The Buffao Bills next two games will decide season for the team.
It’s December and once again the Buffalo Bills have their backs against the wall trying to end their playoff drought. They need to win at least four of their remaining five games and possibly all five in order to make the playoffs. They currently sit as the ninth best team in the AFC and are one game behind the sixth-place Dolphins for the last playoff spot although the Dolphins own the tiebreaker against Buffalo presently.
A long winning streak is not an easy task for any team but it’s especially difficult for a Bills team which has had trouble putting together a string of victories in recent years. Their four-game winning streak earlier this year was the teams’ first since 2008.
While the Bills have five games remaining it will likely be the next two that decide their fate. Those are the hardest remaining games on their schedule although no game in the NFL is a gimme. This week on the road against the Oakland Raiders will be the Bills toughest test. The Raiders are tied with the Patriots for the best record in the AFC at 9-2 and look like one of the best teams in the league.
Oakland’s strength is their offense spearheaded by Derek Carr who is currently fifth in the league in passing yards. Carr’s favorite target, Amari Cooper, is sixth in the league with 922 receiving yards. He also favors Michael Crabtree who is having a nice year with over 700 yards receiving.
While none of their running backs stand out individually this year, the three-pronged attack of Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have rushed for over 1,000 yards combined. The Bills haven’t won in Oakland since 1966 so this week will no doubt be their fiercest battle.
Their second toughest game comes the following week when they face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. The Steelers are 6-5 this year and don’t look like the juggernaut that they once were. While they aren’t playing up to “Steelers standards” that doesn’t change the fact that they have a trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
Pittsburgh has performed well for most of this season but had a four-game losing stretch in the middle of the year which put them in the situation they are now. Two of those losses came in road games against Miami and Baltimore who are both ahead of the Steelers in the playoff standings. Their two home losses in that span came against what very well may end up being this years’ Super Bowl. Those losses were to New England and Dallas.
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The Steelers record may be the same as the Bills at 6-5 but they still are one of the toughest teams in the league to play against and will be Buffalo’s second hardest game down the stretch. Buffalo needs to come away with a victory in one of these games but if they can get W’s in both, they are set up nicely for the remainder of the season.
The Steelers game starts a stretch of three straight home games for the Bills. After Pittsburgh, they face the winless Browns and then the Dolphins. The Dolphins matchup will also be tough but the warm weather team will have to travel to Buffalo in December giving the Bills a slight edge.
The Bills final game of the season comes against the New York Jets in New Jersey. Buffalo could end up being in a “win and in” scenario by that point if all goes well. That would set up a similar circumstance to last season when the Bills played the Jets at home in the last game of the season with the Jets in the same playoff scenario. Rex Ryan and the Bills were able to play spoiler last year and so you know the Jets will be chomping at the bit to return the favor to their former coach.
The Bills have a tall task if they want to go on a run and make the playoffs this year. That task will most likely be decided by how the team fares in the next two weeks. If they lose both games you can say goodbye to their playoff chances, one victory and their chances are iffy, but two victories would give them a pretty good shot at breaking the NFL’s longest playoff drought.