Philadelphia Eagles vs. Buffalo Bills Semi-Coherent Preview


The Philadelphia Eagles vs. Buffalo Bills battle is previewed.

This has been a strange season. A week ago, the Eagles were reeling. They had lost three in a row, the last two being lopsided defeats at the hand of unimposing opponents. Very few people gave them a chance to beat the Patriots; I certainly didn’t have high hopes for victory.

I guess that’s why they play the games. The Eagles beat the Patriots and find themselves in first place in the NFC East. While that first place status speaks more to the quality of the division and not the team’s performance, first place is still first place.

Last week’s win will mean little if they play poorly on Sunday. The Bills are a middling team with a 6-6 record, and if the Eagles want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they’re a team the Eagles will need to beat.

Buffalo Bills

Record: 6-6

Head Coach: Rex Ryan

Last Week: Defeated Texans 30-21

The Last Time they Met

In week five of the 2011 season, the Eagles were desperate for a win. They had lost three straight games in which they held fourth quarter leads, and the season was in danger of slipping away. The hope was that the Eagles would put the mistakes behind them, and deliver a strong performance.

Michael Vick

. Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The game didn’t start well. Michael Vick threw interceptions on the first two drives, helping the Bills establish a 21-7 halftime lead. He would throw two more picks in the second half, and the Eagles committed five total turnovers in the game. So much for avoiding mistakes.

Despite those interceptions, the Eagles still mounted a comeback in the second half. Late in the fourth quarter, they were trailing by seven, and it looked like they were going to get the ball back. The Bills lined up as if to go for it on fourth down, but it seemed obvious that they were merely trying to draw the Eagles offside; or at least it was obvious to everyone but defensive end Juqua Parker. His offsides penalty allowed the Bills to kill the clock and seal the win.

Listen: Section 215 Podcast

What’s the Deal with the Bills

The Bills had a busy offseason. They hired a new coach in Rex Ryan, signed a new quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and made a trade for a certain star running back. The result? The Bills are on a pace to finish 8-8 which would be one game worse than they finished last season. That .500 record would seem appropriate since the Bills seem to be a thoroughly mediocre team. They haven’t won or lost more than two games in a row, and most of their team statistics rank somewhere near the middle.

Nov 29, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) catches a pass for a touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) attempts the defense during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Their offense is heavily based around the run. Obviously the headliner is LeSean McCoy, but backup Karlos Williams has also produced well when given a chance. In addition, quarterback Taylor is a threat to run, as he’s chipped in 318 rushing yards of his own. When they do throw, the primary target is usually emerging star receiver Sammy Watkins. (His brother Jaylen is a defensive back for the Eagles. Thus far, Sammy has had the better career.)

Defensively, the Bills are just kind of there. They are 20th in yards allowed and 16th in opponents’ points scored. They are 29th in sacks and 15th in turnovers. Their leading pass rusher (Jerry Hughes) has just four sacks, while their highest paid defender (Mario Williams) has only three.

Featured Bills Player: Tyrod Taylor

After starring at Virginia Tech, Tyrod Taylor was selected by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. Unfortunately, serving as Joe Flacco‘s backup left him few opportunities to see the field. 

More from Section 215

Dec 6, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) looks to make a pass during the second half against the Houston Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo beats Houston 30 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the lack of playing time, the Bills took a chance on Taylor this offseason. They signed him as a free agent, and allowed him to compete for the starting position. A strong showing in preseason earned Taylor the job, and so far, that is looking like a wise decision.

The Bills haven’t asked him to carry too much of the offense; he’s served as more of a “game manager.” But he’s filled that role exceptionally well. Taylor has thrown 17 touchdown passes against only four interceptions. Perhaps the most impressive part of his low interception total is that three of them came in one game. He hasn’t thrown a pick since week four, so the Eagles probably can’t count on another pick six like the one they had last week.

Reason to Hate the Bills

Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) in the huddle with the offense in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Bills defeated the Jets 22-17 Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Honestly, I can’t think of any real reason to hate the Bills. There’s no real rivalry with the Eagles, they’ve been lousy for the past twenty years, and losing four consecutive Super Bowls is worse than anything Eagles fans have had to endure.

Oh, they do have ugly uniforms. So I suppose you can hate them in the name of bad fashion.

The LeSean McCoy Trade Revisited

When I first heard the news that LeSean McCoy was traded, I was a little surprised, but not shocked. There were rumors that McCoy didn’t get along that well with Chip Kelly, and it would have made sense if he was traded for a high draft pick that might be used to trade up for Marcus Mariota. When I heard that all they received in return was a linebacker coming off a major knee injury, I couldn’t understand what was going on.

Dec 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

All offseason, I was told by countless people about how DeMarco Murray was a better fit for Kelly’s offense. (Keep in mind that McCoy won a rushing title in Kelly’s offense.) I also heard that the trade was made to save money. (Except that the amount of guaranteed money they owe Murray is more than what was left on McCoy’s deal.) I also heard how Kiko Alonso was going to make the Eagles’ defense dominant. (I’m always skeptical of depending too heavily upon players coming back from major knee injuries.)

Related Read: All 22-What’s Wrong With DeMarco Murray?

I’m curious: Is there anyone out there who would still rather have DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso than LeSean McCoy? If so, I’d love to hear your reasoning.

To be fair, McCoy isn’t having his best season (it would be hard to top 2013), and has dealt with some injury issues of his own, but he’s been excellent recently. He’s topped 100 yards rushing in three of his last five games, and he’s been making defenders miss the way he used to do in Philadelphia.

McCoy’s strengths are his ability to quickly change directions, and he’s also proven to be a good receiver. Unfortunately, the Eagles defense has had some issues against guys like that. (This would be a good time for Alonso to revert to his pre-injury form.) Factoring in McCoy’s desire for revenge on Chip Kelly, it wouldn’t shock me if he had a huge game.

Key Eagles Storyline: (Long Overdue) Changes

In last week’s game, there were three very noticeable changes in terms of playing time: DeMarco Murray received a significant reduction in his carries, Miles Austin was inactive, and Eric Rowe started at cornerback.

Nov 26, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) scores a touchdown while being pressured by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe (32) during the third quarter of a NFL game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Rowe move is easy to explain. Starter Nolan Carroll suffered a season-ending injury, so Rowe is getting a chance. Thus far, he’s looked solid, and he’s giving fans hope that the team spent its second round pick wisely.

As for Austin, it was near inexplicable why he was receiving so much playing time in the first place. Maybe you could justify having him on the roster as a fifth receiver, but you certainly couldn’t justify giving him more playing time than Nelson Agholor or Josh Huff.

Apparently the team has finally realized what the rest of us realized some time ago: Austin can no longer play at an NFL level. They cut him earlier this week, and now we can debate which was a worse signing of a wide receiver formerly of a division opponent: Austin or Steve Smith in 2011. (My vote goes to Smith. Austin may have sucked, but Smith seemed to actively try to cost the Eagles games.)

DeMarco Murray may have been one of the marquee moves of the offseason, but Chip Kelly (or Duce Staley since everyone insists he is the one who decides on the rotation at running back) seeming accepted that Murray isn’t playing very well. It’s looking more and more like he was either a product of the Cowboys’ stellar offensive line, or that the immense workload from last year wore him down.

Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner were both successful last week, and Ryan Mathews is expected back from injury. Based on the success that the other backs have had, it would seem foolish to go back to a heavy use of Murray, no matter how much he complains to Jeffrey Lurie.

Nick vs. Sam

Since they were traded for each other, it’s only natural that fans would want to compare how Nick Foles and Sam Bradford are faring on their new teams. I’ll take a weekly look at the two quarterbacks and decide who holds the edge.

Sam Bradford has a pretty good game last week. His numbers were down, but that was partly because the Eagles scored three return touchdowns, which limited the number of offensive snaps. The team’s running game was also working well, reducing the amount of times he needed to throw. 

When he did have to throw the ball, he looked good. He made some tough throws, and his fourth quarter completion to Riley Cooper may have been the best pass he’s thrown all season.

Meanwhile, Nick Foles had another bad game. Playing in relief of Case Keenum, he threw another interception and failed to lead the Rams’ offense. With Keenum expected to return this week, Foles appears to be headed back to the bench.

The edge easily goes to Sam Bradford.

Dec 6, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Mocking the East

Part of the fun of being a football fan is taking pleasure in the misfortune of your favorite team’s rivals. Each week, I’ll find a reason to make fun of one of the other teams in the NFC East.

Remember how awesome DeSean Jackson‘s 2010 game-winning punt return against the Giants was? On Monday night, he had a punt return against the Cowboys that was the same thing, except the exact opposite result followed.

Super Bowl Year Song of the Week

The Eagles have not made many appearances in the Super Bowl (Two, to be exact). I’m hopeful that this season will mark their third appearance in the “big game,” so each week I’m going to take a song from one of the franchise’s Super Bowl seasons (1980 and 2004) that somehow relates to this week’s game.

I’m Still in Love with You – Sean Paul, 2004

Based on some of LeSean McCoy’s quotes, it seems like he hasn’t quite gotten over being exiled from the Eagles.


The Eagles’ defense has shown that if it doesn’t get turnovers, it has a tough time stopping teams. Unfortunately, the Bills don’t turn the ball over very often.

Next: Roundtable: Should LeSean McCoy be Booed in Return?

Hopefully Sam Bradford can build upon last week’s performance, but I don’t think he’ll put up enough points to overcome a big week by LeSean McCoy.

Bills 24 – Eagles 21