Washington and Buffalo come into week 15 with matching records. However, Washington is currently leading the NFCE and controls their own destiny/chance to make the playoffs while Buffalo... well Buffalo isn't going to be in the postseason tournament for the 16th straight season. Washington has been great at home this year (5-2) while Buffalo has struggled on the road (3-4).
1. How's the Bill fan-base liking Rex Ryan as HC so far? Pros and cons? Strengths and weaknesses?
Just like with any fan base, support of the head coach ebbs and flows with the team's record. Right now, I'd say Ryan's popularity is at an all-time low in Buffalo, because the team is about to miss the playoffs for a sixteenth straight season. Plus, his bread and butter, the defense, has performed far below expectations this year. His pros and cons are the same as ever: he's likable but stubborn, aggressive as a play-caller yet conservative in key game situations, and overly emotional, which bleeds through to his team in good and bad ways.
2. The Redskins have an incredibly physical DL. The Buffalo OL seemed to struggle a bit with Philly's defensive front last week. How can Buffalo prepare for that match-up and what do you think they'll do to compensate for that perceived disadvantage?
I'm not sure it's a disadvantage, at least across the board. Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito are playing excellent football this year, and center Eric Wood has played well of late. It's really the right side of the line that is consistently vulnerable, and that's where the concern lies. They need to change up their silent counts so that Washington can't jump the snap as consistently as Philly did. They also need to commit far fewer penalties. If they can accomplish those two simple things, they should be okay, even against a solid opponent.
3. Is Mario Williams going to play Sunday? What does he bring when he's able to play and how can the team compensate/what can they do if he's out?
At this point, I'd be surprised if Williams plays. He's missed two days' worth of practices with an undisclosed illness. That will change if he can practice on Friday, so we'll see, but I'm not counting on it with the team basically playing out the string. If Williams can't play, the team will use a mix of Stefan Charles (a defensive tackle) and IK Enemkpali (an edge rusher) to compensate, based on opponent personnel. Needless to say, the team would be better off with Williams on the field.
4. How do the fans feel about Tyrod Taylor as the QB moving forward? What's his future as a Bill look like?
Fans are mixed; Taylor has had a good season and made a good number of plays, but he hasn't proven anything yet, and proof is all Bills fans have been looking for for the better part of two decades. GM Doug Whaley told The MMQB this week that the team is going to take another look at Taylor next year, meaning that he'll be the starter entering 2016, but that until they know one way or the other about him, they'll hedge their bets at quarterback. That's a very sensible way to approach it. Taylor has most definitely done enough to warrant another long look next year.
5. The Bills pass rush seems to be down this year. Why? How can it be fixed? How can Washington take advantage?
It's a combination of things. The biggest factor is that teams are playing fast against Buffalo to try to minimize the impact of the defensive line and Ryan's blitz schemes; the ball is coming out of quarterbacks' hands very quickly against the Bills, and teams are also running up-tempo to keep the Bills from making quick checks and blitzing effectively. Ryan's defense has also de-emphasized the line in favor of disguise and rushes, much to the chagrin of several players. Then there's the fact that Kyle Williams and Mario Williams have both missed time due to injury (Kyle has been out most of the season). I expect Washington to mix in some no-huddle and instruct Kirk Cousins to make quick, decisive reads.
Thanks to Brian and Buffalo Rumblings for the good stuff this week!