Entering Week 17, the Buffalo Bills sit at 7-8. To reach .500 on the season, the Bills will have to defeat the New York Jets at home. In doing so, the Bills can complete their sweep of the Jets this season and possibly keep New York from making the playoffs. Before looking ahead to Week 17, here’s a look at how each positional unit played for the Bills in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Buffalo’s game plan on Sunday was pretty simple: Run the ball relentlessly at the Cowboys. This game plan limited Taylor to just 18 pass attempts on Sunday. Taylor completed 13 passes, 72 percent of his attempts, for 179 yards. His only poor decision during the game was an interception right before halftime on a pass intended for Chris Hogan.
In the run game, Taylor took off 14 times for Buffalo for 67 yards. In all, Taylor racked up 246 yards for the Bills.
Running backs: A+
No LeSean McCoy? No problem for Buffalo against the Cowboys. Mike Gillislee (93 yards), Karlos Williams (76 yards) and Taylor (67) yards helped Buffalo rack up 236 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries. It was an outstanding performance and in Week 17, the team could be a three-headed monster if LeSean McCoy is able to play.
Wide receivers: C+
Sammy Watkins and Chris Hogan are the only true receivers left standing from the start of Buffalo’s season. The duo was solid, but not spectacular, on Sunday. Sammy Watkins led the way with 84 yards on five receptions. The receiver needs 89 yards in Week 17 against Darrelle Revis and the Jets to get to 1,000 yards on the season. Hogan added 39 yards on two receptions, but missed a perfectly placed ball early in the game.
Watkins and Hogan were the only receivers to catch a pass on Sunday as Greg Salas, Marcus Easley and Dez Lewis were unable to record a catch or target. Buffalo will need Salas, Lewis or new addition Leonard Hankerson to step up on Sunday.
Tight ends: C-
Chris Gragg caught two passes for 19 yards on Sunday. His blocking was up and down on Sunday but he clearly has Greg Roman’s trust as he played for 52 snaps on Sunday. Nick O’Leary only saw 12 snaps versus Dallas and was a non-factor.
Rex Ryan didn’t sound optimistic about Charles Clay playing on Sunday, so the Bills will have to hope that Gragg or O’Leary can step up in the regular season finale.
Offensive line: A
The line wasn’t perfect. They allowed Tyrod Taylor to get sacked three times and made the QB scramble more than he probably wanted to on Sunday. That said, they also created running lanes for Taylor, Williams and GIllislee on Sunday. It’s hard to criticize a line that helps a team run for 236 yards. The unit didn’t look old or unathletic on Sunday.
Defensive line: D
It was a rather quiet and uneventful Sunday for the Bills defensive line. If you watched Mario Williams closely you’d see that he has mailed it in. It’d be stunning if he returned in 2016.
No one from Buffalo’s defensive line did anything of note on Sunday, but Stefan Charles was graded positively by Pro Football Focus (+2.4).
There will be many changes to the defensive line in 2016.
A.J. Tarpley had a timely interception and forced a fumble for Buffalo on Sunday. It wasn’t long ago that the Bills released Tarpley after a disappointing game so it was nice to see the UDFA make some plays for the Bills.
Manny Lawson didn’t have his best performance of the season but he had a few stops for the Bills and Buffalo’s only quarterback hit.
Preston Brown was graded poorly by PFF (-2.8) but he did add a few stops on Sunday. It’s unfortunate to see how much he’s struggled in Rex Ryan’s scheme after a solid rookie season.
Buffalo could enter the 2016 season with quite a few new faces and starters at linebacker.
The Bills didn’t have Ronald Darby on Sunday but he wasn’t exactly needed against Kellen Moore and the Cowboys. Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Mario Butler all had their moments on Sunday. Butler was especially impressive and made the most of his opportunity. Don’t be surprised if Butler is Buffalo’s No. 4 cornerback in 2016 behind Stephon Gilmore, Darby, and Nickell Robey.
This unit will have to be better in Week 17 against the Jets. Corey Graham was solid in run defense but questionable in pass defense and Bacarri Rambo is clearly not at 100 percent for the Bills. Behind the starters, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks saw playing time. That’s not really a good thing.
While I’m not a fan of drafting a safety in the first round, don’t be shocked if the Bills go that route if there’s a player they love in the 2016 draft.
Special teams: C+
Dan Carpenter missed an extra point… again. He needs some competition in 2016 if the Bills keep him on their roster. Luckily, Carpenter was the only kicker that struggled for Buffalo. Colton Schmidt was solid, averaging 47.7 yards per punt. When Schmidt is on, he’s one of the best punters in the league.
Walter Powell only had one kick return in his debut with the Bills. His return went for 25 yards. He’ll have another opportunity to make an impression with Buffalo in Week 17.
The team did enough to defeat the Cowboys 16-6 on Sunday but they’ll need to be much better to defeat the Jets in Week 17.