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The Bills are the hardest team in the NFL to figure out

This week should be a good indicator of how good (or bad) they really are.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The NFL season could not have gotten off to worse start for the Buffalo Bills. They dropped to 0-2 to two teams currently below .500, and Rex Ryan found himself on the hot seat in September. Then things started to turn around after a change in the coaching staff.

They won four in a row and looked like they had finally turned the corner, so much so that it seemed like this could finally be the year they break the NFL’s longest active playoff drought.

And then in Week 7, they blew it against the Miami Dolphins, a team whose own coach called them “inept.” Making matters worse for Buffalo is that its next game is against a Patriots team seeking revenge after the Bills handed them their first shutout loss at Gillette Stadium in Week 4 — and the Patriots have Tom Brady this time.

We’re almost halfway through the season, and we’re still wondering who the Bills really are.

Things started out ugly

In Week 1, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, who, despite starting 3-0 on the season, haven’t looked all that great as the season has progressed, having lost four in a row.

The Bills’ offense just wasn’t clicking. In the season opener, nothing went right. Tyrod Taylor threw for just 111 yards. LeSean McCoy rushed for just 58 yards, and Sammy Watkins and had four receptions for 43 yards. In a 13-7 loss, even a mediocre offense could have won that game.

Week 2 was a better showing for the offense against Rex Ryan’s former team, the New York Jets, who are just 2-5 on the season, and arguably the second-biggest mess in the league next to the lowly Cleveland Browns.

Taylor had a good game, with 297 yards passing and three touchdowns with just one interception, but McCoy continued to struggle, with just 59 yards on the ground. The team also lost Watkins due to a foot injury.

A change at offensive coordinator sparks an offensive awakening

As a result of their slow start, the Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman, hoping to bring a change to a team that had greater expectations coming into the season.

Sometimes, firing coordinators or coaches is the wakeup call teams need, and other times, it doesn’t fix anything. This was a case where it has seemed to have gone well. The Bills’ offense found its rhythm thanks to new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and looked completely different than it did in the first two games

Lynn wasn’t just some random hire. He was the running backs coach under Ryan with the New York Jets from 2009-2014, coaching four different feature backs in six years. He’s also worked under the likes of Mike Shanahan, Jack Del Rio, Bill Parcells, and Romeo Crennel in his stops around the NFL.

Under Lynn’s guidance, the rushing attack has come to life, which was the greatest cause for concern after the first two weeks. In the first two games, the Bills averaged 76 rushing yards per game. When Lynn was hired, that number went up to 212 yards per game during their four-game win streak.

In that span, McCoy averaged 118 yards per game. His best performance came against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he had 140 yards and three touchdowns after injuring his knee before the half. It was an outstanding performance against his former coach, Chip Kelly.

The offense scored 30 or more points in three of their four consecutive wins. Additionally, the team had at least 300 total yards in three of those four wins, with the other game at 297 yards. This allowed the defense to have some of its best performances as well, never allowing more than 19 points in a game, and having breathing room on the scoreboard.

The Bills were riding a high that hasn’t been felt in a while. McCoy said after their win over the 49ers that he wanted the Bills to play like the franchise’s teams of the 90s that went to four consecutive Super Bowls.

The success may have been too good to be true

All this goodness came to a screeching halt when McCoy hurt his hamstring in practice the Wednesday before the team was slated to face the Dolphins in Week 7. McCoy wasn’t expected to play, but had limited carries for the Bills and ended up tweaking his hamstring. Without McCoy for much of the game, the Bills sputtered against a Miami team that has had a pretty bad season, up until it finally figured out how to use running Jay Ajayi, who has had consecutive 200+ yard rushing weeks. Taylor threw for just 221 yards and a touchdown in the 28-25 loss.

Now, they’re set to play the Patriots again, just a month removed from their first meeting this season. Both teams are in a much different place this week, however.

“I mean it's satisfying, but let's face it, they had a player [Brady] out,” Ryan said following their win in Foxborough. “This just in, they had a player out and we had our team, so you know, we expected to win.”

This week, Ryan said, “One of these days I keep thinking if I stay in this conference long enough that maybe that dude will retire, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.” It’s hard to blame him for feeling that way — Brady is 13-4 against Ryan’s teams in his career.

The Bills have the advantage of playing at home this time around, but the disadvantage of playing one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and arguably the best team in the NFL. But maybe Sunday could give us a good indication of just how legitimate this Bills team is.