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Bills Mailbag: What does Patrick Mahomes' injury mean for AFC playoff race?

Jay Skurski

This week’s Bills Mailbag starts with a look at what the injury to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes might mean for the AFC playoff race. It’s also heavy on what the Bills should do at the NFL trade deadline. Let’s get right to it …

Chris Mazella asks: Who would you rank as the top five teams in the AFC now with Patrick Mahomes' status uncertain? Would you put the Bills there? Also (not Bills related), do the Chiefs still try to go all in and make a trade for another QB?

Jay: My top five right now would be New England, Houston, Kansas City, Baltimore and Indianapolis. I have the Bills as sixth, even though they are a game ahead of the Colts in the standings. Looking ahead, the Bills-Ravens game later this season should be very interesting. Those two teams look to be evenly matched.

I’m really impressed with what Frank Reich has done with the Colts after Andrew Luck’s retirement. Going into Arrowhead and beating the Mahomes-led Chiefs was an excellent win. Obviously, Kansas City could fall out of that top five if Mahomes misses extended time. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Chiefs to look at acquiring another quarterback. How about Ryan Fitzpatrick? It’s not like the Dolphins are going anywhere. It would be fun to watch Fitz throw it all over the field with Kansas City.

Patrick Dressel asks: When is Nick Foles available? Could the Jaguars do an injury settlement with him, then he's off to Kansas City?

Jay: I’d be shocked if the Jaguars released Foles. Doing so would carry a massive, $26.625 million dead-money cap charge this year and another $18.75 million next year. There is no way that’s happening.

CB asks: If (the AFC playoff race after Mahomes got hurt) truly changed, what trades should the Bills make before the deadline and should they go all in?

Rob Gregoretti asks: Does this (Mahomes injury) or should this have Brandon Beane take a more aggressive approach at the trade deadline?

Jimmyalltheway asks: Is this a year the Bills should “go for broke” with a significant trade that can bolster the team? The AFC is vulnerable this year.

Steve Urbanski asks: With the AFC seemingly wide open (beside the Patriots), will Brandon Beane make a trade to bolster the offense?

Jay: So, I guess there’s a lot of interest in the trade deadline! If Mahomes is out long term, I do believe it drastically reshapes the AFC playoff picture. The Patriots would obviously be the favorites, but I agree with Steve that the conference looks wide open after that.

So what does that mean for the Bills at the trade deadline? I hate to middle my answer, but I’m going to. I’d be all for the Bills making a move similar to the one Beane executed two years ago when he acquired Kelvin Benjamin from Carolina. Obviously, that didn’t exactly work out as planned, but the price paid – third- and seventh-round draft choices — was reasonable for a former 1,000-yard receiver. I certainly would not pay multiple first-round draft picks for any player, given that I don’t feel like the Bills are just one player away from a championship.

The question I’m struggling with is if I would trade one first-rounder. In the right scenario, I probably would, if it means getting a player back who can help not only this year, but in the future as well. The Bills’ window of opportunity is just starting to open, so they don’t need to force something.

Beane has made building through the draft a priority. He can still do that without a first-round pick, but it’s a lot harder.

Gerald Beamish asks: Need to do some wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline, like A.J. Green and Trent Williams! Sorry, Bills fans, which I am, but Dion Dawkins isn’t the long-term solution at left tackle!

Jay: Dawkins has had a good bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season. I see no need to trade away a premium draft pick to replace him with an expensive, aging veteran.

Matthew Burger asks: If you had to select this Bills team’s great Achilles heel, what would it be?

Ed Helinski asks: In your estimation, what areas of the Bills have been disappointing so far? Special teams? Offense? Coaching? Overall team consistency?

Donovan White asks: Are the Bills the 2018 Bears? Biggest weakness?

Jay: The Bills’ biggest weakness thus far has been Josh Allen’s carelessness with the football. That’s this team’s Achilles heel.

If Allen doesn’t turn it over, the defense is good enough to win games almost by itself. Outside of the opening drive by the New York Giants, the defense has been spectacular. After Allen, the lackluster special teams have been an issue – particularly in the loss to New England. That was a game that was there for the taking.

I’m not going to complain too much about the coaching – we’re talking about a 4-1 team, after all – although I didn’t like the job McDermott did against the Patriots.

The other thing I would like to see is more of a killer instinct. Especially against the Bengals, the Bills should have put that game away before halftime. The next step for this team will be to dominate an inferior opponent. There’s no better time to start that than Sunday against Miami.

As for the comparison to the 2018 Bears, it’s not a bad one. That team was led by Khalil Mack and the defense. The difference is, Mitchell Trubisky had a much better season than Allen is projected to have at the moment, which is why I’d stop short of saying the Bills can equal the Bears’ 12-4 record of a year ago.

Rick McGuire asks: Everyone seems to be asking who Brandon Beane may be looking to trade for. Let's reverse the situation: Which current Bill(s) might another team be looking to deal for, and do you think he/they would be available and at what price?

Jay: We saw when Beane shipped Zay Jones to the Oakland Raiders that the Bills’ GM isn’t afraid to subtract from the current roster. To do so again, however, it would have to be a situation similar to one that Jones found himself in. It was clear he had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Once Duke Williams was promoted to the active roster, Jones played all of one offensive snap against the Tennessee Titans. Had Robert Foster been healthy for that game, Jones might not have played at all. In analyzing the Bills’ roster, there does not seem to be a similar situation with another player.

The only impending free agent playing meaningful snaps on the defense is Shaq Lawson, but it wouldn’t make sense to trade him away for a draft pick. I was somewhat surprised the Bills even traded Jones, given that they are in the thick of the AFC playoff race. You could make the case that a 2021 fifth-round draft pick isn’t worth keeping Jones around for depth purposes, but clearly Beane disagreed. Foster is another player who hasn’t had much of a role in 2019. If the Bills make a big move for a wide receiver, perhaps Foster is part of a package along with draft picks going the other way.

The Bills also have a surplus at tight end with Tyler Kroft nearing his return and Jason Croom eligible to come off injured reserve soon, so perhaps that’s another position the Bills could make a move. Again, though, I would not expect a playoff-contending team like the Bills to be sellers in any big way.

MikeyG asks: I'm thinking not as many trades are about to happen. Given that scenario, who might the Bills grab off their practice squad if they need to?

Jay: That depends on injuries. When Harrison Phillips went down, defensive tackle Kyle Peko got the promotion. The two players who immediately come to mind as being ready are wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. Both have regular-season experience and should be able to jump into the lineup if called upon. Short of an injury, I don’t see anyone else on the practice squad who would be ready to follow in Duke Williams’ shoes, but we don’t get to watch practice, so it’s possible.

We saw last year that Foster and Levi Wallace went from the practice squad to starting roles in the second half of the season. The difference between last year and this year, though, is that the Bills are, you know, good. That makes them far less likely to disrupt the current lineup.

Jim Eimer asks: Who is the Bills’ emergency quarterback if both Josh Allen and Matt Barkley get injured on game day?

Jay: Tight end Dawson Knox and wide receiver Cole Beasley played quarterback in high school, so they would be my top two options. Safety Micah Hyde also was a quarterback in high school, but that would seem like an unnecessary risk to put him back there.

Sam Ruggiero asks: With the Bills’ fortunes on an upswing, why don’t we change our logo and helmet color? Perhaps a futuristic, metaphysical charging buffalo with a metallic silver helmet. Hey, it worked for New England, and as Tom Brady erodes he might just mistake one of our guys for his!

Jay: I haven’t seen much “erosion” from Brady this year. I don’t think new Bills helmets will be the key to slowing him down, either, but I appreciate your thinking outside the box.

AvaDylanDad11 asks: Why is Joe Flacco still starting in the NFL?

Jay: I don’t have a great answer to that question, but Bills fans should be crossing their fingers it continues at least through Week 12, when their team hosts the Broncos at New Era Field.

Louis Stromberg asks: Jay! We’re back. In honor of the Dolphins’ infamous tank this year, please power rank the following tanks (rhyme): Tank top, fish tank, dunk tank, Hoobastank, Shark Tank (the TV show). Also, heard someone intro’d himself to you on flight back from Nash. Great 'Ville, am I right?

Jay: Nash is indeed a great ’Ville. It moved way up my ’Ville power rankings. I enjoyed the intro – sorry, I wasn’t paying attention at first. … OK, here we go: 5. Hoobastank – Do they really have fans? 4. Fish tank – I mean, they’re fine. 3. Dunk tank – Very, very satisfying when you hit the target. 2. Tank top – Sun’s out, guns out. 1. Shark Tank – I have a smiley face sponge in my house because of that show. I’ll buy anything the sharks back.

Thanks for all the questions this week!

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