Bills thoughts: The DaQuan Jones plan, Patriots prediction, Matt Milano comeback denied

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As improbable arsenic it seemed 3 weeks ago, nan Buffalo Bills person a chance to clinch their playoff summons successful 2023 pinch 1 crippled near to play. The first measurement is defeating nan New England Patriots connected Sunday.

After that, the clearest path is 2 of nan Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers aliases Jacksonville Jaguars to suffer their Week 17 matchup, which secures astatine slightest a wild-card position for Buffalo successful nan playoffs. And should nan Miami Dolphins suffer to nan Baltimore Ravens, it would mean nan Dolphins and Bills meet successful Week 18 for nan AFC East title and No. 2 seed successful nan playoffs.

But each nan playoff hypotheticals statesman pinch nan Patriots. What did Week 17 bring to Bills practice? Here are respective things to watch.

The DaQuan Jones plan?

As slim arsenic it seemed astatine nan clip of injury, nan Bills hoped for starting protect tackle DaQuan Jones to find his measurement backmost to nan playing section this season, and for nan squad to person games that mattered down nan agelong for him to return to. The Bills saw some of those hopes travel existent this week, arsenic coach Sean McDermott announced Jones would not only beryllium added to nan 53-man roster this week, but is expected to play Sunday against nan Patriots.

It’s a humongous summation to a protect tackle group that has conscionable been getting by without Jones. Ed Oliver has been outstanding each season, but nan pieces astir him person each near a spot to beryllium desired. Jordan Phillips was an imperfect fresh astatine one-technique, nan 35-year-old Linval Joseph is astatine nan shape of his profession wherever he’s champion utilized arsenic a rotational player, and nan duo of Tim Settle and Poona Ford, contempt some having coagulated games against nan Los Angeles Chargers, person underperformed this twelvemonth comparative to expectation. As nan team’s champion run-stuffer up nan mediate and adding nan type of pass-rushing acumen he did complete nan first 4 weeks, Jones is arsenic adjacent to a game-changing acquisition arsenic nan Bills could person astatine this constituent of nan season. In our play All-22 movie study, he amassed a 3.41 GPA successful his 113 protect snaps. There are only 2 qualifying players connected nan squad pinch a higher GPA astatine this point: linebacker Matt Milano and Oliver.

However, it’s been a lengthy layoff for Jones, who hasn’t played successful a crippled since Oct. 8. That’s why getting him progressive this week, 1 afloat crippled up of a imaginable showdown successful Miami, was truthful important. For players pinch that agelong of a layoff from an injury, nan Bills’ penchant has been to slow ramp them up for astatine slightest their first crippled back. For context, Jones’ accustomed workload erstwhile patient done nan first 4 games put him astatine 51.2 percent of protect snaps. It’s not a monolithic workload compared to others, but it’s understandable erstwhile you see Jones’ size and responsibilities each down. So, successful his first crippled back, I expect betwixt 30 to 45 percent of snaps, correct successful nan scope of nan accustomed workload of nan Bills’ rotational protect tackles. Last week against nan Chargers, each 3 of Settle (43 percent), Ford (39) and Joseph (34) were successful that scope of snaps, while Oliver was measurement retired beforehand pinch 76 percent. Even if Jones’ snaps whitethorn beryllium somewhat muted compared to his accustomed workload, he should and apt will walk overmuch of his clip moving adjacent to Oliver — which could besides see getting nan “start” up of Settle, Joseph and Ford. Then, if each goes well, it’ll beryllium a afloat spell for Jones erstwhile nan Dolphins crippled comes around.

More protect boosts connected nan way?

Not only are nan Bills playing well, but they are getting healthier. Jones is backmost this weekend, arsenic good arsenic starting information Micah Hyde, who missed nan past 2 games owed to a cervix stinger and had been successful a non-contact jersey astatine believe since that point. But connected Friday, Hyde was retired of nan reddish jersey and practicing normally. And McDermott declared that Hyde, arsenic agelong arsenic each went good Friday, would so return to nan lineup against nan Patriots. The effect of Hyde successful nan lineup complete what is down him astatine information is humongous for nan Bills, moreover if Hyde’s play hasn’t gone arsenic good arsenic nan remainder of his Bills career. With Jordan Poyer, Taron Johnson, Rasul Douglas and Christian Benford successful nan secondary, Hyde’s return puts nan Bills arsenic adjacent to complete connected nan protect broadside arsenic they’re apt going to get nan remainder of nan year. Hyde apt senses that this could beryllium his past large chance to play for a Super Bowl successful his profession arsenic his early successful Buffalo is chartless arsenic a free supplier aft nan year. Hyde turns 33 connected Sunday.

The Bills besides whitethorn get protect extremity A.J. Epenesa backmost this week, who they deemed arsenic questionable for nan Patriots game. Epenesa besides missed nan past 2 games pinch an wounded to his ribs but shed nan non-contact jersey earlier successful nan week than Hyde did. By Friday, Epenesa was a afloat subordinate astatine practice, which serves arsenic a promising motion for his readiness Sunday. Due to really achy his wounded was, nan Bills whitethorn attack Epenesa’s reintegration successful a akin measurement to Jones. They’ll apt person 4 different protect ends active, truthful it whitethorn beryllium successful their champion liking conscionable to activity Epenesa backmost successful connected less snaps than his accustomed mean of 41.4 percent earlier returning him to his afloat domiciled against nan Dolphins. Either way, his beingness arsenic their third-best rusher is vital, arsenic he’s an upgrade to some Shaq Lawson and Von Miller astatine this constituent successful nan year.

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Milano playoff doorway slammed shut

Although nan Bills sewage a batch of bully wounded news this week, nan return of Jones, Hyde and Epenesa is wherever it ends. Earlier successful nan week, McDermott was asked astir nan readiness of prima linebacker Matt Milano for nan playoffs, and his reply near it unfastened for interpretation. But asked to explain Friday and if he had received immoderate further denotation from nan team’s doctors, McDermott termed Milano’s imaginable playoff readiness “a no-go.” Milano has been astir nan accommodation arsenic he continues to rehab from a still undefined correct limb injury. The Bills person been asked astir nan specifics of Milano’s wounded aggregate times. However, McDermott has remained patient successful deferring to nan team’s doctors because he didn’t want to get nan specificity of nan wounded incorrect. The Bills person made nan champion of life without Milano, formulating a domiciled that useful for his replacement, Tyrel Dodson, successful limiting his passing down snaps. Dodson, arsenic agelong arsenic he remains healthy, will apt beryllium nan starter adjacent to mediate linebacker Terrel Bernard for nan long of nan Bills’ imaginable playoff run.

Leonard Fournette had 5 carries for 20 yards successful his Buffalo Bills debut past week against nan Los Angeles Chargers. (Jevone Moore / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Fournette aliases nary Fournette this week?

Veteran moving backmost Leonard Fournette made his charismatic in-game debut for nan Bills past week arsenic he filled successful for nan injured Ty Johnson. Fournette ended nan crippled pinch 10 full violative snaps and a fistful of rushing opportunities, but that whitethorn beryllium wherever it ends for now. Johnson was a afloat subordinate Friday and nary longer wore nan reddish non-contact jersey he had passim each of believe past week and Thursday this week. Johnson besides did not person an charismatic wounded designation, meaning he is patient capable to play against nan Patriots. It apt intends bad news for Fournette. He has a agelong history successful nan league, but nan Bills really for illustration nan power Johnson brings to nan discourtesy successful a backup role. Johnson’s speed, pass-catching expertise and underrated blocking skills connected pony unit plays springiness nan Bills an constituent to their discourtesy they don’t get pinch Fournette.

Fournette besides was missing from nan team’s believe Friday and nary charismatic logic has been given. Though pinch believe squad players, nan convention does not instruction they are connected a team’s charismatic wounded report. Either way, things are trending toward Johnson being progressive up of Fournette against nan Patriots connected Sunday.

Projected inactives: IOL Alec Anderson, DE Kingsley Jonathan, DT Poona Ford, CB Kaiir Elam, S Damar Hamlin

Prediction: Bills 30, Patriots 12

The Bills survived a scare connected nan roadworthy past week against nan Chargers, though nan Bills surely don’t deficiency information against nan Patriots this week. They’re astatine home, wherever they’ve played very good complete nan past 2 seasons. They’re up against a squad that served them an embarrassing last-second nonaccomplishment successful Week 7. And connected apical of it all, nan Bills tin clinch a playoff spot, starting pinch a win. As for nan matchup, nan Bills person mentioned really Patriots backmost Bailey Zappe has taken amended attraction of nan football, though McDermott’s notable grounds against inexperienced quarterbacks enters nan equation. Especially pinch a defense adjacent to afloat health, McDermott apt intends to confuse Zappe connected passing downs arsenic overmuch arsenic possible. That, mixed pinch nan Patriots being without their apical violative accomplishment subordinate successful Rhamondre Stevenson, makes this a overmuch different matchup than past time. Additionally, backmost Josh Allen apt will person been disappointment pinch immoderate of his preventable footwork issues erstwhile throwing inaccurate passes past week and purpose to make that a privilege to hole successful this matchup. Ultimately, I expect nan Bills to person a beardown violative showing contempt imaginable rainfall successful nan forecast and put nan crippled retired of scope earlier they’re halfway done nan 4th quarter.

(Top photo: Ryan Kang / Getty Images)

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