The Philadelphia Eagles are back at home to host the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. In order to preview this Week 12 matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Buffalo Rumblings. The magnanimous Matt Byham kindly took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to questions about the Eagles, stay tuned to BR.]
1) The Bills rank 4th in point differential and 5th in DVOA. How are they only 6-5?
One word: Turnovers.
Though, depending on who you ask, it’s far more complicated than just losing the ball on offense. The issue as most outsiders see it is/was now-former offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. Were there issues with the system in place as Dorsey chose to call games? Absolutely. The Bills made a concerted effort to roll out a heavier load of 12-personnel early in the season, based mostly off drafting tight end Dalton Kincaid in an effort to pair him with tight end Dawson Knox. It’s worked well, but once Knox went on in-season Injured Reserve, the plan changed to feature more 11-personnel looks — and that’s gone extremely well for all parties. Kincaid has near-fully come into his own as the only, and featured, tight end and the Bills rank first in the NFL in 11 personnel. Without getting deep into the weeds of the remaining offensive metrics, the team’s stats and figures seem confusing when considering their 6-5 record.
So why move on from Dorsey? Well, the offense seemed to be pressing, creating undue stress in key situations, and potentially ill-prepared to run what may have been plays that were more complicated than truly necessary. Plus, for some insane reason, Josh Allen’s threat as a runner was almost non-existent (aside from his continued success at finding the end zone). Until I know otherwise, I have to believe that McDermott let Dorsey go simply because he saw a need for a change in mindset, and attitude adjustment of sorts by the offense in general. Some might call that a spark. For sure, it’s far more complex, but doing nothing clearly wasn’t an option.
All that said, again: cut out the turnovers, and play the brand of complementary football that Sean McDermott often preaches, and they’re likely far better than one game above .500.
2) To what extent is Sean McDermott under pressure? Is there a scenario where he’s not back as the Bills’ head coach in 2024?
You’re asking me and, to my way of thinking, McDermott’s not under anywhere near the amount of pressure most of the fan base believes/wants/etc. Since McDermott’s arrival, the Bills have returned to relevancy and are now perennial playoff favorites and more. When a team rosters a bona fide franchise quarterback, expectations often magnify to unrealistic expectations year after year.
Is his seat a bit warmer now that he made the move to install interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady? Again, outside One Bills Drive... absolutely. But it’s impossible to know if McDermott really made the decision alone, despite his insistence otherwise.
Is there a scenario where he doesn’t return as head coach next season? Sure, but it would be foolish to move on from him, in my opinion. He’s already tied for second in franchise wins, trailing only the esteemed Marv Levy. McDermott also currently holds the franchise record for win percentage. I think it would take an epic team-wide collapse for McDermott to be shown the door in early January.
3) What’s one matchup that you think really favors the Bills?
There’s for sure an opportunity to exploit matchups in the Eagles’ secondary. I’d argue that they have yet to face a QB-WR1 tandem this season the likes of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. As Buffalo’s top receiver, Diggs is often a heavy focal point for any defense. The issue now is that Dalton Kincaid has become a major force playing a role not unlike that of a jumbo slot receiver — and he’s really talented, and a mismatch for most linebackers. So, if the Eagles are dead-set on taking Diggs out of the game plan, then they’re going to leave other targets open for one of the best ad-lib QBs in today’s NFL, meaning Kincaid as well other receivers. But devil’s advocate will quickly point out that last week was the first game where Philadelphia finally had all five of their top cornerbacks on the field at the same time this season. That, alone, should make for some far tougher sledding by the Bills in Week 12.
4) What’s one matchup that you think really favors the Eagles?
As was the answer about the Bills, it’s the Eagles’ passing attack, and how the whole unit functions together. While Buffalo did play the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 — and thoroughly dismantled them — I see Jalen Hurts/A.J. Brown/DaVonte Smith/D’Andre Swift all as talented as the Dolphins’ offense, but with a far superior offensive line. While Buffalo fields a better defense overall than given credit for in recent weeks (found by those who wade out of the stats pool), if the Eagles can protect Hurts well, the Bills could struggle to get off the field while forced into 3rd/4th & Short scenarios.
5) Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 3-point home favorites, what’s your score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Bills season?
It’s rare that an intra-conference matchup can be called a must-win for any team outside of the Super Bowl, but I believe that’s exactly what this weekend’s game is for the Bills. That’s due of course to their current 6-5 record and needing to stack wins, but they also need to build momentum. Winning on the road against the Eagles would be a monumental boost in team confidence heading into their bye. Simply put, I see this game as one the Bills need in ways the Eagles may not. It’s going to take a very clean game, which is of course not something the Buffalo Bills have managed to produce often in 2023. The other idea to consider is the lack of tape on Joe Brady as an offensive coordinator with this Bills offense... but who must also now go up against that very dangerous defensive line.
I’m not one for score predictions, but I see the Bills beating the spread and improving to 7-5. I’m also wrong about this stuff very often. So yes, I believe the Bills win, but I can see the Eagles walking away 10-1 — a team very well-rehearsed in producing such seasons under head coach Nick Sirianni.
As for the rest of their season, it’s a tall order. Finally, Week 13 brings the bye. But after the game in Philadelphia, the Bills’ next opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, then hosting the Dallas Cowboys. After that, they head out west to play the Los Angeles Chargers, then host the New England Patriots before ending the regular season down in South Beach against the Dolphins. I hold firm that the Bills cannot afford to lose more than one additional game if they hope to make the playoffs. It would be best if that game came against an NFC team, so that would either have to come this weekend or against the Cowboys — a team that unfortunately seems to be on fire right now. As such, I’m not confident yet that the Bills can beat Dallas until I see them win against either/and the Eagles and Chiefs. This weekend could tell Bills fans a lot about the direction of their favorite team the final five weeks of the regular season. A win might allow them that confidence I see as necessary to make a post-season run, while a loss could prove too difficult an overall record to overcome.
This should be a wildly entertaining game, no matter who wins!