Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone breaks up his team’s season schedule into quarters.
In that sense, the Bills are smack in the middle of their most difficult run of four games.
The second quarter of the Bills’ schedule from Weeks Five through Eight includes three road games, including the next two – at Miami on Sunday and at New Orleans on Oct. 27. Those two opponents, along with Buffalo’s last two – at Cleveland and Cincinnati – have a combined record of 15-8, a winning percentage of .652.
“When these schedules come out, people evaluate them, you see it in the paper. … I know for me, I look at them, too,” Marrone said. “I remember when the schedule first came out, I said it was a pretty tough run right here. … We’ll be faced with some good challenges.”
Looking at it in halves, Buffalo’s first eight opponents have a current combined record of 28-18, a winning percentage of .608. The second half of the season features opponents with a current winning percentage of .418 (18-25).
Making matters more difficult is that Buffalo’s schedule was front-loaded with home games. The team plays just three of its final 10 games in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“That’s tough. Starting 2-2 at home is obviously not what we wanted. Four sellouts has been extremely advantageous to us,” center Eric Wood said. “Credit the fans. … They came and packed the Ralph, and it was rockin’. That’s an advantage for us and that’s a whole lot of fun to play.”
Despite the 0-2 start away from home, Marrone said his message to the team this week is less about playing on the road and more about getting them on the same page.
“Effort wise has been excellent. These guys are playing as hard as they possibly can, but the results haven’t been what we wanted on each and every play. There are lapses,” he said. “You could always say it’s tougher to win on the road, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s tough to win in general. We haven’t won here in a while and that’s what we’re trying to get over the top with.”
The Bills’ next three opponents have a combined record of 13-3.
“I think that it’s going to say a lot about who we are and what we’re doing. That’s really the truth,” Marrone said of the schedule. “We have to win in these games that have been close. That’s what we keep striving for.”
In the Bills’ case, every game has been close. Buffalo has been within one possession in the fourth quarter of every game. That is part of a league-wide trend of close games. According to the NFL, 65 of the league’s 92 games (70.7 percent) through the first six weeks have been within seven points or fewer during the fourth quarter. The 65 such games are the most ever, surpassing the mark of 64 set in the 1999 and 2004 seasons.
“I want to see where this team is when we play in sync,” Marrone said. “I believe that when we do that and when we play in sync, we’ll win a lot of games. Right now we’re not doing that and that’s what I have to get done.”
The Bills announced Tuesday that their next home game, Nov. 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs, is a sellout and will air on local television.
Fans are encouraged to wear white to the game, which is sponsored by Unyts.
The first 50,000 in attendance will receive white pom-poms. Fans are also encouraged to bring new, warm winter clothing for the Salvation Army’s annual Gift of Warmth drive.
The Bills’ first five home games have been sellouts. The last two games of the year at Ralph Wilson Stadium are Nov. 17 against the New York Jets and Dec. 23 against the Miami Dolphins.
The Bills released guard Colin Brown on Tuesday and replaced him on the 53-man roster by promoting offensive lineman Mark Asper from the practice squad.
Brown, 28, started the first five games of the season, but struggled. Marrone said last week he would rotate Brown with Doug Legursky against the Bengals in Week Six. Brown, however, got only 12 snaps to Legursky’s 57.
Marrone was asked Monday whether Legursky had earned the starting job.
“I haven’t talked to those players yet, but I thought Doug did a nice job in there for just coming back. Colin has struggled before and we did play Doug much more than we did Colin,” Marrone said. “I don’t really like talking about it until I’ve talked to the players, which I haven’t yet. That’s a situation that hasn’t occurred and when I update those guys, I’ll update that answer.”
Asper, 27, has spent the first six weeks of the season on the Bills’ practice squad.
The 6-foot-7, 325-pounder entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2012, but did not make the team out of training camp. He spent portions of his rookie season on the active rosters for both the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Additionally, the Bills made changes to their practice squad, releasing defensive end Jamie Blatnick and signing linebacker Jacquies Smith and offensive lineman Bryant Browning.
Smith entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 2012, but was released before the start of the regular season. Smith spent a portion of his rookie year on the New York Jets’ practice squad, but was released prior to the start of this season. The 6-2, 260-pounder started 30 of 51 career games at the University of Missouri, totaling 159 tackles, 13 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
Browning entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams in 2011 and spent his rookie year with the Carolina Panthers. He spent the 2012 season on the practice squads of Carolina and Cleveland, and went through training camp this year with the New York Giants. The 6-4, 325-pounder made 40 starts in 52 career appearances at Ohio State.