NFL Buffalo Bills

5 Players Who Need To Step Up For Buffalo Bills During Stretch Run

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5 Players Who Need To Step Up For Bills

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are livin' on a prayer (I know, bad joke in light of recent rumors) for the AFC playoffs. They are at 4-7 with a schedule that could easily get them to eight or nine wins. There is a chance that the Bills can sneak into the playoffs no matter how remote it seems right now. We do know that the games will still mean something, at least for the next few weeks.

The Bills have gotten some surprising contributions so far this season. Their sometimes patchwork wide receiver corps has gotten the job done at times with rookie Marquise Goodwin leading the way. Cordy Glenn has been unheralded at left tackle, and the offensive line as a whole has produced for the Bills. Fred Jackson has been his usual self, and Frank Summers is turning into an important piece in the run game.

On defense the big story has been the emergence of Kiko Alonso. He's been a beast at middle linebacker for the Bills. Nickel CB Nickell Robey has been a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent. Both Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams have stepped up in the secondary as well. Up front the Bills may have the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFL with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.

While they have gotten contributions from areas that they didn't expect they still need some of their veteran mainstays to step up. If they finally want to get to January football for the first time in 13 years here are five guys that need to make a big impact over the final five weeks of the season.

Erik Venskus is a Buffalo Bills writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. DE Mario Williams

DE Mario Williams
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Williams had 11 sacks in the first eight games but hasn't recorded one in the last three. He's still putting pressure on the QB and causing some bad passes, but it would be nice for the Bills' defense to have the sacks coming from Williams again. He's a guy that could take over games and single-handedly make QBs very uncomfortable in the pocket. If we see the early season Mario in the next five games the Bills' defense could look dominant down the stretch.

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4. TE Scott Chandler

TE Scott Chandler
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler has pulled a disappearing act of sorts over the last few weeks. He had a big showing in New Orleans but has been very quiet in the last three games. With E.J. Manuel returning to the lineup he needs his 6-foot-7 safety valve now more than ever. Chandler can make the catches and he can certainly get open. He just needs to concentrate and make plays. He'll be an important player in the passing game as the weather turns in the northeast in the next few weeks.

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3. CB Stephon Gilmore

CB Stephon Gilmore
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Gilmore was a revelation as a rookie last season, but he's struggled in his sophomore campaign after missing the first five weeks of the season. Gilmore looks a step behind and he has let guys get open and make catches on him. Gilmore was lock-down last year when the CB unit was weak, but with McKelvin and Robey playing so well the Bills would love to get last season's version of Gilmore. If he could return to form then the Bills would be a very tough team to pass on.

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2. QB E.J. Manuel

QB E.J. Manuel
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Since Manuel has returned from his four-week injury he's had one bad game and one very good game. He needs to show the confidence that he showed two weeks ago against the Jets. He was throwing the ball down the field for the first time all season and was doing it in bad weather to boot. He'll have his full complement of receivers for the rest of the way barring further injuries, and if he is confident in himself and his receivers to catch balls down the field we could see more performances as good as his one against the Jets in his last game.

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1. RB C.J. Spiller

RB C.J. Spiller
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Spiller just hasn't had much confidence since the game against the Chiefs a month ago. He is running timid and not being patient enough to let plays develop. Spiller just needs to calm down and let the plays come to him. When he is confident he is unstoppable. He sees a hole, hits it, and before you know it he is already in the secondary. Spiller just needs to get his confidence back. Just one or two big runs would do it so I'd expect to see him early and often down the stretch to get him going quickly.