AFC East: Buffalo Bills

W2W4: Buffalo Bills

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (8-6) will travel cross-country to meet the Oakland Raiders (2-12) on Sunday at Coliseum (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

Here is what to watch for from the Bills' side:

1. Strength against weakness: We led off the past two weeks dissecting how the Bills' defense was meeting its opponent's strength, namely the offenses of the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. This week, the situation is almost entirely reversed, and the Bills' defense is meeting the Raiders' main weakness -- their offense. Consider some of their league rankings:
  • QBR: 27th (Bills' defense: 1st)
  • Yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 5th)
  • Yards per play: 32nd (Bills' defense: 4th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 9th)
  • Passing yards per game: 24th (Bills' defense: 5th)
  • First downs per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: tied-8th)
2. Easing in Spiller: The Bills activated C.J. Spiller to their 53-man roster Friday and he's expected to play Sunday. But how much will he play? That could be a more of an issue of "feel" and how Spiller reacts to his first contact and first live reps in over two months. "The only concern I have is -- it’s not really being in shape, but to be able to play and run plays in and out, in and out, in and out and to make sure his conditioning is right at that level," coach Doug Marrone said Thursday. "It seems to be OK. I think it will just get better. I know he looks explosive. He’s moving well." With Fred Jackson on the field for more than 70 percent of the snaps the past three weeks, I wouldn't expect Spiller to return and all of the sudden take the lion's share of carries in the backfield. Instead, it's more reasonable that the Bills will ease him into some plays as both a runner and receiver and if the results are there, keep at it.

3. Scoreboard watching: While it's necessary for the Bills to secure a victory Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll need a lot of help during the next two weeks from other teams. That means they'll have to watch the scoreboard Saturday, Sunday, and Monday with several AFC contenders in action in the three-day span. FiveThirtyEight has a terrific tool that lays out each game's impact on the Bills' playoff chances, which currently sit at 5.2 percent. Here are the positive outcomes for the Bills:
  • Bills defeat Raiders: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.4 percent.
  • Houston Texans defeat Baltimore Ravens: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.1 percent.
  • Denver Broncos defeat Cincinnati Bengals: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.7 percent.
  • San Francisco 49ers defeat San Diego Chargers: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.5 percent.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers beat Kansas City Chiefs: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.4 percent.
4. Going for first win in Oakland since 1966: If the Bills take care of business Sunday and improve to 9-6, it would be their first victory in Oakland since 1966. Here are their previous meetings with the Raiders, in Oakland, since that game:
  • Oct. 23, 2005: Loss, 38-17
  • Sept. 19, 2004: Loss, 13-10
  • Nov. 28, 1977: Loss, 34-13
  • Oct. 15, 1972: Loss, 28-16
  • Oct. 19, 1969: Loss, 50-21
  • Nov. 28, 1968: Loss, 13-10
  • Dec. 24, 1967: Loss, 28-21
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills submitted paperwork Friday morning to add running back C.J. Spiller to their 53-man roster.

Spiller, who has been on injured reserve with a designation to return, is probable to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.

Spiller (collarbone) was a limited participant in each practice this week.

Here is the Bills' full injury report for Sunday's game:

TE Chris Gragg (knee; limited participation)

S Duke Williams (concussion; limited participation)
RB Anthony Dixon (chest; full participation)
K Dan Carpenter (groin; limited participation)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring; limited participation)
RB Spiller (shoulder; limited participation)
WR Marcus Thigpen (foot; limited participation)
CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder; limited participation)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee; limited participation)
Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus topped fan voting among defensive tackles for the 2015 Pro Bowl.

Fan voting, which accounts for one-third of the selection process, ended Dec. 15. Final selections, which will be announced Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET, will also take into account votes from players and coaches.

Dareus received 331,006 votes, with Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea (297,826 votes) finishing second at the position.

No other Bills players topped fan voting at their positions for the 2015 Pro Bowl, which will be played Jan. 25 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Last season, Dareus and linebacker Kiko Alonso both topped fan voting at their respective positions but were not initially selected to the Pro Bowl. Dareus was later selected as an alternate.
The Buffalo Bills helped their playoff cause with an an upset win against the Green Bay Packers, but it might not be enough.

Even with a victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders, the Bills can still be eliminated from postseason contention by Monday night.

In fact, the entire AFC playoff field can be determined by the end of Week 16. Here's how that could happen, per ESPN Stats & Information: Even if the Chargers defeat the 49ers, preventing the Ravens from clinching a spot, it would be bad news for the Bills. The Chargers, with a Week 3 win in Buffalo, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills.

Likewise, a Steelers' loss could also have a negative effect on the Bills, as the Chiefs also hold the head-to-head advantage over the Bills.

QB snapshot: Kyle Orton

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Kyle Orton and how he played in the Buffalo Bills' 21-13 win over the Packers in Week 15:

 When the Buffalo Bills essentially used two first-round draft picks in May to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the objective was clear: to make EJ Manuel better.

Manuel is no longer the Bills' quarterback, but with Orton at the helm since Week 5, has Watkins made him better?

At this point, not by much. Watkins had just one catch on six targets Sunday, finishing with 28 yards. It's the sixth time in 10 games with Orton that Watkins has been held to fewer than 40 yards receiving.

Whose fault is that? To find out, I took a look at all six of Orton's targets to Watkins. Here are the highlights:

Footing an issue: Watkins slipped on two of his first three targets from Orton, something that Doug Marrone mentioned in his Monday news conference. Neither were perfect throws from Orton, but had Watkins stayed upright, he was in position to catch both passes.

Orton's interception a poor throw: Orton was intercepted by cornerback Tramon Williams in the second quarter on a play in which he underthrew Watkins down the sideline. It was a similar route to Watkins' 28-yard catch earlier in the quarter, when Watkins cut under cornerback Sam Shields to pluck the ball out of the air. This time, Williams stayed between Watkins and the ball for the interception; Watkins didn't have much of a chance.

Failed red zone target: Watkins had a chance at a touchdown in the third quarter. Against softer coverage in the red zone, Watkins broke toward the sideline around the 5-yard line but Orton's throw was badly overthrown, over the pylon. It might have been the quarterback's worst throw of the game.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the scenarios by which the Buffalo Bills can make the playoffs are probably simple, right?

Maybe not.

With nine AFC teams having records above .500, including the Bills, there is still plenty to be sorted out in the AFC playoff picture.

The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts have all clinched their respective divisions, but the AFC North is still up for grabs and there are still six teams realistically in play for the two wild-card spots.

The Bills -- who are currently ninth in the AFC -- finish with two road trips, beginning this weekend when they travel to play the Oakland Raiders.

"Obviously we got to go to Oakland and find a way to get a victory," cornerback Corey Graham said after Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers. "If we get a victory, hopefully it will mean something. We don’t know exactly how everything gonna go out, but all we can do is go out there and compete and play our best out there."

After returning from Oakland, the Bills will get back on their plane for a finale at New England.

"Of course I didn’t like the fact that I lost to the Patriots," Graham said, referring to the Bills' Week 6 loss to the Patriots. "I mean, I don’t like the Patriots. They’ve been running this division for a long time. It’s time for change. We’re going to have an opportunity to play them at the end of the season. We’ll be ready to roll."

In the meantime, Bills fans can check out's Playoff Machine to churn through some of the possible scenarios.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bacarri who?

University of Georgia fans know him -- as do Washington Redskins fans -- but most Buffalo Bills fans were introduced to safety Bacarri Rambo when the second-year safety snagged two interceptions in the second half of Sunday's 21-13 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Rambo, who the Bills signed one day before a massive snowstorm hit the region last month, saw mop-up action in the Bills' blowout win in Detroit and was later sidelined with a hamstring injury. He was active for just the second time with the Bills on Sunday, beginning the game on special teams.

But when starter Duke Williams -- thrust into the lineup after an injury to Da'Norris Searcy -- left in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms, it was Rambo's chance to make an impact.

He jumped an Aaron Rodgers pass to Randall Cobb late in the third quarter, notching his first career interception and returning it 16 yards.

"We knew once 18, Cobb, once he ran that route, I was going to take him and he was going to free up," Rambo said. "When it happened I was like, 'Oh, here it comes.' And I just saw Rodgers eyeing his guy, and I just broke on the ball and made a play."

Then it came again: on the Packers' next drive, a Rodgers pass deflected off the hands of receiver Jarrett Boykin and found its way into the arms of Rambo for his second interception.

"My man went away and I just freed up and watched the quarterback," he said. "It was kind of like a layup. He threw it right to me."

Even teammate Nickell Robey didn't foresee Rambo having that sort of impact.

"No, I didn't. I'm going to be honest," he said. "I really think he played well today though, but I didn't expect him to step up like he did."

Coach Doug Marrone explained that the Bills were fortunate to still have Rambo on their roster.

"We made good choices as we were switching some people out of the roster," he said. "He's someone that, at one point, I remember we talked about him and said, 'Hey, listen. We don't want to lose this kid. We think he can play.'

"And sure enough, I'm glad everything went in that direction."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Aaron Rodgers won't need to double-check this one: The Buffalo Bills' defense is for real.

Any questions about the unit -- which were fair after flimsy outings earlier this season against Philip Rivers and Tom Brady -- were quieted with an emphatic thud Sunday when the Bills turned Rodgers' first career start at Ralph Wilson Stadium into a nightmare.

Entering the game at the forefront of the MVP discussion and as arguably the game's best quarterback this season, Rodgers was held to a 34.3 passer rating -- the worst of his career -- in a 21-13 Bills win over the Green Bay Packers, one that kept the Bills (8-6) alive in the AFC playoff hunt.

[+] EnlargeBills defense
AP Photo/Gary WiepertGetting physical on defense was key for the Bills, who notched this safety late in Sunday's win.
One week after holding Peyton Manning to a 56.9 passer rating -- his worst since 2008 -- during a loss in Denver, the Bills' stifling effort against another future Hall of Fame quarterback further proves that they have one of the NFL's best defenses.

"It was frustrating," Rodgers said after the game. "They did a good job on defense, kind of slowed us down a little bit. We had some opportunities and didn't execute very well on them."

Sure, some of the Packers' passing woes were self-inflicted. Of Rodgers' career-high 25 incompletions, several were simple misfires on his part, while another seven were dropped by his receivers -- the most by a team in a single game since 2008. Had a wide-open Jordy Nelson not let a perfect throw from Rodgers late in the third quarter fall through his hands, the Bills' defense would still be trying to chase him down.

But this was a day for the Bills' defense -- one that dropped a couple of easy interceptions of its own -- and not for Rodgers and the NFL's highest-scoring offense. To say that the Bills slowed down the Packers "a little bit" is quite the understatement.

It's hardly anything new for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's group, one that allowed the NFL's fourth-fewest points and held opposing quarterbacks to the league's second-lowest Total QBR entering Week 15.

The Bills racked up an NFL-best 48 sacks prior to Sunday's game, yet were able to force the Packers' offense to fizzle even without pressure on Rodgers, who wasn't sacked until Green Bay's final offensive snap.

"The protection was great," Rodgers said. "There was not much of the pass rush that bothered me. I was able to move around the pocket."

So how did the Bills contain the Packers' offense?

"They were physical and got away with it more than we expected," Rodgers said.

While being physical was part of the coaches' messages during the week, Schwartz and secondary coach Donnie Henderson focused on keeping the scheme simple for defensive backs tasked with slowing down Rodgers, Nelson and Randall Cobb.

"Communication, communication, communication. That's all there was to it," cornerback Nickell Robey said. "We ain't going to make it a magical formula or whatever like that. It was just communication. Making the game simple for us. Going down there and just getting their guy. Don't get beat. If [Rodgers] scrambles, stay with your man. Trust in each other out there on the field.

"Communication and trusting each other. Those were the two main things today and that's what we [followed] through on and we finished the game out with a win."

Veteran cornerback Corey Graham, who has started the past four games after Leodis McKelvin went down with a season-ending ankle injury, didn't complicate the approach.

"Just cover. That's what we do," he said. "Pretty much what you get out of us. It's gonna be a lot of man-on-man, you get your cat. Everybody's gonna be out there, got their own guys. Everybody gonna hold you accountable to get your guy."

Though the defensive line didn't record a sack until late in the fourth quarter -- when Mario Williams strip-sacked Rodgers for a safety to seal the victory -- the rock-solid front line still played a part in the defense's strategy.

"We know that we had to keep Aaron Rodgers from scrambling around. He scrambles around a lot, tries to buy time with his feet," Graham explained. "For the most part, our D-line did a great job keeping him in the pocket, keeping him from moving around too much and keeping him from buying too much time. So we wanted to do that and we were able to do that today."

Whether it's the Bills' front seven or their secondary, their defense sent a clear message to Rodgers and the rest of the NFL: Don't discount us.

"It's been two weeks in a row that we played against probably the best quarterbacks in the league," Graham said, "and we held our own regardless."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 21-13 win over the Green Bay Packers:

Marrone not thinking about future: With the Bills improving to eight wins for the first time since 2004, the case is growing stronger for Doug Marrone to remain as the head coach next season. Marrone, as one might expect, wasn't willing to talk about his job security. "I never even think like that," he said. "I just try to win each game. It's my job. It's an opportunity, and I really don't do it for me. ... The coaches, the fans, the region: When we win, I'm happy for them, and when we lose, I feel like I let them down. That's just the bottom line."

Players support Marrone: Bills players were quick to praise Marrone after the game. "He's a great motivator. I don't think people know that about him," running back Anthony Dixon said. "He knows how to get us going. He don't got the best personality, but he just grinds it. He works hard, and he makes sure we work hard and we're accountable. We love him for that. ... He has our support 100 percent. Because at the end of the day, he makes us better. He makes us realize what we need to be doing, what we need to focus on. We all need that in our lives. We all need that seriousness to be able to go far with this thing. To win a championship you need to have a leader with some fight and some fire inside of him, and that's what he is."

Running back Fred Jackson echoed the thoughts. "It was a quality win against a quality opponent," Jackson said. "[Marrone] got us prepared to do so. That's all you can ask for a coach. We love playing for him. We'll continue to fight for him."

Defense riding high: The Bills held Aaron Rodgers to the lowest quarterback rating (34.3) of his career, something that even caught Bills players by surprise. As I mentioned that stat to one player in an interview, another defender an adjacent locker turned his head in surprise and asked, "Really? Wow."

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 21-13 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What it means: The Bills (8-6) took down the NFL's hottest team in the Packers (10-4), who fell to 0-6 all time in Buffalo. While Buffalo's offense -- especially quarterback Kyle Orton, who finished with a 54.2 quarterback rating -- was inconsistent Sunday, the Bills' defense and special teams won the day. The Bills have won eight games for the first time since 2004. Considering the strength of the AFC, they'll still need to win their final two games to have a chance at the playoffs.

Stock watch: Defense -- up. There isn't one player to single out from this unit, but they proved Sunday that they are the real deal and should be in the discussion as the NFL's best defense. After holding Peyton Manning to a 56.9 quarterback rating last week, the Bills' defense was truly stifling Sunday, limiting Aaron Rodgers to a 34.3 rating -- the worst of his career. The winning formula was tight coverage from the Bills' secondary, a slew of bad throws from the game's best quarterback and plenty of drops from his receivers. Rodgers had a 40 percent completion rate and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt, some of the worst statistics of his storied career.

Game ball: Safety Bacarri Rambo. The most unlikely of heroes for the Bills in their win, Rambo intercepted Rodgers twice in the second half after entering in the third quarter for an injured Duke Williams. It was Rambo's first extensive action with the Bills since being signed last month. Who would've guessed?

Carpenter perfect: As anemic as the Bills' offense has been, kicker Dan Carpenter has been solid. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals Sunday, including 51- and 48-yard kicks. Carpenter is second in the NFL with 28 field goals.

What's next: The Bills close out their regular season with back-to-back road games. They'll travel cross-country Friday for a game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders (2-12), and then finish out at New England (11-3) in Week 17.

DE Jarius Wynn among Bills' inactives

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.

Wynn, who was questionable on the injury report after returning to practice this week, has not played since being injured in a Nov. 9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here is the Bills' full list of inactives:

S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring)
TE Chris Gragg (knee)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
FB Frank Summers
OL Cyrus Kouandjio
LB Randell Johnson
WR Deonte Thompson
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Welcome to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Buffalo Bills (7-6) meet the Green Bay Packers (10-3) at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Weather conditions: It's a cloudy, chilly end to the Bills' home schedule. Temperatures will be around 40 degrees at kickoff with gray skies. There is no chance of precipitation and winds are fairly light.

Few injury questions: The Bills are about as healthy as they've been all season. Two players -- starting safety Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring) and reserve tight end Chris Gragg (knee) -- have already been declared out, while reserve defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee) is questionable. Otherwise, the Bills should be near full strength for Sunday's game. If Wynn doesn't play, the Bills will need to declare four additional inactives. Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and linebacker Randell Johnson are the best bets for those spots.

Leavy gets the call: Bill Leavy is today's referee.
Earlier this week, we ran a Uni Watch column on NFL teams wearing mono-colored uniforms. The column included a list of the teams that had never "gone mono" in their current uniform sets, and that list included the Bills.

[+] EnlargeBuffalo Bills
Courtesy of Buffalo BillsFor the first time, the Bills plan to wear royal blue jerseys and pants.
After this Sunday, that list will have to be revised.

The Bills have announced that they'll be wearing mono-blue for this Sunday's game against the Packers, pairing their royal blue jerseys with their matching blue pants. It will mark the first time these two uniform elements have been worn together. Up until now, the blue pants have only been paired with the team's white jerseys.

The team's announcement of this Sunday's uniform combination said "fans have been asking for" the mono-blue look for some time.

NFL teams are required to declare which jerseys they'll be wearing for each game prior to the start of the regular season, but no prior notification is required for pants, which allows for surprise announcements like this one.

The Bills routinely went mono-navy with their previous uniform set, which they wore from 2002 through 2010. The current set, which has elements that hearken back to the team's original uniform design, was introduced in 2011.

Bills vs. Packers preview

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12

When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park TV: Fox

The Green Bay Packers are winless in five trips to Buffalo, so naturally Aaron Rodgers wants to make history.

"I'm surprised we've only played them five times up there," Rodgers said Wednesday. "It's going to be great to be a part of the first win in Buffalo, I guess."

While the Packers (10-3) are cruising toward home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, the underdog Buffalo Bills (7-6) are hanging on by a thread in the AFC playoff race, needing a win in their home finale Sunday to stay in the picture.

ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break it all down:

Rodak: Rob, not only are the Packers probably the NFL’s best team, they’re also the NFL’s hottest team, winning their past five games. What have they done better over that stretch that maybe they weren’t executing as well early in the season?

Demovsky: First of all, Rodgers has been on fire, and it’s not just Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb anymore. They’ve developed other weapons, such as rookie receiver Davante Adams and rookie tight end Richard Rodgers, and they have finally found a way to balance the passing game while still getting running back Eddie Lacy the football. His touches have gone way up. And until the second half against the Falcons on Monday night, you would have said their defense had turned the corner. Early in the season, they couldn’t stop the run, missed too many tackles and had breakdowns in deep coverage. That all seemed rectified until Matt Ryan and Julio Jones picked them apart. Maybe it was an aberration; we’ll find out.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have both raved about the Bills’ defense, especially the defensive front. What do the Packers have to prepare for from this group, which includes three players (Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes) with at least 9.5 sacks each?

Rodak: They'll have to pick their poison, in a sense. Teams have taken different strategies in double-teaming and trying to slow down the Bills' defensive line, which also includes Kyle Williams, who made the Pro Bowl last season. But there's no way to stop all of them. That's part of why we've seen so many multisack games from them this season: You can double-team one or two of them, but it's only creating opportunities for the other stars across the line. For example, we saw Dareus rack up three sacks in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, while Mario Williams had just one sack in that game. The next week in Miami, Williams went off for 3.5 sacks, while Dareus didn't have one. It all depends on the week-to-week strategies for offensive lines. The Broncos managed to avoid any sacks of Peyton Manning last week by getting rid of the ball quickly and leaning on their running game more than usual.

Aaron Rodgers has been the NFL’s best quarterback this season (he leads the league in Total QBR) and could be the NFL’s MVP. Still, the Bills’ defense was able to hold Manning without a passing touchdown last week. What would be their formula for doing that against Rodgers?

Demovsky: If there’s a formula for slowing down Rodgers -- and there might not be one -- it’s probably this: Get pressure on him but don’t blitz. He tears apart teams that blitz. But if your front four can get home, which it looks like the Bills’ front can do, then you can commit to coverage on the back end and limit Rodgers’ ability to throw the ball down the field. And then you better also have good coverage on the underneath routes, because he’ll gladly take the checkdowns, as we saw him do against the Falcons. He’s not going to make many mistakes, so you can’t count on him turning the ball over (his three interceptions this season all came on balls that went off the hands of the intended receiver). This might be the best overall defense the Packers have faced this season, so it will be interesting to see how Rodgers and McCarthy try to attack it.

The Packers probably remember Kyle Orton as a game manager from his days as the Bears’ starter. What’s his game like now, and what are the Bills asking him to do?

Rodak: The Bills have a 5-4 record under Orton this season, and when they've won, he's either been able to lead late comeback drives (against Detroit and Minnesota), blow the top off a poor defense (twice against the Jets) or get a lot of help from his defense (against Cleveland). I wouldn't call him a game manager, as he's still prone to interceptions and bad decisions. He's thrown at least one interception in five of his nine starts and has also taken some sacks for which the offensive line really wasn't to blame. The more glaring problem is that his completion percentage and yards per attempt have generally declined since he took over, while he's had a QBR under 30.0 in four of his past five starts. He's still a better option than EJ Manuel, whose QBR was under 10.0 in his final two starts, but to call Orton effective wouldn't be accurate.

Statistically, the Packers are middle of the road defensively, allowing 23.4 points per game (18th in NFL) and 374.4 yards per game (26th in NFL). Are those numbers skewed because of how efficient the Packers’ offense is at scoring?

Demovsky: That’s what defensive coordinator Dom Capers would like you to think. He always points to two stats he believes tell the story of a defense: points allowed and opponent passer rating. As you mentioned, they’re 18th in scoring defense, which is quite a bit better than they are in yards allowed. And they’re 17th in Total QBR by opposing quarterbacks (55.6) and ninth in opponent passer rating (84.9). He believes the latter is best measure of a defense because it takes into account takeaways, and Capers’ defenses almost always rank high on the interception lists.

The Packers have a rookie, second-rounder Davante Adams, who is getting plenty of playing time as the No. 3 receiver, but he’s certainly no Sammy Watkins. After what Julio Jones did to the Packers' defense Monday night, what are the chances Watkins has another big game like he did last week against the Broncos?

Rodak: I'd say it's still 50-50. Watkins fumbled his first catch of the game Sunday in Denver, and then we essentially didn't hear from him again until the second half. He finished with his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, yet there's hardly been a consistent output by the rookie on a week-to-week basis. He's admitted that part of it is mental -- he's been frustrated, at times, with the focus that defenses put on him -- but you can't discount the effect of his quarterback's play. You never know what you're going to get from Orton, so it's hard to predict how Watkins will perform each week.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When the Buffalo Bills host the Green Bay Packers in their home finale Sunday, the game could also be the final time that several members of the team take the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Among those players is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who is set to become a free agent after this season.

"I'm not going to think anything like that," Hughes said Thursday. "We still got three more games left. That's been our whole focus, not being too far into the future. It's so hard to do."

While Hughes might not be thinking about it, his contract situation should be among the front office's chief concerns this winter.

With that in mind, and the Bills' regular season winding down, let's take a look at the Bills' top financial priorities this offseason:

1. Extending Jerry Hughes: At this point, there is little incentive for Hughes to take whatever deal the Bills are offering him. His risk of injury decreases with each passing week, so with only three games remaining, the best bet for Hughes is to play out his current deal and then wait until free agency opens in March. If you're Hughes, why not see what the other 31 teams in the league will offer you? The Bills can create a road block by using the franchise tag on their defensive end, but the cost will be steep. The franchise number for defensive ends was $13.1 million last offseason and it could be higher this year.

2. Re-signing C.J. Spiller: This could depend on any changes that are made to the Bills' coaching staff and/or front office this winter. If everything stays the same, I could see the Bills offering Spiller a short-term, reasonable deal that brings back one of their most explosive players for another run. It's safe to say that Spiller hasn't been nearly as effective in Doug Marrone's system as he was with Chan Gailey calling the plays, but if the price is right, he's another piece of the puzzle in the backfield. Fred Jackson turns 34 in February and both Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown have proven to be complimentary backs at best, so even if Spiller is re-signed, expect the Bills to pursue a running back in the draft.

3. Restructuring Mario Williams' deal: The Bills are slated to have among the most cap space of any team in the league for the 2015 season. That could change quickly if they franchise Hughes or extend him, so in the event that the Bills want to free more cap space, restructuring Williams' deal is one option. His cap number for next season is $19 million, the 11th-highest in the NFL. He's under contract with the Bills through 2017, so the team could take part of his $12.1 million base salary next season and convert it to a signing bonus, which would spread the cap hits across the remaining three years of his deal. It's a mechanism that could free upward of $5 million of cap space if both sides agree. The account hit would come for the Bills in 2016, when Williams is already scheduled to count $19.9 million against the cap.