If the Buffalo Bills are truly looking at a playoffs-or-bust-season – at least as far as the future of coach Rex Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley are concerned – they might want to hire some headhunters and start the talent search right now.
It’s hard to imagine the 2016 season starting much more dismally for the Bills, who didn’t show up on offense in a 13-7 Week 1 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. That was followed up by the news that receiver Sammy Watkins could miss some time with a continuing foot issue that doesn’t seem to want to go away.
According to the New York Daily News, X-rays on Watkins’ foot taken after Sunday’s loss did not reveal another break. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Watkins could be held out for several weeks as he tries to figure out if he can manage the consistent pain in his foot.
Watkins reportedly played through “severe discomfort” on Sunday, and the foot, which was surgically repaired last season, has bothered him in practice for the last week or so, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Even with the pain, Watkins managed four catches for 43 yards against the Ravens. That’s not great, but illustrates the possibility that he could be at least somewhat productive moving forward. This will be something to watch closely.
Unfortunately for the Bills, they have a quick turnaround this week with a Thursday night game against the New York Jets. If Watkins can’t play, his replacement figures to be either Marquise Goodwin or Greg Salas, a pair of wideouts who between them played just 32 offensive snaps on Sunday and combined for zero catches.
In addition to the quick turnaround and the lack of depth at the receiver position, the Bills will also go into Thursday night’s game facing a solid defensive team that now has a blueprint for success – keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the pocket – thanks to the Ravens.
All of this leaves the Bills in a precarious position. If they rest Watkins for an extended period, they put an inordinate amount of pressure on Taylor and a rather thin offensive unit. If they play Watkins, they risk losing him for even more games.
This is a team that is opening aiming for the playoffs. In that case, it makes sense to make sure their star receiver is as healthy as possible for the stretch run. On the other hand, you have to win games in order to be in the running late in the season, and the Bills offense looked rather inept even with Watkins on Sunday.
It’s early, and you don’t want to get too excited (or down) over one game. But Watkins’ situation clearly presents a dilemma for the Bills. If he can’t play through the pain in his foot – or even at all – they’re going to have a tough time competing on a weekly basis.
And if that’s the case, the Bills’ quest to reach the playoffs could be derailed practically before it even gets started.