Still think the Buffalo Bills are a playoff team? Still think they’re going to win 10 games? If you do you’re a fool – or you’ve been fooled by the Bills yet again.
Frustration doesn’t even start to begin to explain what it’s like to be a Bills fan. Year after year you fall for the same old tricks – the Bills are leaving the past behind and are finally moving forward – they finally have a coach who know what he’s doing and players who can execute. They have talent. The have desire. None of this is true.
Yet again the Bills show that they are, at best, a mediocre team. They are nowhere near able to compete for the playoffs or double digit wins. On the other hand, the Bills will go out and beat enough teams to continually tread water in the hierarchy of the NFL – near the top of the bottom third.
As so often happens, soon even the most optimistic fans will realize what I am saying is true. Games won’t mean so much - heck, you might even skip a few or watch on delay on your DVR. If you’re a cynical curmudgeon like me you might actually root for them to start losing, not because you don’t love the team, but because it’ll make April that much better.
But, as I said, Buffalo never seems to hit bottom – they just tread water. I don’t expect them to have a top 10 pick in the 2013 draft, much less a top 5 that might put them into the hunt for a new quarterback. Instead, they’ll have seen enough to ride it out another year with Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick – you know, the quarterback of the future who is really no better than backup material.
I don’t know why I’m so down on the Bills, but I am – I’m guessing you are, too. I usually expect a mediocre season, between 4-7 wins and perhaps that makes me feel a bitter better than I do this season. The Bills are 3-4, not 0-7 as they go into the bye week – plenty of football left, and the schedule is supposed to get softer at the end of the season. None of this makes me feel any happier – and it shouldn’t comfort you, either.
The real reason I’m down on the Bills is that I actually drank some of the Kool Aid this year – I try so hard to avoid doing that. This season the Bills seemingly made a tremendous effort of build the defense up from nothing and to specifically counter the team that torments us – Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. On paper it looked good – Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Mark Anderson. They drafted a hotshot cornerback. They got a first round left tackle who slipped in the draft and kept some solid players on the offensive line. They had not 1 but 2 starting caliber NFL running backs – maybe even on the field at the same time.
But what looks good on paper isn’t always good on the field and the Buffalo Bills are living proof of that. The highly-touted defense that was supposed to turn Buffalo into contenders couldn’t stop Ralph Wilson if he got a decent head of steam for a guy in his 90s. The front 4 have been terrible – being absolutely manhandled by all but the weakest opponents. Having absolutely no pressure has allowed a young secondary to be completely destroyed, even by quarterbacks as lousy as Mark Sanchez. The run defense? Where do I begin? Perhaps by advising you to do whatever it takes to get the next opposing running back on your fantasy team – you’ll thank me for it.
The Buffalo defense doesn’t have a nickname (bad defenses usually don’t), but they make me think of butter. Watching team after team make extended drives and put up ungodly amounts of points is like watching the proverbial hot knife through butter. The opponent doesn’t have to even have incredible talent – some of the lower tier running backs have put up career days against the Bills, as have some suspect quarterbacks and some less than stellar offensive lines.
The problem with Buffalo’s secondary is that it’s young and some players may be in over their heads. Stephon Gilmore is a rookie who is still learning to play at NFL speed. Aaron “Potsie” Williams looks completely outclassed much of the time. Justin Rogers, also in his second year as a pro, is a 7th round pick who didn’t even get his head around to look for the ball when he was toasted by Nate Washington for the winning score on Sunday – make that play and the Bills win the game.
The linebacking corps ‘s main problem is lack of talent – Buffalo is woefully thin at the position and Nick Barnett is the only linebacker who would find himself in a starting role with most other teams. Kelvin Sheppard is not a starting NFL player at this point – he has a fine pedigree, but he is not getting it done on the field and has shown little if anything since being drafted in the third round – yet another in a string of poor draft choices that have haunted the Bills over the past 15 years.
I wish I could explain the problem with the defensive front four – I can’t. By all accounts the unit should be dominant, but they aren’t even average – average would be a tremendous step up. Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe how far this group is from where they should be. For all intents and purposes, Mario Williams has been invisible, as has Dareus. It could be that their heads or hearts aren’t in the game – Dareus suffered the loss of his brother earlier in the season and Mario has about the same level of fire in his belly that Mike Williams had. Anderson has been hurt, although he was far from being Superman before being injured. Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay have put in good effort with varying results.
What strikes me about the Bills, particularly the veterans on defense, is the starling lack of emotion these guys seem to have. The city of Buffalo and the Bills fan base live and die by the Bills – few other organizations in sports enjoy such passionate fans. Somehow, that passion has not translated to the players, odd when you consider guys in the NFL are probably very competitive people. You would think the Bills players, especially those being embarrassed out of the field on a weekly basis, would feel some sense of shame at how they have played, some sense of urgency to win, some innate sense of pride that is being crushed. Instead, we see guys who laugh and smile with opponents after the game, and who say meaningless, stupid and clichéd things to the media like “we have to execute better” or “we are making too many mistakes”. I don’t see guys who are in any pain about how they’ve been dominated – just the dead eyes of guys who know how to give a good media quote before collecting a paycheck.
It speaks volumes that the guy trying to fire up the Bills is Tashard Choice, the third string running back. Choice isn’t a big paycheck guy, isn’t a guy who will normally have an opportunity to carry the team on his back or a guy who will somehow elevate his play to become that guy. But Choice is a veteran, and a guy who doesn’t like to lose – and most importantly, a guy who is willing to speak up in the locker room. Can you imagine if Mario Williams was the guy getting his teammates fired up to play better or at least try and show some pride in being a member of the Buffalo Bills?
And so the Bills sit at 3-4 with 2 losses almost guaranteed as they take on Houston and New England. I know I’m going to be ticked when the Bills lose those games, but at least I will have been expecting it. It would be nice to see the Bills show something in the next two games, but don’t hold your breath – they don’t seem to mind being utterly destroyed on a weekly basis.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sign off and unwind with some all-out zombie killing mayhem on The Walking Dead – at least these walking dead have a passion for what they do – and they always manage to execute.