If you had told me that at the season’s midpoint the Buffalo Bills would be sitting at 5-3, I’d have thought you were crazy. In no way shape or form would I have believed that the Bills would be spoken about as a playoff team and possibly even a challenger for the AFC East crown. I had predicted a season of 5 wins for the entire season, not just its first half. If you had predicted 5-3 at this point you’re probably one of the folks who believes the Bills will win double digit games every year, something they haven’t done in 17 years and counting.
I should be ecstatic with the Bills and their prospects. I should be overjoyed with the way they have outperformed expectations and built a foundation to the McDermott/Beane era. I should be excited that not only are the Bills winning now, but they are positioned to do some major rebuilding due to an abundance of draft picks and cap space – if they look good this year, just think about what they could look like in the next year or five years. Yes sir, things are going Buffalo’s way.
There’s only one problem with all of this, and that is the Bills are still the Bills. As much as I want to vanquish the inner monster of pessimism and doubt that lives within me (and in many Bills fans), I just can’t slay that dragon – not yet. Most of you know what I’m talking about – the inner daemon that protects you from being too optimistic and having your spirit crushed year after year. It’s also the same entity that turns you into a curmudgeon like me especially in the eyes of less-jaded youngsters (and to them I say, “Get off my lawn!”).
Thursday’s loss leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Regardless of the 5-3 start. I think I’d accept it much better if it hadn’t been the Jets (a division rival I expected to beat twice, even if the Bills won only 5 games), or been such a thorough dismantling. Make no mistake about it – the Bills didn’t just barely lose on national television last week, they got dominated across the board from the get-go.
Just when I thought I had accepted the new 2017 Buffalo Bills, curmudgeonly thinking came roaring back. As I sat and watched I thought to myself, oh, yeah – that’s right – these are the Bills. This is the team that has, on multiple occasions, started with 5 wins only to crush my hopes and crumble away into nothing. This is a team where once you buy into them and start to believe they get beat by teams they should easily beat. This is a team with a good defense that suddenly doesn’t show up, a team with a middling offense that suddenly can’t keep pace with a team they should be killing.
Thursday’s debacle has me wondering whether I’ve let down my guard and get snookered again by a team that is no different than past purveyors of mediocrity. How does a team that is buying into a new system come out that flat and undisciplined? The Bills has 11 penalties for 99 yards and also turned the ball over 3 times. I know a Thursday game means a short week of practice, but the Bills looked completely unprepared to play – shocking considering how much I thought McDermott had the team in shape and not only doing their jobs, but going above and beyond to win.
The Bills came into the game with the third best rush defense on the league…and promptly allowed 194 yards rushing to the likes of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. For a team that relied on lesser known players stepping up and making an impact, nobody stood up on defense to do anything – the number of missed tackles was ridiculous. There was also no pass rush – Josh McCown was sacked only once and scored a 10 yard touchdown. The defensive line, which I thought was a position of strength for the Bills, looked terrible being manhandled by Gang Green.
Speaking of being manhandled, did you see the Bills offensive line play on Thursday? Talk about being dominated – the group gave up seven sacks of Tyrod Taylor and paved the way for a dismal 63 yards rushing (28 by running backs if you subtract Tyrod’s runs). It was shocking to see how poorly everyone on the line played. Cordy Glenn played the worst game of his career and Vlad Ducasse was so bad not only do I wonder why he hasn’t been replaced by Ryan Groy or John Miller, I wonder why he hasn’t been replaced by Colin Kaepernick.
I could go on and on about how bad Thursday’s game was, but it doesn’t matter – you saw it (at least until you turned off the TV in disgust). At 5-3 it’s not the end of the word – the sky is not falling and the end of days is not upon us (although Tom Savage is a starting NFL quarterback, so anything is possible). The question really is, what happens now?
The Bills take on arguably the hottest team in the league right now, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have won their last 6 games and average almost 28 points per game on just shy of 400 yards of offense per game. The game is in Buffalo, so that helps, although it’s not as if the southern opponent will be playing in sub-zero or blizzard conditions that favor the Bills.
Sunday’s game could be a turning point for the Bills season – continue on a march to the playoffs few saw coming, or revert back to the same old Bills who always manage to find a way to blow it. A loss to the Saints won’t be deadly from a schedule perspective, but it could tell us about whether this really is a new team or just an older model wearing a good Halloween costume. The Bills don’t even have to win to convince me I should give them more of a chance. If they get beat but put up a good game I’ll chalk it up to facing a better team. The team needs to show something – anything, otherwise I may be forced to embrace my inner curmudgeon for self-preservation and continue on with the season knowing I was tricked into letting my guard down to a team and an organization that seems to stick it to me every time.
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