve blame or did Tyrod Taylor make poor decisions on said plays. It felt like there were quite a few third down scenarios where Tyrod Taylor threw the ball deep down the field rather than target players who were running short-to-intermediate routes. Perhaps the player running deep was Taylor's first read. If that's the case, Roman deserves some blame. However, Taylor deserves some blame either way. There were scenarios where Taylor had players running open on the short-to-intermediate routes and other situations where the athletic QB could have run for the first down, but Taylor opted to go long too much on Sunday.
The Eagles defense was 24th or worse in major defensive categories, but the Bills couldn't take advantage on Sunday. Taylor and Roman both deserve some blame for this.
How many times did the Bills take themselves out of a manageable second or third down situation on Sunday? How many times did the team gift the Eagles yards? The answer: Too many times.
Fifteen penalties were called on Buffalo to the tune of 101 yards. There haven't been many games in which the Bills have been able to overcome so many penalties and Sunday was no exception.
Sometimes coaches deserve blame for penalties. Undisciplined penalties like personal fouls should certainly fall on the coaches to a certain extent, however most of the penalties on Sunday were on the players. The team jumped offsides far too often against the Eagles and the offense had way too many holding penalties. Fault the players for the penalties in Sunday's game.
Special teams disappoints
The biggest mistake of the game was Marcus Thigpen's fumble on a punt in the first half. Thigpen was released once by the Bills this season for making poor decisions on fair catches inside the 10 yard line. On Sunday, Thigpen should have called for a fair catch on the play in which he fumbled. Thigpen took his eye off the ball to look to see how close Eagles defenders were and the ball fell right through his hands and off his body. The turnover allowed the Eagles to score a touchdown on a deep pass to Nelson Agholor before the half. It was an unfortunate and costly mistake.
In addition to Thigpen's gaffe, the Bills also gave up a big return to Darren Sproles on a punt return. Sproles is one of the best in the business in terms of punt returns but it was still disappointing to see the special teams unit falter on Sunday for the Bills.
Maybe next year
Now that it's safe to look ahead to next season, it'll be interesting to see what becomes of the Bills. Is GM Doug Whaley safe? Would Rex Ryan fire Dennis Thurman or make any changes to his coaching staff? He may have to depending on how the final games of the season play out.
Realistically, the biggest difference Bills fans should expect is for the defense to look a lot different in 2016. Mario Williams could realistically be a cap casualty for Buffalo and the same can be said for Kyle Williams and Leodis McKelvin. The linebacker position will also look a lot different next year. Nigel Bradham probably won't be a priority for the team in free agency and Manny Lawson could be replaced or challenged for his role in the defense. In the draft, linebacker might be the first area to address on the team and there are some intriguing options.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bills need to address their offensive line with Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito set to be free agents. Can they re-sign both? If they can, it'll help the offense significantly although the right side of the line still needs to be addressed.
Give Ryan an offseason to bring in players that fit his defense. It became painfully apparent this season that a lot of players who fit in Schwartz's defense did not fit well into Ryan's defense.