Here are my three thoughts as the Buffalo Bills begin preparing for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium:
1. The popular, and proper, take on the Bills' 20-13 loss against the New England Patriots Monday night was that it was fully expected. Take away Tom Brady's key targets, either through injury or smothering coverage. Put an offensive line of scrubs in front of him. Have an incompetent crew of officials do as much, if not more, to damage the cause of the home team as it did the efforts of the visitors. It didn't matter. You're not beating the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., in prime time or pretty much any other time as long as Brady is behind center and "The Hoodie" is standing on the sidelines. We all knew that. We all expected that. Now, the question is, what did we all learn from it? The biggest lesson is that the gap between the Bills and NFL elite status is still pretty wide. As impressive as the Bills were on defense, there is no overlooking the fact that performance came against a lite version of the Patriots' offense. The second-biggest lesson is that Tyrod Taylor still isn't ready to carry a team on his passing arm. Long before he suffered an apparent shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, he made far too many poor throws, which is the last thing that an opponent can afford when sharing the field with Brady. The third-biggest lesson is that the Bills have no sense of clock management. Their lack of urgency and organization offensively in the final minutes was stunning.
2. Rex Ryan told WGR radio Tuesday that he expects Taylor to play against the Chiefs, but you have to wonder what the quarterback's physical readiness will truly be. With the game five days away, how much will he be allowed to cut it loose in practice? To what extent will he be able to work on the two most important preparation days, today and Thursday? We might be able to get some answers after Ryan briefs the media later this morning and/or when Taylor (who wasn't made available to the media immediately after the game) has his weekly meeting with reporters after today's practice. But it has to be a concern. So does the status of defensive end Mario Williams, who missed much of Monday night's game with a foot injury. Other players were banged up, and will have little time to recover. The Bills did an excellent job of preparing on a short week for a road encounter with the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football, but they were coming off of a strong performance against Miami and were healthier. This situation is tricky, at best, especially against the red-hot Chiefs.
3. The commonly held opinion that a loss Monday night wouldn't do a whole lot of damage to the Bills' playoff chances makes sense. The Bills were never surpassing New England for the AFC East title. Their realistic target all along has been a wild-card spot, and it remains within reach. But talking about it and actually doing it are very different things. Just because the Bills were somewhat competitive against the banged-up Patriots does not indicate they should be automatically expected to beat most of the remaining teams on their schedule, which is precisely what must happen if they are to make the playoffs. They can't lose at Arrowhead. They can't lose at home the following week against Houston. They can't afford any stumbles against the two underwhelming NFC East clubs, Philadelphia and Washington, they play on the road. These are the sort of games that can, for all practical purposes, kill postseason dreams for a club that might not have good enough health or a strong enough offense to deliver down the stretch.