Following their 23-20 loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills are 6-7 and are in ninth place in the AFC. They were eliminated from the AFC East race two weeks ago and, with an eight percent chance to make the postseason, they're a breath away from officially being knocked out of playoff contention for a 16th consecutive season.
On the national stage, they're an afterthought, with their final three games -- against the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets -- only relevant nationally for the other teams' postseason implications.
Locally, fans want answers, both about what happened and what will happen. In the case of the latter, the Bills' final three games aren't to be ignored because they will continue to offer evidence about what went wrong with the season, but at this point, questions about the offseason are appropriate.
With that in mind, here are some of the pressing questions around the team entering the final weeks of the season:
1. Do the Bills still have a chance at the playoffs? Mathematically, yes. Realistically, no. The Bills would need to win out and would need a combination of losses by their AFC wild-card foes over the coming weeks -- most simply, two losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers and one by the New York Jets. Rex Ryan said Monday that stranger things have happened, and he's right, but the toughest part of that equation is the Bills winning their final three games. They've only strung together back-to-back wins once this season.
2. Is Rex Ryan's job safe? Almost certainly. The Bills gave Ryan a five-year, $27.5 million contract in January, and it's extremely difficult to imagine Terry and Kim Pegula backing out of that deal this early. Firing Ryan would also be a further disruption to a franchise that has seen constant churning of leadership over the past decade. Ryan's message and approach might have fallen flat this season, but there is no guarantee that another head coach would be able to do better next season. Giving Ryan at least two seasons to implement his program is more than reasonable, as frustrated as fans might be with how some of Ryan's assurances -- from making the playoffs to having a top defense -- didn't pan out.
3. Is Doug Whaley's job safe? That's tougher to tell. Whaley has been in his current position as general manager for three seasons, so there's a larger sample size to evaluate. The results have been mixed, and Ryan's influence also has muddled the process. Should Whaley get full credit for the selection of cornerback Ronald Darby, who Ryan likely eyed to help run his defense? Conversely, should Whaley bear the sole blame for the signing of Percy Harvin, who Ryan coached with the Jets and helped recruit to Buffalo? Ultimately, Whaley has helped assemble one of the NFL's better rosters, and Ryan's coaching staff hasn't drawn the full potential from the group. If Whaley loses his job or is relegated to a lesser role, he would have an argument that he didn't deserve it.
4. What personnel moves are on the horizon this offseason? The Bills' tight salary-cap situation will dictate what happens. Their 2016 cap number is currently right around the projected league-wide salary cap of $150 million, although they can carry over a small amount (likely less than $5 million) of unused 2015 cap space to help clear some room. They'll need much more than that to re-sign left tackle Cordy Glenn, who has played his best season in Buffalo and can earn a huge deal on the free-agent market. They'll also have to think about deals for left guard Richie Incognito and linebacker Nigel Bradham, who are both pending free agents. Releasing defensive end Mario Williams would clear about $13 million in cap space but also open a hole along the defensive line that the Bills would need to fill. One way or the other, the Bills will have some tough financial decisions to make in the coming months.