The Buffalo Bills have reached the point in their season that they always seem to reach: The playoffs are almost out of sight.
The team with the NFL's longest active postseason drought - 16 years - has fallen to 4-5 thanks to a three-game losing streak, and the Bills are now 12th in the AFC standings due to their horrible 1-4 mark against AFC teams. With seven games left, they'd probably have to win six to even have a chance at earning a wild-card berth, a task that certainly seems beyond this team's capability.
"Well, I know the effort's going to be there; you can't deny that from us," coach Rex Ryan said. "Our guys, we want it in the worst way and not just for ourselves either. We understand how our fan base wants this thing, almost as bad as we do, and we get that, so we understand the responsibility.
"All we can do is work as hard as we possibly can and work to the very best of our ability and play collectively as a unit and as a team and that's what we'll do."
Every team craves the bye week because it's a chance to heal some bumps and bruises, and the Bills are no exception.
Most notably, they need to get defensive tackle Marcell Dareus back on the field. He has missed seven games due to a suspension, a hamstring injury, and last week, a groin injury. Also, running back LeSean McCoy - who returned to action in Seattle - certainly will benefit from extra rest.
"We needed the bye week right now, we really needed it as a team," Ryan said. "We're a little worn out, there's no question about it. We can take some time away, but also focus in on what we need to get better at. Get some guys back and get some guys healthy, and that's what I think is big about this bye week."
Interestingly, the Bills aren't feeling too terrible about themselves. Obviously their playoff position is perilous, but they played well against the Seattle Seahawks and were seven yards away from stealing a victory in the dying seconds.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor played what many have called the best game of his tenure as Buffalo's quarterback. Tthe defense, after a rough start, played very well in the second half in limiting the Seahawks to 40 yards of net offense and three points.
Taylor threw for 289 yards, and he directed an offense that put together seven drives of seven plays or more against a stellar Seahawks defense. The Bills possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes, achieved 30 first downs, and were in position to win at the end before Taylor threw incomplete into the end zone on fourth down from the 15.
"Tyrod plays well every game; I wish I wasn't the only one that sees it," Ryan said. "He played like he always does."
Well, that's not entirely true, but if Taylor continues to play the way he did in Seattle, the Bills' offense has a real chance to be dangerous, especially if it can get wideout Sammy Watkins back when he's eligible to come off the injured reserve list in late November.
As for the defense, it allowed four Seattle touchdowns in the first half, but then completely locked down Russell Wilson in the second. They did it without Dareus, safety Aaron Williams and cornerback Ron Darby, who was removed from the game because he was sick.
"There's a lot of good signs about the way our team responded," Ryan said. "I love the way the defense responded in the second half. I mean after getting our butts kicked in the first half, to go in and basically shut them out for the most part in the second half, I think that's encouraging."
"We've got to run the table, it's as simple as that," linebacker Preston Brown said of the Bills' final seven games, which are all against AFC opponents. "You've got to try to win all these games from here on out."
-- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been on injured reserve since prior to the Week 3 game against Arizona. He has been making progress and the soreness in his foot has abated to the point where the Bills think it's real possibility he can return to action in time for the Nov. 27 game against Jacksonville.
"I know we're all excited - we're hopeful - that Sammy's going to be able to play for us this year," coach Rex Ryan said. "But, again, we're not going to put him out there if he's not ready to go and we'll have to evaluate that later because, quite honestly, I can't answer it. I have no idea if he'll be ready to play or not, but I know we're all hopeful he will."
With the way Robert Woods played in Seattle, and now that Percy Harvin has gotten his feet wet while playing his first game since coming out of retirement, a healthy Watkins could really provide a boost to Buffalo. The team's passing offense showed positive signs last week, but still ranks last in the NFL at 188.7 yards per game.
-- The Bills will have to finish the season without eight-year veteran center Eric Wood. He suffered a broken leg Monday night, had surgery Wednesday, and is done for the year. Ryan Groy is next man up, though the Bills also could turn to Patrick Lewis. Ryan isn't sure what he'll do just yet.
"Obviously, that's a really, really big blow to our football team," Ryan said. "We have Patrick Lewis here - he's been inactive, I think, the entire season, but he's familiar with what we do. And then we have Ryan Groy, who replaced Eric at the end of the game. Groy can play all of the positions. He's a smart guy as well. Obviously, it's hard to replace a player of his caliber, but we have two guys that we feel pretty confident in."