Clearly, it’s already been a bizarre season in the American Football Conference.
Of the 11 AFC teams that haven’t their bye week, only four own records over .500: New England (6-0), Houston, Baltimore and Kansas City (all 4-2).
Not coincidentally, the Pats, Texans, Ravens and Chiefs are division leaders.
Then there’s Buffalo, at 4-1, currently holding the No. 1 wild card spot, with Oakland and Indianapolis (both 3-2) bidding for wild card No. 2.
The Bills, Colts and Raiders are coming off their bye weeks and, at least for Buffalo, the timing was perfect.
In the 14-7 win at Tennessee a week ago Sunday, center Mitch Morse (ankle) and tackle Cody Ford (head injury) made it three starting offensive linemen Buffalo was missing as tackle Ty Nsekhe was inactive for the game with an injured ankle.
Buffalo finished with right guard Jon Feliciano moving to center as Spencer Long took the guard spot and Ryan Bates replaced Ford at right tackle with Nsekhe unavailable.
In addition, the Bills were without tight end Tyler Kroft (ankle), who hasn’t played a down all season, and rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) both an outside and receiving threat. Also out were nickel cornerback Taron Johnson (hamstring) and wide receiver Robert Foster (groin).
Thus, the bye gave seven injured Buffalo players an extra week to get healthy.
As defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier noted during a Monday media availability, “I think all the guys are excited about getting back into the swing of things.
“Those days off, ...we needed them. A good rest, be able to get a few more guys healthy and hopefully we’ll come out of this bye week with a lot of fire, a lot of vigor and looking forward to (playing Miami Sunday at New era Field).”
OFFENSIVE coordinator Brian Daboll was particularly impressed with the play of the line subs against the Titans.
“You have to have everybody ready to go,” he said. “I credit not only Bobby Johnson but also Terry Heffernan (offensive line coach and his assistant). Those guys spent a lot of time with the guys kind of on the bottom half of the roster, some of the practice squad guys. You never know who you’re going to need, you have so few players, not like in college where you have 180 people standing on the sideline.
“Joe Schoen (assistant general manager), Dan Morgan (director of player personnel), and obviously Brandon (Beane, general manager), brought in guys that (contribute). That’s the challenging part when injuries happen. There’s no room for an excuse. Man up, know what you’re supposed to do, and go and do it at a high level.”
Daboll admitted, “That was (an injury) situation that you work on since training camp. All three of those guys that came in, Spence (Long) and Batesy (Bates), moving guys around (Feliciano). It’s good to have a line that can take some pride.”
He also conceded reflecting on where the offense is headed, going into the balance of the season.
“(We) take it week-by-week,” Daboll said. “Cliche answer, I know, but it really is. This is a tough league. It’s tough wherever you play, whoever you play. Each team that you’re playing has good coaches, good players. There are certainly things we’d like to clean up. There’s some things that we’re doing OK right now, but we have to keep improving. It’s still so early in the season ...there’s a long way to go.”
What about quarterback Josh Allen and his propensity to run and his occasional reluctance to slide?
“He knows what he needs to do,” Daboll maintained. “He knows when there should have been a decision that could have been a little different. He’s competitive, he’s athletic and we’re not going to coach his athleticism out of him.
“At that point of the play, whatever that point is, two seconds in, one second in … at that critical juncture of the play, we need to make the right decision.”
Has he matured in his decision-making in the passing game?
“Sure, in most pass plays, you have some type of vertical element, intermediate element, short element, whatever that may be,” Daboll said. “There’s some where you just spread the field sideways. But each play usually has three tiers, sometimes two, and based on what they’re doing or the matchup that we want to try to attack ... that’s kind of what our mentality is going into it.
“If that’s to throw it 70 yards down the field ... throw it 70 (or) if it’s to dump it off to the halfback or work a match up in the middle part of the field that we’re working … usually on most pass plays, you have that.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)