The NFL season is a long and winding journey, with many ups and downs to maneuver on the way from Week 1 to Week 17. However, as the schedule plays out it always seems that teams are presented with opportunities, pivotal games on their schedule at pivotal tomes, that end up being turning point and ca set the tone for the remainder of their season. That is what I would categorize this weeks game against the Bengals. The Bills are 3-1. A win puts them at 4-1 and a loss puts them at 3-2. That is a huge difference. 3 games over .500 versus 1 game over .500. A two game swing is at play on Sunday, and the Bills need to understand the importance of this game. Obviously, with a 17-year playoff drought, the Bills have been on the losing end of many of the turning point and season defining games over the years. To celebrate the importance of this weeks game against Cincinnati, I wanted to take a look back at three of the most memorable “turning point” games.
11/6/11: NY Jets (4-3) @ Buffalo Bills (5-2)
Let me set the scene: The Bills are riding high after their 3-0 start and toppling of Tom Brady and the Patriots. This game came after a 10 sack performance, and 23-0 shutout, of the Washington Redskins in Toronto. It was the first time the Bills wore white in home, in what they were touting as a “white out.” The game would have put the Bills at 6-2 and alone atop the AFC East. Instead, the Bills’ early season offensive magic was stifled by Rex Ryan’s defense and the Bills dropped to 5-3. The loss was the start of a 7-game losing streak for the Bills, en route to a 6-10 finish despite the 5-2 start to the season.
11/9/14: Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) @ Buffalo Bills (5-3)
This was one of the key 2 game swing games that I was describing earlier. The Bills were going to walk out of Ralph Wilson Stadium either three games above .500 or one game above .500. Coming off a bye, the Bills had an extra week to prepare for this AFC matchup with serious wild card implications. The most memorable play of the game came with the Bills leading 10-3 and driving. Bryce Brown broke loose with nothing but endzone in front of him, but he fumbled the ball into the endzone, and it was recovered by the Chiefs for a touchback. More so, the Bills held a 13-3 lead at the start of the 4th quarter but could not hold off Jamal Charles, who scored on a 39 yard run on a 4th and 1 and Alex Smith, who later scored the game winner on an 8 yard rush. The Bills went on to lose to the Dolphins five days later on a Thursday night game, and the season that had so much promise at 5-3 was effectively over at 5-5 within five days. The Bills finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs by one game.
10/23/16: Buffalo Bills (4-2) @ Miami Dolphins (2-4)
The most recent game came last year, and it was a killer. With the Patriots and Seahawks looming on the schedule, the Bills needed badly to be on the positive side of the two-game swing. The Bills had dug themselves out of an 0-2 start and early season turmoil (firing OC Greg Roman after just two games), and were riding a 4-game win streak. The Bills led 17-6 in this game after a 67-yard Marquise Goodwin touchdown when things started to go downhill. This game really was the beginning of the end for Rex Ryan. It was the first of three 200-yard individual rushing games that he would give up last year. Jay Ajayi finished with 214 yards on the ground, and it prompted Rex to proclaim that his defense would never be shredded again. The Bills dropped to 4-3 and then (expectedly) dropped their next two to the Patriots and Seahawks.
As satisfying as last week’s win was against the reigning NFC Champions, the Bills need this one even more. Their season will go one of two ways, and Sunday will go a long way in determining if the drought ends at 17.
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