A look at the Buffalo Bills heading into their bye weekend ...
Reason for hope: I considered leaving this section blank because it's difficult to envision the Bills making serious headway this year. They're 0-5, have allowed at least 30 points in four straight games and won't play another game at home for about a month. They're not going to the playoffs, and even a game-to-game spoiler role seems ambitious. Owner Ralph Wilson recently said the rebuilding process will take three more years.
So what is there to root for? Individual players, I guess. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been decent, which for the Bills is a coup. In his three starts he has thrown seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Running back Fred Jackson is an overachiever who leaves it all out on the field. Head coach Chan Gailey hasn't yet figured out how to use ninth overall draft choice C.J. Spiller in the offense, but the rookie playmaker is almost certain to provide a few highlight-reel plays over the last 11 games.
Cause for concern: Perhaps most alarming is the "reason for hope" category should be rife with the names of prospects who are contributing, but too many of them have failed to develop. Last year's 11th overall pick, pass-rusher Aaron Maybin, can't get on the field. Top draft choices over the past three years -- Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch and James Hardy to name a few -- have been released or traded. Those players should have been the young nucleus of a rebuilding team.
The Bills are weak at critical infrastructure positions: quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive line, linebacker. Their biggest strength heading into the season was their secondary, a unit that helped the Bills rank second in pass defense and second in interceptions last year. Through five games, the Bills rank 11th in pass defense and have one interception. They spent the entire offseason switching to a 3-4 defense, but now they're gravitating back to four-man fronts because they're getting physically overpowered on a weekly basis.
Time to heal: The week off especially will help cornerback Terrence McGee (back), safety Bryan Scott (knee), linebacker Keith Ellison (knee) and tackle Cornell Green (knee). Tight end Shawn Nelson was suspended for the first four games and will benefit from the extra week of practice.
AccuScore forecast: The Bills have not been mathematically eliminated, but AccuScore's computers give them a zero percent chance of winning the division or going to the playoffs. They're pegged for a 3-13 record.