by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

Going into this past weekend’s games it was a given that the Buffalo Bills had to beat the Miami Dolphins in Miami, and then get help from other teams in order to earn a spot in the NFL Playoffs for the first time since 1999.

All along I felt that the Bills would defeat the Dolphins.  What I was unsure of was would the Bills get the help that was needed in the other games. I felt that there was no way the Cincinnati Bengals would beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore on a game that the Ravens needed to earn them their spot in the Playoffs.

The other scenarios involved were Jacksonville needed to beat Tennessee in Tennessee and the Los Angeles Chargers had to beat the Oakland Raiders. Going into the weekend I felt the last two scenarios had a better chance of happening than the Bengals beating the Ravens.
I was wrong on all fronts as Cincinnati came from behind to beat Baltimore in the final seconds and Both Tennessee and Los Angeles won. Sill the important thing is the Buffalo Bills are in the Playoffs for the first time in 18 years and their first Playoff game is next Sunday in Jacksonville.

So How Did This Happen?

The reason the Bills are in the Playoffs is for one reason and one reason only….Sean McDermott. He brought a change in attitude and culture to One Bills Drive and it made a difference in the organization from top to bottom.

Players who either didn’t buy in or the Bills brass didn’t feel had a future with the club were shipped out and replaced with players who believed in the plan. We can look for more of that this coming off season.

Bills Draw Best Opponent

As for the upcoming Playoff game, the Bills may be the sixth and final seed but they drew the best opponent. Jacksonville is similar to Buffalo in that they have a young team that has never been playoff-tested. The talent on the Jacksonville team is superior to Buffalo’s but because of their inexperience I feel the game is a tossup.

I will get more into the game itself later in the week, but the big difference in the two teams is at the quarterback position. While Blake Bortles has never lived up to being the third player selected in the 2104 NFL Draft, he has had his best season as a pro.

This year, Bortles threw for close to 3700 yards, completed 60% of his throws and had 21 touchdowns. Compared to the top quarterbacks in the league, those are very average stats but he has won a lot of games this year. Jacksonville did not pick up the option on his rookie contract and it remains to be seen if the Jags try to re-sign him or let him go into free agency.

Buffalo, on the other hand, made the Playoffs in spite of Tyrod Taylor not because of him. He is obviously the weakest quarterback of the 16 playoff teams and he needs to play the best game of his career in order for the Bills to have a chance.

More from Greg on the specific matchup with the Jaguars coming to Buffalo Sports Page later this week.

Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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