The Buffalo Bills’ grip on a playoff spot is slipping away.
Back-to-back (ugly) losses to the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints have dropped the Bills to 5-4. While they currently hold the sixth and final postseason spot in the AFC, there is no shortage of teams giving chase. One of those is Sunday’s opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers.
A win for the Bills would not only stop their recent bleeding, but also likely end any hopes the Chargers have of climbing back into the playoff race, as they would fall to 3-7.
Here are all the details you need for Sunday's game, plus five things we'll be watching for:
• TV: FOX. Announcers: Chris Myers (play by play), Daryl Johnston (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Chargers lead, 22-10-2. Buffalo is 5-12-1 on the road against Los Angeles/San Diego.
• Uni watch: The Bills' offense practiced in white jerseys this week, which means that’s what they'll take the field with Sunday.
• Bills injury report: Out: LT Cordy Glenn (foot/ankle), RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring), G John Miller (ankle). Questionable: WR Jordan Matthews (knee), TE Charles Clay (knee), DE Jerry Hughes (shin). Chargers injury report: Out: OT Joe Barksdale (foot). Doubtful: LB James Onwualu (quad), LB Hayes Pullard (neck). Questionable: QB Philip Rivers (concussion), DE Chris McCain (quad).
• Point spread: The Bills are 5-point underdogs, according to the website footballlocks.com.
• Did you know? Running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage since 2009, with 12,732.
• Next up: The Bills visit the Kansas City Chiefs in another important AFC game. Recent history with the Chiefs has not been kind, including a 2015 loss under Rex Ryan.
Here are five things to watch against the Chargers:
1. Nathan Peterman. Obviously, right? The quarterback change overshadowed everything else this week for the Bills. Peterman is walking into a pressure-packed situation. His team is in the thick of a playoff race and coming off back-to-back atrocious performances. Every throw by Peterman will fall under close scrutiny. This move needs to work, or else coach Sean McDermott will open himself up to the type of criticism he has yet to experience in Buffalo.
2. The run defense. Another obvious, right? The Bills have been downright embarrassed in their two straight losses defending the run. The buzzwords thrown around by the coaching staff were “gap integrity,” “fundamentals” and taking a “back to basics” approach to fixing things. Decoded, that means the coaches need to come up with a better game plan and the players need to execute it. “Run and stop the run,” might be a football cliche, but the Bills have shown the last two weeks its rooted in truth. Perhaps Deandre Coleman, who was signed this week after fellow defensive tackle Jerel Worthy was cut, can help.
3. How do the offensive tackles hold up? Rookie left tackle Dion Dawkins and his counterpart on the right side, Jordan Mills, have their work cut out for them. The Chargers have perhaps the best pass-rush duo in the NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They have combined for 76 tackles, including 19 for losses, and 18 sacks. Ingram has a ridiculous 52 quarterback pressures, which leads the NFL. Both Mills and Dawkins have had their moments this season, but they’ve yet to face a challenge like this.
4. Can Travaris Cadet provide a spark? The Bills will have a new backup running back in Week 11, as Mike Tolbert was ruled out Friday because of a hamstring injury. That means Cadet will see his first action with the Bills after being signed prior to the Week 10 loss to New Orleans. The Chargers enter the game with the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 135 yards per game.
“He looks very comfortable in the system, in the scheme,” McDermott said.
5. Is Stephen Hauschka ok? The Bills’ kicker missed practice Thursday with a right hip injury. He was able to return Friday, and McDermott didn’t sound worried about Hauschka’s availability against the Chargers, but a 5-plus hour flight probably isn’t great for a hip injury. Hauschka has made 12 straight field goals from 50-plus yards, which is tied for the longest streak in NFL history.