Bills Beat Blog



By Joe Buscaglia
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5 things to watch for during Bills - Jets

While the Buffalo Bills are trying to make the city of Detroit their home for the weekend and claim a victory in yet another crucial November contest, the New York Jets have other plans in mind. The Jets are coming off not only the bye week, but dominated a potential AFC playoff team the weekend before that.

Might the Jets play the spoiler role once more? Some things to watch for when the Bills and Jets square off at Ford Field in Detroit:

1) Keeping Vick in check
- There are a few things the Bills won't be able to lean on in the second showdown with the Jets. First, they likely won't get multiple interceptions in the first quarter and end the game with a plus-six turnover margin. Second, they likely won't have a shortened field a substantial amount of time like they did in New Jersey a few weeks ago. Third, this is a Jets team with a new and more multi-faceted quarterback that has the team playing as loose as it has all season. Even though Vick is prone to mistakes and turnovers, there is little doubt that this is a different Jets offense with him at the helm than Geno Smith. The Bills will likely need to employ a quarterback spy strategy that can run with Vick as plays start to break down. It was one of the areas that the Bills struggled with when he entered the game a few weeks ago and allowed for the Jets to move the ball down the field. The most athletic linebacker the Bills have on the active roster, Nigel Bradham, will likely draw the assignment to spy Vick. Don't forget, the Jets have legitimate playmakers at wide receiver. The trio of Percy Harvin, Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley against a questionable Bills secondary could make up for a potential Bills' weakness, especially if Vick extends plays and allows those three to freelance and find the open areas of the field.

2) Watkins goes wild?
- Last time the porous secondary of the Jets faced off against the Bills, Sammy Watkins took off with one of his most productive days in the NFL. The rookie caught only three passes against the Jets, but averaged 52.3 yards per reception to gain the highest yardage total (157) of his young career. Over the past two games, the Bills have failed at two things: for Kyle Orton to throw the ball accurately enough to move the offense when it was needed, and to get Sammy Watkins involved. In the two games before the bye week, the first-round pick gained 279 yards and three touchdowns on 12 receptions. In the two losses since? Seven receptions for 59 yards. If the Bills want to win this game, Watkins needs to be the man leading the efforts on offense.

3) Orton needs to improve, and quickly
- That leads us to our next point of the game: Kyle Orton needs to be much, much better than he has been the past two weeks. Against Kansas City, Orton missed four throws to the end zone that could have dramatically changed the outcome of the game, and would have potentially led the Bills to a victory. Against Miami, Orton's accuracy was a problem throughout and struggled to get any offensive momentum building, throwing for only 193 yards on 39 total attempts. At this point of the year Orton is not entrenched as the Bills starter for the rest of the season, which means his safety is not guaranteed with a bad outing. If he performs poorly in the final two games of November which help lead to two Bills losses, the team could turn back to second-year player EJ Manuel. Don't expect that to happen mid-game against the Jets, however. Orton is still viewed as the best chance to win by head coach Doug Marrone, who is likely coaching for his security in 2015 as well. The Bills are up against a Jets pass defense that has some of the worst starters in the entire league. If Orton can't take advantage of that, the EJ Manuel express may start to build steam.

4) The return of Fred
- With 15 days to rest since the last time he played in a game, starting running back Fred Jackson appears to be back — or at least close — to his normal self. It's not the ideal game for Jackson to return and make a big splash on the ground, because the Jets boast one of the top defensive lines in the league and dominated the line of scrimmage against the Bills in Week 8. His return, however, will mean a great deal to the passing game in more ways than one. The running back's strength on third downs, not only when catching the ball and picking up tough yardage for first downs, but his work in pass protection and blitz pickup for the quarterback will help Kyle Orton infinitely.

5) What will the crowd be like?
- The upcoming "home" game for the Bills at Ford Field has a great mystery hanging over it: how filled up will the stadium be, and who will they favor? The Lions issued free tickets to the game through their website, and there is still the looming possibility that a big contingent of Bills fans make the trip from western New York to cash in on the "preferred seating" that the venue will be offering to those with original tickets to the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Consider this, too: a Detroit radio station was even calling for Lions fans to pack the stadium and root for the Jets due to an overwhelming disdain for former Detroit head coach and current Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. That was fueled by Schwartz's request to his current team to be carried off the field after Buffalo's victory in Detroit earlier this season. However, with it being a free game for fans to attend, it's more likely that it sets up as a bit of a sterile atmosphere. It could even be a crowd that resembles what the Bills have seen over the past several years at their home game in Toronto. Either way it will be quite interesting to see what type of fans pack Ford Field on Monday night.

Injuries
Buffalo
OUT: DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: HB Fred Jackson (groin), CB Ron Brooks (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Sammy Watkins (groin), G Kraig Urbik (shoulder), K Dan Carpenter (right groin), QB Kyle Orton (toe), WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle), WR Chris Hogan (hip), DE Manny Lawson (ankle), FB Frank Summers (neck)

New York Jets
PROBABLE: S Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf), LB David Harris (shoulder), LB Trevor Reilly (knee), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), HB Chris Johnson (knee), CB Darrin Walls (calf), OL Oday Aboushi (shoulder), WR T.J. Graham (neck), G Willie Colon (knee), WR Greg Salas (wrist), HB Chris Ivory (shoulder), QB Geno Smith (right shoulder), C Nick Mangold (shoulder)

Prediction: Jets over Bills
- The Bills are in a tough spot in this game, losing a valuable homefield advantage in a contest that they likely must need in order to have any hope for the playoffs. With a loss the Bills will drop to 2-6 in the conference, which will all but erase any hopes of them stealing a wildcard berth in a tiebreaker scenario. The Jets are playing loose, coming off a bye week and off a game in which they stunned a Pittsburgh team that was playing as well as any offense in the NFL. Kyle Orton must have a big game for the Bills to win, because they won't be able to depend on a huge turnover advantage like they did last time around. This is the ultimate test in adversity for the Bills with what they've gone through this week and what this game means to the outcome of the 2014 season. It will likely be a close game, but this is not the same Jets team as the one the Bills saw in October. The fast track at Ford Field for Michael Vick and Percy Harvin could end up being the difference.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Brandon: We're anticipating a sell out

When the Buffalo Bills take to the turf at Ford Field on Monday night, it could be in front of a packed crowd. The Bills and New York Jets will play the Week 12 contest in front of a Detroit crowd that now has distributed a full capacity of free tickets through the Lions' website.

Team President Russ Brandon, despite the increasing amount of problems that have accumulated with having to move the entire operation to Detroit, delivered the news that he believes Ford Field has a chance to be 'sold out.'

"That's what we're anticipating," Brandon said. "It's incredible to think that that many tickets have been distributed in that short period of time. We're looking forward to a robust house that night and hopefully we'll have a lot of Bills fans in there as well."

The Lions made free tickets available in the early part of the weekend, but then quickly ran out. Shortly after the tickets were gone, they also announced that tickets would be available at box offices starting at 10 am on Sunday.

Even though those free tickets are gone, the plan is still on as scheduled for those that have original tickets to the game if it were to have been played at Ralph Wilson Stadium. In fact, for those fans making the trip, the Bills and Lions will provide the best seats in the house.

"We're working with the Lions and there's going to be preferred seating between the 20s for any Bills fans that come over from Buffalo that have a ticket to the game," Brandon revealed. "The way the bar codes are set, those individuals have the opportunity to sit behind our bench in that area and root us on."

The capacity at Ford Field is 65,000, but the Bills do not anticipate any situations in which people trying to gain access to the game with a ticket will be turned away. Brandon said free tickets normally brings a higher "no show rate," which could help with any potential problems that the teams will run into.

In fact, the team will even have some of their sales staff assisting with the ticketing and entry process into the game. Even if a fan makes the trek to Detroit and uses the original Ralph Wilson Stadium ticket for admission, they will still be eligible to receive a refund for the lost home game.

"The refund policy that we'll employ will really go into full effect on Monday when our staff can really get back to work and we'll work with our customers on every level throughout the course of the next few weeks," he said. "It will take a little patience as we go through the different phases of our season ticket members to individual game purchasers, to people who purchased on TicketMaster, TicketExchange, those all will be refunded or applied toward season tickets for next year, whatever our customers choose."

The Bills and Jets will square off Monday at 7 pm.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills list Fred Jackson as 50-50, but expect him to play

The weather in western New York has flipped everything upside down for the Buffalo Bills, and you can add one more oddity to the list that only grows longer by the day. It's a bit of a rarity in today's National Football League, but the Buffalo Bills issued their official injury report even before they took the field for practice in Allen Park, Michigan.

Starting running back Fred Jackson, despite the 'questionable' designation, is expected to suit up against the New York Jets.

"I know we listed him as questionable, I think it's more because of the type of injury that it is that something could happen," head coach Doug Marrone said. "We're planning on him to be ready to go."

Jackson had been dealing with a groin injury that left him sidelined in the team's previous game against the Miami Dolphins.

The team officially declared defensive end Jarius Wynn out for the upcoming Monday night contest against Jets, which will be the second consecutive game he missed due to a knee injury. Wynn sustained the knee ailment during the Bills' Week 10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cornerback Ron Brooks (groin), like Jackson, was listed as questionable for the upcoming game. Meanwhile wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), kicker Dan Carpenter (right groin), quarterback Kyle Orton (toe), guard Kraig Urbik (shoulder), wide receiver Chris Hogan (hip), defensive end Manny Lawson (ankle), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ankle) and fullback Frank Summers (neck) are all probable.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Marrone, Bills challenged, but not making excuses

For the Buffalo Bills, it's an unprecedented situation. A lake effect snowstorm that brough nearly six feet into Ralph WIlson Stadium has forced the team to uproot and head for clearer pastures to ready themselves for their upcoming game.

The Bills had to fly to Detroit on Friday afternoon and participate in their first practice in 10 days. It's a situation that isn't ideal by any head coach's standards.

"Challenging," said head coach Doug Marrone when asked to describe the experience and its obstacles. "We're not playing at home, we're not practicing at home and we're not going home at night to our families."

The facts are quite simple. The Bills lost one of eight home games to a neutral site due to the weather, and it comes at a crucial part of the season. Amidst a two-game losing streak, this could be as much adversity as a team could face.

Even still, the Bills aren't allowing themselves to think that way. Through the locker room, the coaching staff and even the front office, the message is simple: now is not the time for excuses.

"Can't really think about it," Kyle Orton said. "You know, you just work as hard as you can, put in all the hours that you can, and you know, go out and play loose and have fun and enjoy being around the guys, and go out and compete."

Marrone was quite straight forward with his team about his thoughts on the hand that they've been dealt, but coupled that with the similar refrain. The Bills aim to stick together and make the best of an unfortunate series of events.

"We all know the situation. I think it is what it is. No one is going to feel sorry for us," Marrone said. "We've got to go out there and play, and when we play we've got to go out there and compete and win. That's what our job is. We understand that. As a coach, like I said before, I can't stand up here and say hey, this is a disadvantage, this is this, this is that. It is what it is, and we've gotta go play."

"Extreme circumstances kind of either brings out the best or the worst in you," tight end Scott Chandler added. "Hopefully it brings out the best in us."

The Bills had the home game against the New York Jets relocated to Detroit and Ford Field, and the game has since been pushed back to Monday night at 7 pm. It has allowed Buffalo to string together a semblance of a normal practice week, one that will continue on Saturday.

The Bills will hold just their second practice in the past 11 days at 4:45 pm at the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park, MI. Marrone knows if it weren't for the Lions, the situation could have been far worse.

"Oh, they've been outstanding," he said. "I can't thank them enough. Coach Caldwell, Tom [Lewand] you know, opening everything up. That's really not heard of in this league unless they force you to do it, and Detroit wasn't forced to do that. I have a great appreciation for the organization here. I mean, we have everything. They're letting us in, we have the locker room right behind us, we have the meeting rooms and things of that nature. That's a big plus for us, no doubt about it. That helps gap some of the issues and challenges that we had."

The Bills will continue to try and make Detroit feel like home over the next two days before a crucial game against the Jets.

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**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills take to the practice field in Detroit

Not even 24 hours after the National Football League announced that the Buffalo Bills would play the upcoming game against the New York Jets at Ford Field in Detroit, the Bills have officially relocated to Michigan for the weekend.

The team corralled most of the players on the active roster, as well as practice squad quarterback Jeff Tuel, on a bus and commuted from Orchard Park to the airport for a Friday afternoon flight. Those that were not on the bus lived in mostly unaffected areas from the November snowstorm that accumulated over six feet in some areas, and drove themselves.

The Bills convened as a team at the airport for the first time since Monday, and flew to Detroit late Friday afternoon. The team then bussed to the hotel and shortly left there for the Lions' practice facility at Allen Park shortly before 6 pm.

The team participated in some meetings before finally taking the field around 7:45 pm, their first official practice since Tuesday, November 12.

The only player that did not participate in the practice was defensive end Jarius Wynn, who missed the team's last game with a knee injury. The Bills were not required by the league to issue an official injury report for their practice on Friday.

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**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills-Jets relocated to Detroit, Monday night

The Buffalo Bills will get a Monday night game in 2014 after all, only, not in the way they would have preferred. Hours after the NFL announced that the Bills would not be able to play their scheduled home game against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the new destination and time has been unveiled.

The NFL announced Thursday night that the Bills and Jets will square off Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit at 7 pm. According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the Bills will try to fly to Detroit on Friday to attempt to practice there if all goes well.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday evening, Bills President Russ Brandon said that the amount of snow accrued at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park has made them unable to hold practice there for the players. The area accumulated anywhere from four to seven feet of snow over a three-day span.

The game will be televised in local markets.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills vs. Jets will not be played at RWS

The November snowstorm that has ravaged parts of western New York has officially forced the National Football League to change courses. Originally scheduled to host the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the NFL announced that the Week 12 contest will not be held in Buffalo.

"Due to public safety concerns in light of the ongoing weather emergency in Western New York, Sunday's Jets-Bills game will not be played in Buffalo," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. "We are in the process of rescheduling and relocating the game as part of Week 12. We will provide additional information as soon as possible."

The game will be relocated to a different city, with multiple outlets reporting that the league was considering Ford Field in Detroit, FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The time and day of the game is also in question, and it could be pushed to late Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

Before the second band of lake effect snow came through south of the city of Buffalo, the areas surrounding Orchard Park accrued anywhere from three to six feet of snow. As the snow continued to accumulate on Thursday, the totals around Ralph Wilson Stadium were anywhere from four to eight feet that needed to be removed in order to play Sunday's game.

On a conference call on Wednesday, Bills Vice President of Operations and Guest Experience Andy Major said it normally takes three days to remove just one foot of snow from Ralph Wilson Stadium ahead of a game. The contest with the Jets has now been ruled out, which shifts focus to the team's next home game on November 30 against Cleveland. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the team will be hard pressed to have the stadium ready for that game as well.

"We have been in contact with the public authorities and we realize the importance of all available public safety resources being available for the community at this difficult time," Signora continued in his statement. "We are also in discussions with the team and the Red Cross on ways the NFL can support the community through this weather disaster."

Keep checking back for more as it becomes available.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of buffalobills.com
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Bills cancel practice again as NFL decision looms

Over the last three days life has been on hold in various parts of western New York due to the lake effect snowstorm that hit early Tuesday morning. The Buffalo Bills were fortunate enough to have Tuesday off, but the storm has now claimed half of the team's practices for the week.

The Bills announced on Thursday morning that practice had been cancelled for the second consecutive day due to the snowstorm and travel bans in and around the Orchard Park area.

At the moment, the team is still scheduled to host a game in Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday at 1 o'clock against the New York Jets. The National Football League has yet to make a decision on the matter, and according to ProFootballTalk.com, have imposed a deadline of Friday at 1 pm to make a decision on both when and where the game will be played.

The stadium operations staff at One Bills Drive will attempt to remove anywhere from five to seven feet of snow ahead of Sunday's game against the Jets. Andy Major, Team Vice President of Operations and Guest Experience, said Wednesday that it normally takes three days to remove only one foot of snow from the stadium just days ahead of a home game.

The areas that surround Ralph Wilson Stadium have been hit the hardest and longest of any in the region surrounding the city of Buffalo. Families had been trapped in their homes by snow, and the general public were urged to stay off the roads with the current travel ban.

Highways and roads were closed into Thursday afternoon, which led to some stark comments from both New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz about the viability of the game being played on Sunday.

"If you asked me today, my two cents would be it's impractical to do the game," Cuomo said. "We'll do everything we can to deploy resources to make it possible, but now we're focused on public safety."

"We've been asked: 'Can we commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff's office — the lead police agency — at the game?' I can tell you right now, at this moment, we cannot commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff's office," Poloncarz added. "At this moment, I cannot commit to that on Sunday."

The NFL could elect to postpone the game to Monday or Tuesday, and also have the option of moving the game to a different venue. According to various reports, the NFL is considering moving the game to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, Washington D.C. or even to the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

In the meantime, Poloncarz delivered strong words to the NFL on Thursday.
Check back for more as it becomes available.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills working around the clock to ready stadium for Sunday

With the onset of one of the biggest storms in western New York history, the Buffalo Bills will work on overdrive to try and ready Ralph Wilson Stadium for the scheduled 1 pm showdown against the New York Jets on Sunday.

The stadium sits in Orchard Park, one of the areas that accrued the most amounts of snow south of the city of Buffalo. That area got over three feet of snow, and in some spots, even more than that.

The worst isn't over, either. Another lake effect snowstorm is projected to hit Orchard Park on Thursday, delivering an additional two-to-three feet of snow.

Even with all the snow already on the ground and what's to come, the NFL and the Bills are still going on with the game as originally scheduled -- for now. The Bills have no say in any potential venue change or postponment of the game with the Jets. It's a league issue, and one that they will continue to monitor as the snow continues to fall.

The Bills have quite the task ahead of them to remove all the snow from Ralph Wilson Stadium and its surrounding areas to ready itself for an actual game. The team said on Wednesday that they would work around the clock to clear the stadium of the snow, calling on help from anyone willing and able to shovel.

The team has offered $10 per hour and game tickets to help with the readying process for the stadium,once the travel ban is lifted, and will continue the efforts 24 hours a day until game day. The Bills said that the amount of snow inside Ralph Wilson Stadium is "four times or more" the amount they have ever had to remove ahead of a game.

Normally, it takes the team three days to remove one feet of snow from the stadium. If the second wave of the storm rolls through Orchard Park as expected, the snow totals will be anywhere from six to seven feet that needs to be removed by Sunday.

The Bills and the NFL have been in constant communication regarding the viability of holding the game on Sunday as originally scheduled. Until any decisions have been made by the league's offices, the game will go on as planned.

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**Photo courtesy of buffalobills.com
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Bills, Marrone trying to work through the snowstorm

Starting late Monday night, the western New York area was hit with one of the most historic snowstorms that left people stranded, roads closed and many unable to move. The first wave of the storm hit south of Buffalo quickly and with a lot of force, with some areas getting anywhere from three to six feet of snow.

It timed out well for the Buffalo Bills -- at least at the start of it. Each week the players have one day off and it usually falls on a Tuesday, which was the initial day of the storm. As the snow kept pelting the Orchard Park area -- the location that most players on the roster live in or very close to -- the likelihood of the team getting back into One Bills Drive on Wednesday dwindled.

Since the storm arrived to the area local authorities declared driving bans and closed down many of the major routes to get in and around the city. That has since extended into Wednesday, and the team was forced to adjust their weekly schedule and cancel practice for the day.

Bills head coach Doug Marrone is one of the few that made it to the offices in Orchard Park, but put the word out that this was no time to be a hero and try to get to work with the current state of things.

"It's a great challenge, but I think that we're relying on the people that make those decisions, obviously with the driving ban and things like that," Marrone said. "We're not going to put our players, coaches, support staff, anyone in any type of jeopardy. Obviously it's a safety issue first. That's what we're monitoring at and waiting for the word to when we can start to operate like we normally would."

With many on the team stuck at home on what would normally be the heaviest practice of the week, the Bills were forced to adjust the game plan on the fly and work with the team in a different way. A new trend around the league in recent years has made them able to do that, too.

The team participated in sending messages, their game plan and film to watch to the players electronically. Much of the week-to-week work involves the use of a tablet for players to ready themselves for the upcoming game. For Wednesday at least, the players can only mentally prepare for the upcoming contest against the New York Jets.

There hasn't been a strategy for when the Bills will be allowed to get back to work on the practice field, either. There isn't much snow expected throughout the day on Wednesday, but anywhere from two to three more feet of snow has been forecasted for the Orchard Park area on Thursday.

At this point the Bills are on hold and playing it by ear.

"We really don't know exactly what's going to happen obviously with the weather reports for tonight," Marrone said. "Obviously the information is in hand. Us being able to go out there and practice obviously is not an option for us. When those things open, then we're going to have make changes in our schedule to make sure that we're prepared to play a game."

Marrone and the majority of his coaching staff made it into team facilities on Tuesday and spent the night at One Bills Drive. Given the state of things and with roads around the stadium still closed, that may be the case again.

The Bills said they are still approaching the weekend as if the game will occur on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium as originally scheduled. If all goes well, the Bills and Jets will square off at 1 pm.

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**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Whaley discusses Orton, Marrone, EJ and 4th down on WGR

While the players on the Buffalo Bills are resting comfortably at home during the snow storm on their scheduled day off, general manager Doug Whaley was at work trying to get on the road to scout prospects, as well as conducting an interview with WGR Sports Radio 550.

Whaley appeared on The Howard Simon Show on Tuesday morning amidst all the state of emergencies, driving bans and flight cancellations, and discussed many of the topics that have driven the Bills-related conversations around western New York.

Kyle Orton, the future of EJ Manuel, the trade of Sammy Watkins, head coach Doug Marrone, going for it on fourth down -- all topics were on the table. With so much that was discussed, here are the complete questions and answers, separated by topics:

On Kyle Orton

Q: Orton has missed some throws in the last two games, is that the biggest issue?

A: I think two factors: one, there's a book put out there on Kyle, so teams are game planning. When he was in there early, they weren't sure how we were gonna use him, so that's out there. But, like you said, it goes back to converting by making big plays in certain situations, but we can do some things to help him. And again, I think that's on the shoulders of our offensive line and our running game, and it's gotten better. But obviously with the results the last two weeks, it's not good enough.

Q: What do you think of Kyle Orton's play through six games?

A: Encouraged, but obviously not good enough for what we're looking for and what we're trying to do. There's some things that he brings to our team in veteran leadership, and a calming effect out there and a sense that all our guys on the team -- especially on offense -- believe he can get us out of any situation and propel us to victory. Like you said, he's missed a couple of throws, but I think he's kept us in games.

Q: Can Kyle Orton get better, or is this who Kyle Orton is?

A:I think he can get better. I think we all can get better. We can get better across the board as a team. But the more and more a quarterback is around a team and around receivers that he hasn't worked with -- because you have to understand, he just got here a week before the season starts. Then he just starts working full time with these receivers six games ago. So, the more and more he's around and the more and more they get a feel and they can do the head nod and he knows where they're going to be and they know what he's expecting... we feel that's just going to propel our offense to get better and better.

Q: When you look at the QB position, how do you evaluate it right now? Is that a position you might explore in the offseason?

A: Let me look at this way. We're in a results based business, and has he done some really good things? Absolutely. But the last two games, it hasn't been up to par because we're in this business to win. Will he get better? Yes. Will we get better? That's the plan. Now for the future right now, we're looking at the New York Jets because we're in playoff mode, fellas, right now. I know everybody's saying what about next year, next year, but our sole focus in this organization right now is the New York Jets. And we'll deal with everything else after the season like we always do.

On EJ Manuel

Q: Is it a lost season for EJ Manuel?

A: We believe it's not because it goes back to our original plan. When we first drafted EJ, you guys understood, we had the plan of having a veteran quarterback come in and mentor him until we thought he was ready. Now when Kevin Kolb went down with injury, it thrust EJ into the starting role quicker than we expected. Now since then, we have reset to the original plan. And I will tell you this: since EJ has taken a step back, everybody in the building has been impressed with his work ethic, and we've seen an improvement in the way he attacks practice and his production in practice.

Q: What was your opinion of Manuel coming out of college and how much you believed in his ability to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL?

A: We were all on board with the pick. It's one of those things where everybody was obviously... when it was Buddy, it's going to be attached to Buddy. When it's me, Sammy's going to be attached to my name. But when you're going through a scouting process, especially with the guys in the top four to five rounds, you're going to have five to six opinions. And what we do is we collectively come up with a Buffalo Bills opinion. So, EJ Manuel was a Buffalo Bills pick, and all of us were on board with it.

Q: Does EJ look ready to play?

A: That's one of those things where you can never really gauge because you don't know until the bright lights come on, but what you do like to see is progress and not repeating the same mistakes that he was doing before and improving on anything that he needed to when he was in the starting role.

On Doug Marrone

Q: GM-Coach relationship when it comes to deciding game day roster decisions, is it exclusively the role of the coach, or do you get involved?

A: Here's how we do it as the Buffalo Bills, and I'm not sure, I can't speak on other teams. Coach Marrone and I have constant conversation throughout the week about game planning and game day actives just because of injury issues. And if there's an injury and an injury replacement, we'll talk about that and say 'hey, this is what I'm thinking game planning.' But make no mistake about it, when it comes down to the 46 it's in the hands of coach. But, again, we are in constant conversation and I know his line of thinking and the reasons why he's doing what he's doing.

Q: Would you say your coach tends to play it a bit close, tends to play conservative style?

A: I look at it this way, I think he gets a feel for the game and a feel for the team and applies that to making the decision on each decision. It's just like a manager, when do you throw in the relief pitcher and when do you bring in the closer. A lot of it is based on analytic information, a lot of it is based on feel, and a lot of it is based on the flow of the game. I think as a coach, and our coach, he takes a combination of all that information which we talked about before and makes a decision off of that.

On 4th downs

Q: Are analytics involved in game day decisions, like 4th down decisions?

A: Well, our analytics department is used for multiple things throughout the organization. It's just not one specific area. What we like to do is to use analytics as a layer of information to help us on game day. It's not our sole reason for making a decision, but we're a big organization that the more information you can get, the better decision you make and analytics is a layer to help us on game day.

Q: What do analytics show about 4th downs?

A: I will have to do some more research, but there's a lot of variables that go into that. What time of game is it, what type of personnel, how have you been performing because analytics can say yeah, go for it on 4th-and-1, but if our running game has not been playing well, then you kind of use that information to say well.... a lot of it goes with gut feeling. As I said, it's a layer of information and I don't think you can use it as a sole reason for making decisions... especially on game day and especially in a sport like football where there's 11 players that have to be in precise unison and there's so many different variables that can affect that decision. Unlike a sport like baseball where it's really 1-on-1, a pitcher versus a hitter.

You can listen to the interview in full right here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Jackson expects to play, will be at full capacity

The Buffalo Bills are in the midst of a crucial stretch of their season. As long as all goes well at practice this coming week, they'll be getting back one of their best players for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

Starting running back Fred Jackson is poised to return, in full, from a groin injury. That is the expectation of head coach Doug Marrone.

"I do, barring any setback," Marrone said. "I feel comfortable with him being back unless there's a setback that happens during the week."

Over the past three games, the Bills have gotten a grand total of 27 snaps out of Jackson. He missed Week Eight against the New York Jets, played against Kansas City in Week 10 and was once again inactive in the Bills' Week 11 loss to Miami.

In eight games this season Jackson has 249 rushing yards, but has attained them at an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Also a weapon in the passing attack, Jackson has 37 receptions for 300 yards in 2014. He has two total touchdowns on the year.

"Anytime you get a good player back in Fred, whether you're handling the ball, throwing the ball -- you know, he's one of our leading receivers -- plus in a protection standpoint, he's been an outstanding player for us," Marrone said. "Obviously, when you can get those type of players back there, it helps."

The 5-5 Bills have a home matchup against the 2-8 Jets on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Jets have the fourth-best run defense in the NFL, allowing only 83.2 yards per game.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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"Right now," Bills' Marrone sticking with Orton "this week"

Since making the switch in Week Five, the Buffalo Bills have posted a 3-3 record with Kyle Orton as the team's starting quarterback. Orton had a solid first four games for the team, only for his efficiency and accuracy to dip over the past two weeks.

Predictably, as Orton goes -- or in this case doesn't -- so do the Bills. The team has lost each of the last two games which has made some ponder the idea of bringing EJ Manuel back into the starting lineup.

Bills head coach Doug Marrone isn't a member of that club, but did provide a pair of caveats when speaking about his choice for starting quarterback.

"Right now I'm planning on sticking with Kyle," Marrone said after having the weekend to think about it. "Again, I believe in every player, not just the quarterback position, is who gives us the best chance to win. That's the way I'm headed this week."

The terms 'right now' and 'this week' stick out like a sore thumb. Should the Bills struggle again this week against the New York Jets, Marrone has left himself some wiggle room to opt for Manuel whenever he chooses.

While it's Orton's job for the time being, there's no telling what could happen if he continues his inaccuracy and the Bills advance their current losing streak.

As for Manuel, Marrone was succinct on his second year player's progress as a non-starter.

"He's doing a nice job. He's working. He's doing everything that we're asking him to do."

The Bills went 2-2 with Manuel as the starting quarterback.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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McKelvin to IR; Bills sign Rambo

The season for Buffalo Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin is officially over.

On Thursday McKelvin fractured his ankle in the first half of the team's 22-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins and could not return for the remainder of the game, and now, for the rest of the year. The cornerback, 29, accounted for 48 total tackles and four interceptions in 10 games during the 2014 season.

The interception total was McKelvin's highest single-season mark in his career, and brought up his overall tally to 11 over seven seasons in the NFL. He is signed through the next two seasons with a matching cap hit of $4.9 million in both 2015 and 2016.

To replace the veteran on the roster, the Bills have signed second-year safety Bacarri Rambo to the 53-man active roster. Rambo was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, and started three games as a rookie.

He was later benched, but managed to appear in 11 total games. Rambo was released after two weeks of the 2014 season, which coincided with the return of safety Brandon Meriweather from a suspension.

In his three starts for the Redskins, Rambo graded out as a -11.1 by ProFootballFocus.com. He'll wear no. 30 for the Bills.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' McKelvin out indefinitely with fractured ankle

In the middle of one of his most productive seasons in his career, Buffalo Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin might not see the field again in 2014. During the first half of the Bills' 22-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Leodis McKelvin suffered a fractured ankle and could not return to action.

It even puts the rest of his season in jepoardy, according to head coach Doug Marrone.

"We'll have to see what we're going to do with that," Marrone said. "We're in discussion there, meaning the roster spot and where we put him, as far as IR and things like that."

If the Bills were to put McKelvin on Injured Reserve, it would end the cornerback's season immediately. The corner leads the team with four interceptions on the season, which is also a career high total for him in a single season.

Corey Graham stepped in for McKelvin and will continue to, likely for the remainder of the season. It will leave the Bills with five available cornerbacks on the active roster.

The Bills only had one other ailment stemming from Thursday night's loss: a toe injury to starting quarterback Kyle Orton. The Bills said the injury is considered to be minor and won't cause Orton to miss any time.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

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Bills' Marrone doesn't back down after 4th down criticism

The Buffalo Bills suffered a defeat on Thursday night that significantly reduced their chances of making the postseason in 2014, a 22-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins. A major point of contention for many came with the Bills down by 10 points with a little under 10 minutes to play in the contest.

Buffalo faced a 4th-and-6 from the Miami 47-yard line, and much to the dismay of most fans, head coach Doug Marrone sent the punting unit on to the field. It's the fourth instance over the past two weeks of opportunities the Bills had to extend drives on fourth downs that Marrone has chosen not to take.

On Friday, just a few hours removed from the Bills returning from Miami, Marrone met with the media and was once again asked about fourth downs and his philosophy about them. To avoid skewing what Marrone meant, here is the interchange in full:

Q: Have there been any thoughts internally about how you go about making decisions on fourth down and possibly switching that up moving forward? Because there has been an instance even last year where Ron Rivera in Carolina last year switched it up ...

A: And I know, and I appreciate the questions. I have no issues with that at all. And I know the question yesterday was the 4th and 6 and I think he said it was 8:06 or eight minutes left in a 10-point game. My philosophy has always been, and I said this from the beginning, to make sure that I'm managing the game where I give our players the opportunity to win, where I don't make decisions to take the game away from the players on that 4th and 6. It's 4th and 6, we punt, we stop, you know what I'm saying, we get a score, whether it's a field goal or a touchdown it's still a two-score game with obviously three possessions each at least in the game with the timeouts and the two minute. I would find it hard pressed for anyone at that point in the game, knowing my colleagues in this league, to see who would have gone for it in that situation. Are there other situations that come up during the game? Yes, if Kyle gets that ball down to the 1 when they dropped eight in the red zone and it's 4th and 1 from the 1, we would have gone for it there. There are situations on fourth down where we would go for it in the course of a game.

Q: So you go mostly on feel in those situations? Because I think the math for that play did suggest going for it.

A: Right. Whose math? I'm just curious.

Q: I was reading the New York Times fourth down blog ...

A: Right. And the problem I have with the fourth down statistics, and I'll say this again, OK, is that those statistics, even though that they may show that you can do that, the environment within those statistics is not the same. Now if you were to pull, if someone told me they pulled all of the critical plays on fourth down and then had a percentage of that, I think then you can look at it. But no one's really done that yet. What they look at is at the end of the game when teams are down by two scores and it's fourth down and they have to go for it, the other team is playing against the clock and not the team. So I think the environment of which those analytics are done, because if it was proven that way and it was definitely a fact I think you would see all of us do it. None of us are going to put our teams in jeopardy to do that. So I think that fourth down stuff, I do think, yes, there is a feel for it and some of those things. I think we play it by the amount of possessions and numbers, that's how we do it here. So I think a lot of times when people on the outside looking in, I don't know if they truly understand what the data is and where it's coming from.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Observations: Dolphins 22 - Bills 9

We've all seen this game before.

Over the past 15 years, the Buffalo Bills have provided one game every year that signifies the slow crawl toward the end of the year as another wasted season. After 10 games in the 2014 season, we are finally at that point.

In one of the most important games they'll play all season long, the Buffalo Bills offered a listless performance that left the team on the wrong side of the playoff race once again. The Bills dropped a second straight game, but more importantly, it was how they performed that has them marching towards the inevitable.

The Bills lost 22-9 to the Miami Dolphins in front of a national audience, and worse yet, they completely lost their identity in the process. Even with an respectable record of 5-5, the tide is turning against head coach Doug Marrone, his decisions and just how poorly his team played in one of the Bills' most crucial contests of the year.

Where did it all go wrong? Some observations from Buffalo's primetime loss:

Marrone and 4th down… again
- In the first half of the season the conservative nature of Doug Marrone was evident, but did not cost his team chances to take hold of a game when given opportunities. Over the course of the past two games, his approach has left the team having to fight to resurface rather than swimming to safety when given the chance. The Bills chose to trust the kicking game on three separate occasions against the Chiefs, all of which carried higher percentages for the team to go for it on fourth down. While there was only one clear and shining example against the Dolphins, it was just as egregious as any of its predecessors. The Bills were faced with a 4th-and-6 chance at Miami's 47-yard line, down 19-9 with 9:55 left on the clock. Even if you don't totally trust the percentages, the one thing you could believe in is that the Dolphins were moving the ball quite well on the Bills defense. With both those factors in mind, it is downright inexcusable for Marrone to surrender the best field position he had for the rest of the game out of fear that the Dolphins would bring it down the field and win the game. At that point what did he, and the Bills, have to lose? They were already down by two possessions and needed two successful drives. It's an approach that can only be categorized by a coach who is scared to make a mistake, rather than one that wants to win the game outright. Marrone seems to be holding the team back in that area, as well as some others, which has opened an entire new portal of criticism that is being thrown his way. The heat is officially on Doug Marrone. He needs to finish the season out strong to guarantee his survival. If he doesn't, well, there could be some turnover at One Bills Drive in a month and a half.

Orton with a brutal effort
- If one were to look at the box score at the end of the game and looked at Kyle Orton's stat line, it doesn't read all that poorly. Orton completed 22-of-39 passes for 193 yards — which isn't great, but it doesn't reek of a quarterback that cost his team dearly. That is precisely what happened, though. Orton prevented his team from taking any steps toward the winner's circle with a second straight performance that was riddled with inaccuracy. He missed multiple throws in crucial situations, even on routes to his dynamic rookie receiver when he clearly beat his defender for a touchdown. Orton has regressed to the mean of his career. He is not exclusively the player that was seen in the first four weeks of his starting tenure with the Bills, nor is he exclusively the player that has been seen over the past two games. However, what is clearly evident about Orton is that you can never really know what to expect from one week to the next with him. He is a backup quarterback starting in the NFL and doesn't have the consistency one can come to expect from a starting-caliber player. Will he have any moments of greatness over the final six games? He definitely will. However, they will be paired with moments that will make fans and the coaching staff scratch their heads. The search for a quarterback in Buffalo should not be over. They must strive to be better than Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel.

Referees with two crucial calls
- If you frequent the 'Observations' column and have been reading over the past several years, you'll know that the referees rarely get mentioned — let alone do they get their very own column. In the opinion of your author, games are often so much more than just the one or two penalties assessed to them that many will get hung up on. However, in two instances down the stretch of the Bills' game against Miami, the referees made themselves into a big part of the story. Late in the third quarter, Kyle Orton had the pressure of the Miami defense in his face and hurled a pass to the general vicinity — or so he thought — of Sammy Watkins. The Bills had called a double move to the outside for Watkins, and at the time of the release, the referees believed that the rookie wideout was running a route that took him to the inside. For that reason, Walt Coleman and company threw the flag for intentional grounding which gave the Dolphins an additional two points for a safety and, of course, the ball back in their possession. Early into the fourth quarter, the referees made a call that was atrocious by anyone's standards — as long as 'anyone' has a pair of eyeballs and understands the game of football. Stephon Gilmore made an outstanding play on a pass attempt that showed the right amount of patience and timing that cornerbacks need in today's NFL. Coleman ruled that Gilmore got there early — which he didn't — and interfered with the intended receiver. The Dolphins gained 24 yards on the penalty, got into the red zone and later converted for a touchdown. Make no mistake, the referees were not the reason the Bills lost the game. Both Doug Marrone and Kyle Orton deserve a large amount of the blame. However, the referees certainly didn't help things.

Mario Williams stands out
- Going into the game, defensive end Mario Williams had a tremendous opportunity to dominate the game against an offensive lineman that really had no business starting at right tackle. Dallas Thomas stepped in for rookie Ja'Wuan James, who was shifted to left tackle this week, and predictably struggled. Williams dominated the matchup and had the type of game that he exhibits once or twice a season, beating the Dolphins for 3.5 sacks on Thursday. Thomas has struggled with both quick movement in space and with the speed to power move — the latter of which describes Williams' go-to move precisely. Williams was one of the lone bright spots in a game that was frustrating for all three phases of the team.

Tackling woes
- How exactly were the Dolphins so effective on offense, specifically against a Bills defense that hasn't allowed teams to truly get comfortable at any point in the season? The answer is quite simple… Miami and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor kept it simple by spreading the field and utilizing quick passing to neutralize Buffalo's pass rush. That, and the Bills had quite a struggle with securing their tackles, which allowed some big gains for the Dolphins. Buffalo's defense has rarely been a stark issue for the Bills in 2014, but combined with an offense that couldn't get out of their own way, the spotlight on the defensive deficiencies only became brighter.

Third down becomes their worst enemy
- Halfway through the contest, no one could have guessed that the Bills were only winning 6-3 if they looked at the statistics. Through the first 30 minutes the Bills converted on 6-of-8 opportunities on third down, which was an astounding rate of production for that specific category. The Bills could not convert on these chances and came away with the six points, and the six points only. It came back to haunt them in the second half and Buffalo simply could not recover. In the final 30 minutes of the contest, the Bills did not convert on a single third-down attempt. That's right — Buffalo was 0-for-7 on chances to extend a drive, which ultimately led to a second half that yielded only three points for them. The offense has been dreadful over the past two weeks, and it doesn't appear that there is a quick fix on the horizon. There isn't another way around it, though, that side of the ball needs to be better in order for this team to even come remotely close to being a playoff team.

Bills' MVP: DE Mario Williams
- It must be something about playing in Miami for Mario Williams. His 3.5 sacks was the finest individual performance of the night by quite a large margin.

Bills' LVP: QB Kyle Orton
- For the second straight week, Orton has been dreadful at connecting on throws that should be made by a starting-caliber quarterback in the league. The Bills need more out of the position.

Up Next: The Bills get a 10-day rest period before their next game: a matchup with the 2-8 New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, November 23.

Final Thoughts:
- It's too early to write the narrative of Doug Marrone being released for his conservative approach over two of the most important games of the year. The simple fact is that the Bills have yet to show up and strike for a victory in a month that has plagued them for years on end. With the loss to the Dolphins, the Bills are 6-20 in November since 2008. A different approach to in-game situations would certainly be a start, but so would finding the right balance for his offense to bring on a consistent approach from one week to the next. This loss was a big one for Buffalo, but you don't need to be told that. The Bills are now 2-5 against AFC opponents and have dates with Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay and New England on the horizon. At 5-5 they would likely need to win five of their final six games, and with that schedule, it appears unlikely at best. With the effort they showed at SunLife Stadium on Thursday night — or really, the lack thereof — the Bills and Marrone did not look the part of a team that deserved to be in the playoff discussion. They disappeared in one of the most crucial games of the season, and for those efforts, the season has the likelihood of ending the same way as the 14 years before it.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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5 things to watch for during Bills - Dolphins

When we last left the Buffalo Bills, they suffered a defeat in a contest that likely should have brought them a victory. Poor effort in the red zone allowed the Chiefs to hang in with the Bills, and a pair of late turnovers finally gave Kansas City what they needed to beat Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

As quick a turnaround as there is, the Bills traveled down to Miami for the second game in just five days. It isn't amongst the most popular of games for the players that have to participate in them, let alone the team that has to do the traveling the night before the game.

However, the Bills have a crucial Week 11 matchup against a team that factors into the playoff race just as much as they do. How will the Bills fare in the team's second matchup against the Miami Dolphins?

Some things to watch for in the upcoming contest:

1) Miami OL takes a hit
- Around this time last year the Miami Dolphins had one of the worst offensive line play in all the NFL and it was multiplied by all the scandal that came with the Richie Incognito situation. The front office in Miami has done a masterful job in correcting most of the problems on the offensive line and it has become a source of strength for the offense. The run game has returned, and in recent weeks, Ryan Tannehill has taken a step forward as a quarterback. Two of the key additions were on the edges: left tackle Branden Albert and rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James. Albert has been as consistent as can be, but now the Dolphins will have to play the rest of the year without him due to an injury. That will shift James over to the left side and then puts left guard Dallas Thomas on the outside at right tackle. James has played well in his first season, but has yet to deal with the type of speed that Jerry Hughes brings. The Bills will need one player in particular along the defensive line to win his matchup more often than not: Mario Williams. Thomas struggled to move even on the inside, which makes him a target for Williams to exploit. If he can, that has the potential to throw Tannehill off his game.

2) Watkins with a challenge ahead?
- Since the Bills have switched philosophies and gone to a more pass-first approach with Kyle Orton at the helm, rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins has became a major contributor to the team's immediate success on offense. Even before that switch happened, Watkins had one of the best games of his young career in the team's Week Two win over Miami. Since that game, the Dolphins defense has improved and one of the biggest contributions has come from cornerback Brent Grimes. Watkins played through a groin injury against the Chiefs but didn't have the type of game that is usually expected of him, and perhaps the injury was part of the problem. Expect a healthy dose of Grimes on Watkins for the Thursday night matchup, and if the rookie isn't fully healthy, the veteran corner might have quite a bit of success.

3) Wake vs. Henderson: Round Two
- In the first matchup between Buffalo and Miami many looked at Seantrel Henderson as a player that could be exploited by the talented Miami defensive line. Henderson was matched up against defensive end Cameron Wake for most of the game, and the rookie didn't allow Wake — who is full with pass-rushing prowess — to make an impact on the game. The Bills did employ a certified strategy against Wake by often giving Henderson help from a tight end, wide receiver or running back for most of the game. If they intend to follow a similar strategy on Thursday, that will put some pressure on Cordy Glenn on the left side. Glenn has struggled in recent weeks and will be up against a talented edge rusher in Olivier Vernon. Either way, the tackles have their work cut out for them.

4) Run vs. pass… what works best?
- The Bills haven't been able to run the ball effectively for the majority of the season and they have since had to abandon what they thought would be the main formula for their victories in 2014. In Week Two against Miami, the Bills were in fact able to run the ball against a solid front four to set the tone for the rest of the game. As the Dolphins have become both healthier and more confident in the front seven, the Bills may not find nearly as much success in Miami. The running back trio isn't as fresh as they were in September, which could be more pressure on Kyle Orton to make the necessary throws for the Bills to win the game. Against a backup cornerback, Robert Woods could exploit the defense with savvy route running on underneath plays.

5) Short week expectations for Fred Jackson
- Fred Jackson played with a groin injury for the Bills, but the ailment limited him to just an equal amount of snaps with Bryce Brown (27) and only eight more than Anthony Dixon (19). There are two schools of thought with Jackson. The first, maybe Buffalo limited him to have him be more of an impact player against the Dolphins, knowing a 10-day rest period existed after the Thursday night contest. Or, the Bills thought Jackson would be able to make it through more than he could on Sunday against Kansas City, had a minor setback, and had to limit his reps down the stretch. Regardless of injury, Jackson may have had less of a running role than in other weeks due to the opponent and the strength of their defense. His presence on the field is quite important, at least in serving as a decoy for the defense.

Injuries
Buffalo
OUT: DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: HB Fred Jackson (groin), WR Marquise Goodwin (ribs), CB Ron Brooks (groin), WR Marcus Easley (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Sammy Watkins (groin)

Miami
OUT: CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: G Daryn Colledge (back)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Dion Sims (toe), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hip), TE Charles Clay (knee), LS John Denney (knee)
PROBABLE: DT Jared Odrick (hip), LB Koa Misi (ankle), S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring), G Mike Pouncey (hip), HB Lamar Miller (shoulder), DE Dion Jordan (hamstring), QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle)

Prediction: Dolphins over Bills
- The Dolphins and Bills are two eerily similar teams with the same record, and oddly enough, both suffered heartbreaking losses last week in a game that each should have won. The difference for the Bills and Dolphins in the second game of this series is that Miami is playing as well defensively as any team in the NFL, and the Bills had to travel to the game on such a short week. There is a reason why the road teams on Thursday night games struggle as much as they do, and the Bills might just succumb to that against an equal opponent.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Wynn declared out vs. Miami; Bills promote DE

Facing a short week, the Buffalo Bills were able to get the majority of their roster for the upcoming showdown against the Miami Dolphins ready and able to play. Unfortunately for the rotation at defensive end, Jarius Wynn was not among the majority.

A day ahead of the Bills' contest against the Dolphins, the team officially declared Wynn out with a knee injury. In response to his status, the Bills signed practice squad defensive end Bryan Johnson to fill out the 53-man active roster. Buffalo released safety Jerome Couplin after Tuesday's practice.

Wynn is the only player that was given the designation of 'out' versus Miami, but he wasn't the only player on the team's injury report. Running back Fred Jackson (groin), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs), cornerback Ron Brooks (groin) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) were all listed as questionable by the Bills.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was a full participant in practice all week, and is probable against the Dolphins.

The Bills travel to Miami on Wednesday night in preparation for the Thursday night contest with the Dolphins. You can hear the local call of the game on WGR Sports Radio 550.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Watkins a full participant; Bills release safety

A condensed week for the Buffalo Bills has brought about an abnormal Tuesday practice at the ADPRO Sports Training Center. The Bills were lucky enough to have two of their main offensive playmakers available to them on a short week in which no days off were given.

In the lone open practice of the week leading up to Buffalo's Week 11 showdown with the 5-4 Miami Dolphins, rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins was a full participant. Watkins injured his groin last Wednesday and did not participate on the final two days of the practice week, but was able to play all but five snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bills also had running back Fred Jackson (groin), wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee), cornerback Ron Brooks (groin) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs) available to them in a limited capacity on Tuesday. Defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee) was unavailable to participate in practice.

The team will give the official designations for Thursday night's game after their practice session on Wednesday.

With Wynn hobbled by the knee injury he suffered against the Chiefs, the Bills released safety Jerome Couplin from the 53-man roster on Tuesday. Couplin was just claimed by the Bills from waivers on November 3. If Wynn can't play, the Bills would only have three healthy defensive ends available to them on Thursday against the Dolphins.

The Bills resume practice on Wednesday and then travel to Florida.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Marrone: No temptation to go for it on 4th down vs KC

The Buffalo Bills are in the middle of preparing for their next game on Thursday night, but that hasn't stopped the spotlight from shining on head coach Doug Marrone and some of his late-game decisions. Most notably, the part of his game plan that has received the most criticism is the conservative approach to fourth-down situations in the second half of the Bills' 17-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Three of those scenarios played out on Sunday: a 4th-and-goal attempt from the 2-yard line with the Bills up 10-3 with 3:09 to play in the third quarter, a 4th-and-1 opportunity at their own 46-yard line up 13-10 with 11:51 to play, and finally, another 4th-and-1 from their own 41-yard line, but trailing the Chiefs 17-13 with only 7:03 left to play.

The three scenarios were highly scrutinized -- and for good reason. Here is how each opportunity could have turned out, and the win probabilities to follow (as calculated by AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com):
  1. 4th-and-2, KC 2-yard line, up 10-3 with 3:09 to go in 3rd quarter
    • Historical success rate: 46-percent
    • Go for it and scores TD: 95-percent win probability
    • Go for it and fails to score: 81-percent win probability
    • Successful Field Goal: 84-percent win probability
  2. 4th-and-1, BUF 46-yard line, up 13-10 with 11:51 to go in 4th quarter
    • Historical success rate: 65-percent
    • Go for it and convert for 1st down: 73-percent win probability
    • Go for it and fail: 54-percent win probability
    • Punt: 64-percent win probability
  3. 4th-and-1, BUF 41-yard line, down 17-13 with 7:03 to go in 4th quarter
    • Historical success rate: 65-percent
    • Go for it and convert for 1st down: 36-percent win probability
    • Go for it and fail: 12-percent win probability
    • Punt: 22-percent win probability
By those three calculations, it favored going for it on both the first and third situations, while the second situation was an essential coin flip that should usually err to the side of going for it.

Marrone has made it known that he is aware of all the data that exists, and was asked about those three situations late in the game against the Chiefs. He didn't back down on how he initially played them: a field goal in the first situation and two punts on the final two opportunities — all of which goes against the win probability data that exists.

Marrone said he had no temptation to go for it on any of those three instances, despite the numbers.

"No, but it did cross my mind at 4th-and-10 to kick the field goal," he said, in reference to the missed 4th-and-10 pass play on the Kansas City 15-yard line with only 2:31 to play. For the record, advanced stats indicate that going for it on that 4th-and-10 and failing left them with a higher win probability (27-percent) than what they would have had with kicking the field goal successfully (13-percent)

Marrone referred to the way his team was playing defensively as the reason for many of his fourth-down decisions.

"4th-and-[goal] take the points," Marrone said of the third quarter opportunity. "At that point, the way we were playing defensively, I just wanted to take the points. Not knowing when we'd be able to get the ball back again or get down there. We were driving well, but we weren't converting in the red zone."

Then later, the 4th-and-1 punt from their own 41 down four points with 7:03 to play:

"By then, we're playing well on defense... punt, keep 'em in there, field position and go," he said. "Because if you don't make that, now all of a sudden they kick a field goal, which they're one first down away from a field goal probably going into that end. And then they're up by 7."

As one can read by the quotes, Marrone wasn't swayed by any of the backlash or hoopla that revolved around by his decisions against Kansas City. When the Bills are faced with similar circumstances, perhaps now fans have an idea what the head coach is considering.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Watkins takes all but 5 reps: Bills' playtime percentages vs. KC

Even with the availability of two of the top offensive playmakers on the Buffalo Bills roster, the team suffered a narrow defeat at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fred Jackson and Sammy Watkins were each active for the game but had differing roles for how the game plan was constructed. Some of that story can be told through the official playtime percentages from the Bills 17-13 loss to the Chiefs.

Some of the highlights:

- Sammy Watkins, despite missing two days of practice during the week, played at an alarmingly high rate with a groin injury. He had the most snaps of any wide receiver, and only missed five throughout the game. He was targeted 10 times by Kyle Orton.

- Fred Jackson did not get the same kind of leeway from the coaching staff as Watkins did in his return from a groin injury. Jackson received the same amount of snaps (27) as Bryce Brown, and only had eight more than Anthony Dixon. The running back position was completely a rotational effort.

- Wide receiver Chris Hogan received his highest snap total on the season, accounting for 59 total plays on the offensive side of the ball Sunday. He and Robert Woods had the same amount of time on the field versus the Chiefs.

Here are the snap counts in full:

OFFENSE
QB Kyle Orton - 73 (100%)
LT Cordy Glenn - 73 (100%)
LG Kraig Urbik - 73 (100%)
C Eric Wood - 73 (100%)
RG Erik Pears - 73 (100%)
RT Seantrel Henderson - 73 (100%)
WR Sammy Watkins - 68 (93%)
WR Chris Hogan - 59 (81%)
WR Robert Woods - 59 (81%)
TE Scott Chandler - 55 (75%)
HB Bryce Brown - 27 (37%)
HB Fred Jackson - 27 (37%)
HB Anthony Dixon - 19 (26%)
TE Lee Smith - 17 (23%)
TE Chris Gragg - 16 (22%)
WR Marquise Goodwin - 9 (12%)
FB Frank Summers - 9 (12%)

DEFENSE
LB Preston Brown - 60 (100%)
CB Stephon Gilmore - 60 (100%)
LB Nigel Bradham - 55 (92%)
CB Leodis McKelvin - 54 (90%)
S Aaron WIlliams - 49 (82%)
S Da'Norris Searcy - 47 (78%)
DT Marcell Dareus - 43 (72%)
DT Kyle Williams - 43 (72%)
DE Mario Williams - 40 (67%)
LB Brandon Spikes - 37 (62%)
DE Jerry Hughes - 34 (57%)
CB Nickell Robey - 27 (45%)
DE Manny Lawson - 26 (43%)
S Duke Williams - 20 (33%)
DE Jarius Wynn - 20 (33%)
DT Stefan Charles - 16 (27%)
DT Corbin Bryant - 15 (25%)
CB Corey Graham - 8 (13%)
LB Keith Rivers - 6 (10%)

Season Play Percentage Totals
  1. LT Cordy Glenn - 100.00%
  2. C Eric Wood - 100.00%
  3. RG Erik Pears - 100.00%
  4. RT Seantrel Henderson - 100.00%
  5. WR Sammy Watkins - 96.46%
  6. LB Preston Brown - 90.92%
  7. WR Robert Woods - 84.68%
  8. CB Leodis McKelvin - 82.17%
  9. CB Stephon Gilmore - 78.50%
  10. S Aaron Williams - 74.68%
  11. DT Marcell Dareus - 73.41%
  12. TE Scott Chandler - 68.86%
  13. DE Mario Williams - 67.20%
  14. DE Jerry Hughes - 64.17%
  15. LB Nigel Bradham - 63.69%
  16. DT Kyle Williams - 62.42%
  17. S Da'Norris Searcy - 60.83%
  18. QB Kyle Orton - 56.90%
  19. CB Corey Graham - 56.21%
  20. CB Nickell Robey - 56.05%
  21. S Duke Williams - 53.50%
  22. LB Brandon Spikes - 52.07%
  23. LG Cyril Richardson - 47.14%
  24. HB Fred Jackson - 46.46%
  25. QB EJ Manuel - 43.10%
  26. DE Jarius Wynn - 40.29%
  27. DT Corbin Bryant - 30.25%
  28. LG Kraig Urbik - 30.81%
  29. WR Mike Williams - 30.64%
  30. DE Manny Lawson - 29.46%
  31. DT Stefan Charles - 29.14%
  32. WR Chris Hogan - 28.62%
  33. TE Chris Gragg - 28.11%
  34. LB Keith Rivers - 26.75%
  35. HB C.J. Spiller - 26.43%
  36. TE Lee Smith - 25.59%
  37. LG Chris Williams - 22.05%
  38. FB Frank Summers - 21.38%
  39. HB Anthony Dixon - 21.21%
  40. WR Marquise Goodwin - 11.11%
  41. HB Bryce Brown - 6.90%
  42. CB Ron Brooks - 4.94%
  43. OL Chris Hairston - 3.20%
  44. LB Ty Powell - 3.18%
Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Observations: Chiefs 17 - Bills 13

The Buffalo Bills did it again. Everything appeared to be going their way early on in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs and was heading in the direction of the Bills claiming their first 6-3 start since the 1999 season.

Then, adversity struck. One play dropped them from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and they weren't able to recover for the rest of the afternoon.

Where did it all go wrong in Buffalo's 17-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs? Some observations from the game:

The haunted KC red zone
- It was around this time in 2013, too: a crisp November day with a Bills team that had hopes of knocking off a favored Kansas City Chiefs team in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Jeff Tuel-led Buffalo squad marched down the field to the Kansas City one-yard line at the beginning of the third quarter. On the doorstep of a two touchdown lead, Tuel reared back and threw it right into the arms of Kansas City cornerback Sean Smith and he returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. The Chiefs still had to take the lead on a later possession, but had no trouble the rest of the way and won the game 23-13. Once again, a mistake inside the Kansas City five-yard line foiled the Bills chances of winning against the Chiefs. Bryce Brown had a clear path to the end zone and was stripped clean by Ron Parker at the five-yard line. Tight end Scott Chandler even had a couple of opportunities to jump on the ball but couldn't corral it, allowing it to squirt through the back of the end zone. The Bills put up a bit more of a fight in 2014 than they did in 2013, but they once again had a huge opportunity to claim a two-touchdown lead and to perhaps sew up the victory and squandered it. Just to put the nail in the déjà vu coffin, the Bills were winning by a score of 10-3 on both plays leading up to the biggest game-changing turnover versus the Chiefs.

4th-and-1
- The difference between the head coach that won the game and the head coach that lost the game came down to a decision each had to make on a critical 4th-and-1 on back-to-back drives. Both Doug Marrone and Kansas City's Andy Reid withhold a conservative reputation in the decision-making department. Reid showed in one play just how much worth there is in attempting a conversion on fourth down. Early into the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were on the Bills' 39-yard line and elected to keep their offense on the field on a 4th-and-1. At the time, Kansas City trailed Buffalo 13-3 with 13:39 to go in the game but decided to go with, what statistics show, is the right percentage-based play. Reid got a little creative, Manny Lawson failed to contain the edge and Jamaal Charles cut up the field for a 39-yard touchdown. On the ensuing Bills possession, Marrone faced a 4th-and-1 at their own 46-yard line and attempted to draw Kansas City offsides rather than running a play. Once again, the percentage-based statistics were in the favor of a successful conversion if they had gone for it. Instead, Seantrel Henderson flinched, was flagged for a penalty and the Bills surrendered the lead for good just six plays later. It is utterly maddening to allow a coach's conservative hangups to take away conducive opportunities for his team to take a hold of the game and win. Marrone did it on Sunday against the Chiefs on more than one occasion, and he's done it since he first arrived to Orchard Park.

The fumble, Part Two
- On the fourth play of that six-play march from the Bills' 4th-and-1 chance to Kansas City taking the lead for the rest of the game, a recurring problem for punt returner Leodis McKelvin reared its ugly head. Trying to make a big play for his team, McKelvin was reaching his body forward but then had the ball popped out of his arm before his knee touched the ground. It was such a 'what else could go wrong' moment in a second half that was full of them, and in a fashion that's worthy of the direction the game was heading, Kansas City jumped on the loose ball. It was certainly McKelvin's fault for fumbling the ball and not taking better care of it, but the Bills aren't likely in that exact situation if they just went for it on the previous 4th-and-1 like any analytical team would have.

The DL show
- With due respect to the negativity that should and will be drawn from the game, the defensive line of the Buffalo Bills dominated the point of attack once again, much like they have all season. The starting quartet of Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams continued the control they've had over opposing offensive lines all year long and beat the Chiefs for six sacks and multiple tackles for loss in the backfield. Of the four, Dareus and Hughes stole the show with a combined five sacks between them. As the games go by, Hughes has continued to enhance his upcoming contract offer with one dominant game after another. Dareus is setting himself up quite nicely as well for his next contract following the 2015 season, which could spell the end of Mario Williams at some point in the next two years. That's still a ways away, but the Bills have a legitimate contender for the best defensive line in the league.

Orton takes a step back
- The shine of the first four games in the Kyle Orton hasn't worn all the way off, but it had a few specks of mud thrown on it at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. He threw the ball around 48 times, but didn't make the clutch throw when the team needed it like he had in previous weeks. Orton, most noticeably with the game on the line from the Kansas City 25 with just 4:35 to go, went 1-of-5 for nine yards with the four misses coming on four straight plays at the Chiefs' 15-yard line. All four attempts were thrown inaccurately to the end zone, stealing away most of the hope the Bills had of mounting a comeback from their mistake-filled second half. Before anyone proclaims Orton as the starter moving forward, he needs to first prove he can consistently win with the team that surrounds him — and more importantly — show that he won't be the reason that they lose, either.

Bills' MVP: DT Marcell Dareus
- Three sacks and dominance on the interior against an offensive line that had been playing better in recent weeks. Dareus and Jerry Hughes were choices 1a and 1b for these honors.

Bills' LVP: HB Bryce Brown
- When a player is that close to the goal line, he must keep his hands on the ball… it's that simple. If Brown holds it with a bit more care, the Bills have a chance to score and take a 17-3 lead early in the third quarter, which likely would have changed the complexion of the game entirely. He had a nice game outside of it, but that one play stole the elation out of Ralph Wilson Stadium and replaced it with football-induced anxiety.

Up next: Thursday, November 13 versus the Miami Dolphins at SunLife Stadium in Miami.

Final Thoughts:
- Regardless of how well the Bills offense and defense played against the Kansas City Chiefs in this game, when it came down to it and a tough decision had to be made, the Bills and head coach Doug Marrone turtled. The Bills had three separate chances to convert on a 4th-and-short, and instead elected to turn to the kicking game. The result? Three points in the second half and a loss to a team that they should have put away. Fumbles and penalties hurt them down the stretch as well, but both of those facets of the game aren't going away anytime soon. A head coach that shows an understanding of the percentages and game situations, and isn't afraid to fail, can be had. Now, the Bills are 5-4, with a conference record of 2-4, and head into a crucial divisional game on the road on Thursday night. How will the Bills bounce back from the most crushing loss of the season? We'll see exactly what this team is made of in just four days against the Dolphins.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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5 things to watch for during Bills - Chiefs

The first half of the season is over and done with for the Buffalo Bills and they secured only their fourth first half winning record in this century. Now, with the bye week in the rearview mirror the Bills start a gauntlet in November against three teams that factor into the playoff discussion.

Up first: the Kansas City Chiefs. The two sides are nearing rival status, with their Sunday matchup being the seventh straight season that they have played one another. Who has the edge in this version of the budding rivalry?

Some keys to watch for in the matchup:

1) Fred Jackson of utmost importance
- The hubbub of the week all surrounded around rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins and his playing status for the game on Sunday. His availability would be dynamic for the Bills, but against this particular opponent, Fred Jackson is the 'questionable' player that Buffalo needs most in the upcoming contest. Jackson has practiced all week as a limited participant and will attempt to return from a groin injury in three weeks that typically calls for four weeks of missed action. The reason is simple: if there is going to be a way for the Bills to neutralize the Chiefs' pass rush and get their offense going, it is going to be on the ground. Buffalo has not been good in this area of the game, but outside of nose tackle Dontari Poe, the interior defenders for Kansas City have struggled for the most part. Defensive end Jaye Howard was exploited by the New York Jets last week against the run, and inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson has struggled since taking his spot in the starting lineup. Adding Jackson to the mix would give the Bills a dynamic option out of the backfield. And despite head coach Doug Marrone sounding pessimistic throughout the week, Jackson has pulled this stunt before. Never count out the 33-year running back from making a miraculous return from what could have been a serious injury, because he has done it many times before over the years. With three days of practice behind him, it wouldn't be a shock at all if Jackson defies the odds once more.

2) Houston vs. Henderson
- If Jackson cannot play, or if the Bills feel like they need to depend on the passing attack, the biggest matchup in the entire game will be Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston against right tackle Seantrel Henderson. Houston has had one of the best seasons of any pass rusher in the league this , while Henderson has had one of the worst in the league. If Henderson is not able to withstand some of the pressure, or if some attempts to double team Houston fail throughout the game, he could be the player that could significantly shape the outcome of the contest. That's why if he is even close to playing, having Jackson back in the lineup will create more of a strength on plays that Houston can't dominate.

3) The X-Factor: Travis Kelce
- The Bills had a tough time stopping Rob Gronkowski a few weeks ago in their contest against the New England Patriots, and in Week 10, the Bills are up against a tight end that shares many Gronkowski-like characteristics. Second-year player Travis Kelce has burst on to the scene for the Chiefs this season, leading the team in receptions, yardage and receiving touchdowns. He has great size (6-foot-5, 260-pounds), speed, physicality and is only gaining more playing time and confidence as the weeks go by. The Bills will need a combination of players to try and thwart what Kelce does best, but it will be tough: the Chiefs look Kelce's way quite often and he lines up all over the field. Like Houston, he could be one of the biggest factors in the game.

4) Chiefs pass D ranking could be deceiving
- The Kansas City Chiefs come into the contest with the top ranked pass defense in the NFL, but it might be a little misleading. The effort is keyed by both Houston and Tamba Hali supplying pressure, but the cornerbacks leave a bit to be desired. Sean Smith is a good, athletic cover corner that can make a big play. However, his starting counterpart has been a bit of a project all season. First the Chiefs used Marcus Cooper and then benched him a few weeks into the season for Jamell Fleming. The latter suffered an injury and was replaced by rookie Phillip Gaines in the starting lineup, and now Gaines is questionable for the contest. If the Bills can hold off Houston and Hali even slightly, Gaines or Cooper could be exploited with the right matchup.

5) Kouandjio time?
- It's been about a month since head coach Doug Marrone revealed to reporters that they had started working second-round pick and rookie Cyrus Kouandjio at guard during practice. The process was sped up this past week due to the death of Cyril Richardson's father, and forced Kouandjio to receive additional time at guard during the week. The peculiar thing was not that he was working at guard, it's that he revealed that he was taking first-team snaps at right guard throughout the week. It's unlikely that Kouandjio unseats Erik Pears completely in just his first week of being active, but it would not be out of the question for the rookie lineman to get a few series in the game for the struggling incumbent starter. Barring an injury on Saturday, at the very least, Kouandjio will be on the 46-man active roster for the first time in his NFL career.

Injuries
Buffalo
QUESTIONABLE: HB Fred Jackson (groin), WR Sammy Watkin (groin), CB Ron Brooks (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Robert Woods (back), WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), WR Marcus Easley (knee), LB Ty Powell (ankle), OL Cyril Richardson (not injury related)

Kansas City
OUT: CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), WR Donnie Avery (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Phillip Gaines (ankle), LB Josh Martin (hamstring), CB Christopher Owens (knee)
PROBABLE: LB Tamba Hali (knee), WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring), HB Cyrus Gray (hand), TE Travis Kelce (ribs), S Eric Berry (ankle), CB Sean Smith (groin)

Prediction: Bills over Chiefs
- Call it a hunch, but Fred Jackson getting all three days of practice on the field this week leads to a certain amount of optimism that he has a chance of playing. If he can play, he will be the most important offensive player in the game and could take advantage of a big Kansas City weakness. The Chiefs' offense doesn't match up with the Bills' defense all that well, either. If you combine that with the home field advantage, and the additional rest week, this is a game the Bills need to have for the 2014 playoff push.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Pessimism abound regarding status of Bills' Watkins, Jackson

When it comes to the top two playmakers on the Buffalo Bills offense, a cloud of uncertainty is hovering over Ralph Wilson Stadium. After a week of practice with varying participation levels, both rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Fred Jackson have been tagged as 'questionable' for the Bills' upcoming contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Watkins was relatively healthy at the beginning of the week but then suffered a groin injury on Wednesday and couldn't return. Since then, he hasn't practiced. And also since then, head coach Doug Marrone's tone has been murky regarding his young wideout.

"At the end of the day you've gotta make a decision if you put a player out there, what you're saying as a coach is that you feel 110-percent confident where he's at," the head coach remarked. "And Sammy hasn't been out here, so I don't know."

Marrone said there were still some opportunities for Watkins to get a bit of practice time in with the team on Saturday. He pointed to two separate sessions the team holds on Saturday, but wouldn't commit to the wide receiver participating.

"No, I don't think it is [the plan] until the trainers tell me that he can go," the head coach said. "The guy can't practice."

Watkins, at least to the media, didn't have any answers as to what his fate on Sunday would ultimately be. He's as in the dark as everyone else, or so he says.

"I don't know. That's the coach's decision whether I should play. It's a long season," Watkins started. "It's a groin. With those you've got to be careful. You've got to be smart and you really don't know whether you're right or not. For me, it's just listen to the trainers and listen to the coaches."

Jackson suffered a groin injury against the Minnesota Vikings in Week Seven and was given a "typical" time table of four weeks to return, although like normal, his aim was for an earlier return. Nearly three weeks removed from the injury, the running back practiced all week on a limited basis.

Just because he practiced all week does not necessarily indicate that he will play against the Chiefs, however.

"We're still not where we need to be, though, for him to go out there," Marrone said for the second straight day. "We're still progressing with that."

Without Jackson, the Bills would turn to Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown to head up the backfield for the second straight game.

Buffalo also has a third groin injury on the team that has made another player questionable for the Kansas City contest: cornerback Ron Brooks. Besides the trio of questionable groins, the remainder of the team's injury report reads favorably.

Wide receiver Robert Woods (back), linebacker Ty Powell (ankle), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), offensive lineman Cyril Richardson (not injury related) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) are all probable for the game. Powell, Goodwin and Easley would all be making a return from missing games with their respective ailments.

The Bills and Chiefs are scheduled to square off at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday at 1 pm.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Watkins doesn't practice, Jackson "not ready" yet

For fans, the concern over the playing status for Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins has begun. A day removed from suffering a groin injury in practice, Watkins did not participate in Thursday's session and there isn't any word on if he'll practice Friday either.

"There was a lot of stuff out on it with sources and rumors, so I'm just gonna stick with the injury report and he's not practicing right now," head coach Doug Marrone said after Thursday's practice. "I'm just gonna stick with the injury report and see what happens tomorrow."

A few separate reports indicated that Watkins' injury wasn't thought to be serious. The team has yet to comment on how significant the injury might be.

Watkins, the team's leading receiver in receptions, yards and touchdowns, could not finish Wednesday's practice due to the ailment and the Bills did not reveal any further information after the session was over. The Bills have one more day of practice, Friday, before their Sunday showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Running back Fred Jackson (groin) was able to participate in practice for the second straight day. He suffered the injury during the Bills' Week 7 contest against Minnesota and has not returned to any team work until this week. Jackson's status, as of Thursday, didn't have an especially optimistic outlook.

"I think Fred's not ready to go yet, so we'll see how that keeps progressing during the week," Marrone said. "But right now, I'm not sure."

Wide receiver Robert Woods (back), cornerback Ron Brooks (groin), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) and wide receiver Marcus Easley were all on the field and particpating. All five were listed on the injury report as limited participants, except for Woods who was a full participant.

Rookie offensive lineman Cyril Richardson did not practice for the third straight day. He has been excused due to a death in the family. The Bills have one more practice on Friday before their game against the Chiefs.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills to play Jaguars in London

With the start of the NFL International Series in 2007, the league decided that every team must play a game outside of the country within a set amount of time. In 2015, the Buffalo Bills will fulfill their duties and play a regular season game in London.

The NFL announced Tuesday morning that the Bills were among six teams that will play a regular season game at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom, slated to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 25, 2015. The game will count as the Jaguars' home game, which means that the Bills will keep all eight of their home dates in tact for the upcoming season.

The other two matchups in the NFL's 2015 version of the International Series will feature the Miami Dolphins against the New York Jets on October 4, as well as the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Detroit Lions. This will be the first game in London for the Bills, Jets and Chiefs.

The bye week will immediately follow the team's contest in London, which means the Bills will have November 1 as their open date.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Watkins suffers injury at practice

On the same day that the Buffalo Bills saw the return of one of their top offensive playmakers to practice, another one couldn't finish the session because of an injury.

Following Wednesday's practice, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone revealed rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins injured his groin and could not finish the workout. Watkins was officially listed as a limited participant.

To this point, the severity of the injury has yet to be uncovered. In fact, not even Marrone knew what the immediate future held for the team's top receiver and most explosive offensive weapon.

"He could play, or he could be out two to three weeks. Who knows?" Marrone said. "I don't know. He didn't finish practice. I don't know where he's gonna be tomorrow, I don't know where he's going to be."

Watkins was unavailable for comment after practice. The Bills will get back on the field Thursday at 12:15. Keep it locked to WGR Sports Radio 550 and WGR550.com for any new information regarding his playing status.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Jackson returns to Bills practice Wednesday

The Buffalo Bills were holding out hope that top running back Fred Jackson would be able to return for their Week 10 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. While there isn't any indication if it will happen at this point, a significant step was taken on Wednesday.

Jackson was on the field as the Bills participated in their second practice session of the week. The running back suffered a groin injury in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings and needed to be carted off the field. Jackson said doctors told him a typical timetable for a return from his injury was around four weeks.

The running back was a limited participant in practice, but said he was able to get some work in as he would during any other week.

"I did typical stuff that we would do on Wednesday to get out there and move around and see what it feels like," Jackson said. "It's a process that I've gotta continue to see where I end up going. I was able to do some stuff today. I was able to feel confident and move around today. If things continue to progress, it's good news."

Even though he was able to get on the field for the first time since suffering the groin injury, the team's medical staff didn't give him any inclination as to how close he might be to playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. A big part of it, like it was the case on Monday, will be how the injury reacts to a heightened workload the next morning.

"Doctors are still being doctors and being cautious so, we gotta see how things progress throughout the week," the running back said. "You ask the doctors 'what are the chances,' and they say, 'we don't want to give you a number.' I don't know what the numbers are but I'm hoping they're closer to me playing than not playing."

In addition to Jackson, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), cornerback Ron Brooks (groin), wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee), linebacker Ty Powell (ankle), and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin) were all listed as limited for the day. Wide receiver Robert Woods (back) was a full participant.

The only Bills player that was not practicing on Wednesday was reserve offensive lineman Cyril Richardson, who also missed Monday due to a death in the family. Wide receiver Mike Williams returned Wednesday after missing Monday's session due to a death in his family as well.

The Bills get back to practice on Thursday at 12:15.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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No Bills TV blackouts in 2014?

In recent years the Buffalo Bills have had a history of not selling out their home games late in the season, usually because they haven't had a solid record heading into those contests. That, combined with the cold, wintry weather conditions Ralph Wilson Stadium brings in the month of December, it causes some to pause on buying tickets.

With only one home game in December in 2014 and a 5-3 start to the first half of the season to go along with it, the Bills are on the cusp of going through a season without a local television blackout.

Bills Team President Russ Brandon joined The Howard Simon Show on Wednesday for his weekly appearance during the season and said the ticket sales are trending in that direction, starting with this weekend's home contest against Kansas City.

"It's looking that way, Howard," Brandon said, hinting at a blackout-free season. "We're in very good shape for this game. The Jets and the Browns games are really just at limited status at this point. So, [I] feel very confident heading into the rest of the year that we're in very good shape on the ticket front, so we won't have to worry about anything on that end."

The Bills start off their second-half schedule against the Chiefs on Sunday, and then take on the New York Jets on November 23, followed by the Cleveland Browns on November 30. The regular season home schedule gets wrapped up on December 14 against a popular draw league-wide, the Green Bay Packers.

To listen to Russ Brandon's entire interview on WGR, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills claim safety off waivers

After their game against the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills had to end the season of undrafted rookie free agent safety Kenny Ladler due to an injury. One week later, the Bills have finally filled that vacant roster spot with yet another undrafted free agent rookie safety.

The Bills announced on Monday evening that they successfully claimed Jerome Couplin off of waivers. Couplin was released by the Detroit Lions on Saturday, after spending the first eight games of the season on their active roster.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety signed with Detroit as an undrafted player out of the College of William & Mary following the 2014 NFL Draft and played in all four of the team's preseason games. In eight regular season games, Couplin has two career tackles.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Jackson works out with trainers Monday

When Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson stayed on the ground writhing in pain at Ralph Wilson Stadium just over two weeks ago, there was a fear that his season could be lost. Now with some treatment through the first two weeks of the injury, the team will get together to decide if Jackson can practice as early as this week.

To start the week following the team's Week Nine bye, the training staff had Jackson do some movement drills to gauge just how far along he has come in two weeks. Against Minnesota, the running back was forced to leave the game due to a groin injury.

"Progressing. We met with the doctor today," Jackson said as he updated the media. "They won't give me a time, they'll just say 'keep working until you feel good.' But everything is going well. They're doing a great job with me to get me back as soon as possible."

How soon can soon be? Whenever an athlete is injured, one of the biggest tests is how the ailment reacts the next morning to a day that featured a heightened workload.

With that in mind, the medical staff of the Bills will reconvene with Jackson to formulate the plan moving forward.

"There's always a chance. We'll see what the doctors say," the running back said of suiting up for practice on Wednesday. "I'll meet again with them [Tuesday], they wanted to see how things went today... and things went well today. I was able to move around on it a little bit. I'll meet with them again in the morning and I think we'll decide then."

Jackson was the only Bills player that did not participate in practice Monday due to an injury. Linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) were both able to participate for the first time in weeks. Marcus Easley (knee) was also participating after being declared inactive for the team's Week Eight contest versus the New York Jets.

The Bills will have Tuesday off before getting back on the practice field Wednesday. The Bills are up against the 5-3 Kansas City Chiefs in Orchard Park on Sunday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Three non-injured Bills absent from practice Monday

The bye week for the Buffalo Bills is officially over as the team got back to work on the practice field on Monday for the start of the second half of the season. And to start the work week, three players were not on the field with the rest of their teammates.

Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Mike Williams and rookie offensive linemen Cyril Richardson each were non-participants at Monday's practice, and none of the trio missed due to injury. Dareus missed the session due to an issue with his flight back to Buffalo, while Williams and Richardson were away from practice due to what a team spokesperson called "personal reasons."

Head coach Doug Marrone will update the media after practice concludes on Monday afternoon.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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