ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 entering their Week 6 bye, a feat that feels simultaneously expected and surprising.
On paper, Buffalo is exactly where it should be after wins against the New York Jets (0-4), New York Giants (2-3), Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) and Tennessee Titans (2-3) and a loss against the New England Patriots (5-0).
As this fan base will lament, one playoff trip in the previous 19 seasons is proof that things tend to run askew with this franchise. But if their start is any indication, the Bills can reliably win the games in which they're favored. And doing so the rest of the season should put them in position to make a run at the AFC East title -- yes, you read that correctly.
Despite their recent history, there is no ignoring the Bills' upcoming schedule.
In the next six games, they play four at home, a stretch that includes only one opponent that currently has a winning record. They'll play host to Miami (0-4), Philadelphia (3-2) and Washington (0-5) immediately following the bye before traveling to Cleveland (2-3) and Miami in Weeks 10 and 11 and then playing host to the Broncos (1-4) in Week 12. In fact, Buffalo has six games remaining against teams with one win or fewer.
Plus, things are about to get tougher for the division-leading Patriots. Beginning in Week 8, New England kicks off a six-game stretch in which it plays Cleveland (2-3), at Baltimore (3-2), at Philadelphia (3-2), Dallas (3-2), at Houston (3-2) and Kansas City (4-1). If Buffalo is to make up ground in the division race -- it's currently one game back -- it'll be during that stretch.
Granted, the Bills' road games against Cleveland, Dallas (Week 13) and New England (Week 16) are not cakewalks. But this team has been resilient when faced with adversity.
There were the four first-half turnovers against the Jets in Week 1. The blown lead at home against the Bengals in Week 3. Even the late rally against the Titans this past week. Buffalo persevered each time, which is a hallmark of a good team. The Bills have also held five straight opponents to 17 points or fewer and fewer than 250 passing yards, all while missing multiple contributors on both sides of the ball.
That's what makes this bye week so opportune.
Running back Devin Singletary appeared ready to compete for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the past three games. Starting nickel corner Taron Johnson has missed the past four games after injuring his hamstring in Week 1, and right tackle Ty Nsekhe missed Week 5 with an ankle injury -- and that was before starters Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Matt Milano and Trent Murphy left the game with injuries Sunday and did not return.
"[The bye is] at a good time," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "We've been able to sustain success early on and withstand some of the injuries we incurred ... We've got to get healthy. [The bye week] offers a chance for us also to evaluate where we are and where we're trying to go and some of the challenges we've had and how we plan on solving those challenges."
McDermott confirmed Monday that Murphy and Ford are in the concussion protocol. Milano and Morse are battling hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. Morse's ankle injury isn't believed to be "all that bad," McDermott said, and he was available in an emergency role Sunday.
It's clear that things could take off for Buffalo as it continues with a remarkably favorable schedule.
First things first, though. The Bills need to get healthy.