The Buffalo Bills are no longer willing to play the doormat of the New England Patriots. When the season began, the only team mentioned as a possibility to dethrone the Patriots were the Miami Dolphins. With the Dolphins struggling due to injuries, then a major trade, the Bills have now become the main threat. The Patriots can thank the Carolina Panthers and Kelvin Benjamin for that.
The Patriots have won the division for the past eight years, but that may all come to an end thanks to the Panthers. The Panthers decided to send wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills for two 2018 draft picks. While the move surprised many fans, the Bills now will look to build upon their 5-2 record Thursday night against the New York Jets. The Bills may have to wait for Benjamin’s debut as Bills general manager Brandon Beane stated that Benjamin is “50-50” to play as reported by Mike Rodak of ESPN.
When Benjamin finally takes the field with the Buffalo Bills, they will do so healthy on the offensive side of the ball. Jordan Matthews has his legs under him, and while Tyrod Taylor has struggled to get the ball downfield, the addition of Benjamin should remedy that. For the season, Taylor has thrown only eight touchdown passes, but he’s only thrown two interceptions. Taylor has improved on his turnovers and having a healthy LeSean McCoy in the backfield helps as well.
While in Carolina, Benjamin hauled in 32 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns. When Greg Olsen went down, Benjamin became Cam Newton’s favorite target. Taylor will look for the same production. What makes this trade so huge for the Bills is that it gives the offense another possession receiver outside of McCoy, who leads the team in rushing (521 yards) and receiving (38 receptions).
Outside of McCoy, Taylor will now have three pass catchers who can get the tough yards across the middle or burn a defender down the sideline.
The Bills and Patriots have not met yet this season, but as good as the Bills have been, their passing attack has been their biggest weakness. Out of 32 teams, the Bills are ranked 28th with an average of 179 yards per game through the air. While neither Benjamin nor Matthews will give them Antonio Brown numbers on a weekly basis, what they will offer is extra space for McCoy and should raise the completion percentage of Taylor.
The AFC East race is far from over with the Patriots leading the Bills by one game. The addition of Benjamin plugs a huge hole the Bills were trying to cover up with the workhorse-like approach of McCoy. Taylor now has adequate options to offset the struggling defense of the Patriots and this race should go down to the wire.
The Bills have not participated in the playoffs since 1999 and the hope around Buffalo is that Benjamin is a key reason that changes.
[Featured Image by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images]