The Buffalo Bills come to town on Sunday as a team on the rise, a team that plays with great confidence and one that is dangerous in every phase. It's isn't just about the return of running back LeSean McCoy or the personality of head coach Rex Ryan. Buffalo is a playoff-caliber team, as the Eagles' coaching staff well knows by now.
So the celebration from beating New England is long over. The Eagles are on to the Bills and how to keep McCoy, who is having a superb stretch, under wraps and how to contain wide receiver Sammy Watkins and what to do with quarterback Tyrod Taylor's skills as a passer and a runner.
Tough team. Tough game. Big moment for the Eagles, who failed to take the win in Dallas and run with it. Now they've got three straight games at Lincoln Financial Field before the regular season closer at New York against the Giants.
Some thoughts on this team ...
- The value of Jason Peters at left tackle cannot be understated. He struggled early in Sunday's game at New England and went down to the ground more than once. There were questions, honestly, whether he would finish the game at one point. That's how much he hobbled out on the field, struggling to get lined up. But Peters hung in there and improved as the game progressed. His last-instant block gave quarterback Sam Bradford just enough room to climb the pocket and complete a third-and-11 throw to wide receiver Riley Cooper late in the fourth quarter. When Peters is on his game, the offensive line falls into place. Peters has a challenge on Sunday working against the speed of Bills edge rusher Jerry Hughes.
- Speaking of matchups against Buffalo, the Bills are really strong up front defensively with Hughes on the right side and Mario Williams at left end and Marcell Dareus at left defensive tackle. That is a formidable duo working against Lane Johnson and Matt Tobin.
- Let's talk about Bradford, who had a most-impressive 120-yard passing performance. He kept his cool in the face of a defense that had registered 35 sacks entering the game and he came up with some very nice throws in the red zone -- scoring strikes to tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Bradford is a far better quarterback than he was in September. He certainly is playing with a lot more confidence. His ball security -- he hasn't thrown an interception since the first quarter of the Carolina game -- is much improved. There is more zip on his throws. He is shrugging off defenders. He is moving in and out of the pocket better. Good progress for Bradford, who is 5-2 in the last seven games he has started and finished.
- The Eagles need more production from the wide receivers. Nelson Agholor had no catches on two targets. Matthews had three receptions for 36 yards and the score and Cooper caught the only pass thrown his way. Josh Huff has not been featured much at all even though he scored touchdowns against Miami and Tampa Bay. What's going on with him?
- I like the promotion of wide receiver Jonathan Krause to the active roster and then, on Sunday, to the rotation at wide receiver. He had one catch, a crossing route he ran and snagged a Bradford pass for a 4-yard gain, to get his feet wet. Krause has the speed to stretch a defense, something the Eagles need to open up this passing game. The short passing game is fine, and maybe that's the approach on Sunday against a really good Buffalo front, but at some point the Eagles need some chunk plays from the passing game.
- Eric Rowe showed a lot of grit in his first start at cornerback. He's going to have the chance to play out the season as a starter and give the Eagles enough tape to judge whether he is, ultimately, a corner or a safety. In the big picture, the Eagles have to decide on safety Walter Thurmond and cornerback Nolan Carroll, both of whom are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Rookie JaCorey Shepherd is recovering from a torn ACL. Denzel Rice is a developmental rookie on the 53-man roster. Randall Evans is learning on the practice squad. Where does Rowe fit in this picture?
- If Fletcher Cox doesn't make the Pro Bowl, something is wrong. He's been dominating for much of the season and even when he doesn't have huge statistical days like his performance in New England -- three total tackles -- he still disrupts a game. Cox was officially credited with four quarterback hurries in the game, but he was in New England's backfield all afternoon.
- DeMarco Murray's role changed against the Patriots as Chip Kelly opted to use Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner for their quickness. Murray had just eight carries and 24 yards, including a 19-yarder late in the fourth quarter. What happens with Murray the rest of the season? He will still get his touches, but the Eagles have depth at the position and it's good they are using all of it.
- Barner can bring it. He's got more juice than I thought he had. Barner has to hold on to the football, of course, and he's got to be durable -- Barner took a shot on the thigh after an impressive 19-yard run in the first quarter and came up limping -- but there is no doubt that Barner has some quickness. He can play at this level and the more touches he gets, the better he's going to be.
- Gotta give Brandon Graham a lot of credit for the improvement he's made as a starter. He's been durable and pretty darn productive. Graham had two quarterback sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries against the Patriots and he now has 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season. Graham sets the edge and plays the run well and he plays hard and physical football.