Bills in tailspin after strong start to season

Nathan Peterman walks off the field following a historically bad startAll of a sudden, the Buffalo Bills look lost. A month ago Buffalo was behaving like a team bound for the playoffs, but a three-game losing skid has pushed the Bills to the outside of the AFC playoff picture, and their road doesn’t get much easier in the final weeks of the season. Sunday’s 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers exposed many of Buffalo’s self-inflicted issues, along with some terrible luck.

The Bills decided to bench starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Sunday, but it turns out Taylor might not have been the biggest problem with their offense. Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman was disastrous in his first career start, throwing five interceptions on just 14 pass attempts. Buffalo’s once-stifling defense had another rough game one week after surrendering 47 points to the New Orleans Saints, allowing the Chargers to build a 37-7 lead by halftime. Los Angeles was able to establish a consistent running and passing game against the Bills, scoring more points than in its previous three games combined.

Making matters worse, Buffalo lost Kelvin Benjamin to an injury early in Sunday’s loss. The Bills have yet to comment on the receiver’s status, but with Jordan Matthews already sidelined with a knee injury, losing Benjamin would leave Buffalo severely short-handed on offense without its biggest trade acquisitions from this year. The Bills’ top receiver on Sunday was rookie Zay Jones, and all of their touchdowns were scored by either Taylor, who entered the game in the second quarter, or running back LeSean McCoy.

When the Bills traded for Benjamin at the deadline, they were looking at competing for the AFC East title, but benching Taylor for Peterman against the Chargers was nothing short of a desperation move by a team already out of answers. Peterman’s performance was historically bad, as no other quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger has thrown five interceptions in a first half. Returning Taylor to the starting role is the only move that makes sense, but Buffalo has likely soured its relationship with Taylor, and the question of who will be Bills quarterback in 2018 looms large.

Buffalo is on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs next week and still has to face the division-leading New England Patriots twice. Even if the Bills defeat the Indianapolis Colts and manage two divisional victories over the Miami Dolphins, that would still only get them to eight wins, which likely won’t be enough in the AFC wild-card race. Barring a miracle, it appears their playoff drought will reach 18 seasons.