Bad Now. Better Later.

Bad Now. Better Later.

I’m getting seasick.  After two horrible losses, most Bills fans were understandably upset. After one good win, the pendulum seemed to swing entirely the other way.  I actually read posts on social media that said things like “I thought this was a 2-14 team, but now [after the Vikings win] I think they could get into the Wild Card.”  After another bad loss, fans are ready to fire everyone.

I can’t keep up with the back and forth.

It’s so important to be realistic about this team and the season they’re going to have.  Sure, some things haven’t gone to plan, like Nathan Peterman being a complete tire fire and trading AJ McCarron forcing Josh Allen to start before he was ready.  (More on this later.)  Guys like Kelvin Benjamin are clearly not interested in playing hard and other players are quitting at halftime.  Although it’s less than ideal, all of this is okay.

 This team was never predicted to be good.  They have huge deficiencies at key positions, not the least of which is a decimated offensive line that no one could’ve predicted.  I hear that the team didn’t do enough to fix the offensive line, but they tried.  They brought in Russell Bodine this offseason along with a few other free agents as stop gaps.  They can’t get their best offensive player in LeSean McCoy going with any consistency.  In fact, it appears they can’t even get him the ball.

This is all okay because this is the process.  This is the process we signed on for last year.  The team just struck gold and squeaked into the playoffs.  This is 100% the rebuild that One Bills Drive had in mind when McBeane took over.

The Bills have an unbelievable amount of cap space this offseason.  They have plenty of draft picks.  They’ll also have a second year QB with 14 games of NFL experience.

sack.JPG

This brings me to the crux of my opinion today.  It’s a good idea to have Allen playing now.

I realize Allen could be learning on the sidelines versus being sacked and picked off on the field.  As long as he’s committed to learning from his mistakes instead of being derailed by them, this is great for his development.  There are no expectations for this year for fans like me.  Even if they never win another game all year, as long as Allen is developing positively this season is a success.  The Bills can build around Allen this offseason and use next season to gauge is he’s the franchise QB going forward or not.

 If the narrative on Allen is that he had the highest ceiling, but needed the most work, is true, then let’s have him shake out the cobwebs this year while the team isn’t ready to win anyway.  Let me phrase it this way: Would you rather go through the growing pains now or next season when the team has more talent and is, in theory, more ready to win?  If Allen needed time to grow and develop regardless, let’s get him the real time reps now so there’s a better chance he’s learned what he needs to before Week 1 next season.

 Temper your expectations.  A bad loss doesn’t mean this team is doomed and it’s time to fire the front office.  A nice win doesn’t make this a competitive team for years to come.  As much as we hate to read this, it’s going to take time to develop Allen and be a perennial competitor.  It’s going to take time to build the team that McBeane has in mind.

Disclaimer: If by the end of next season Allen hasn’t developed and they’re still starving for talent, let’s push the panic button together.

The power of one

The power of one

THE POWER OF ONE

 

How much does yesterday’s game mean to the future of Allen and the Bills?

The Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen played one outstanding game yesterday in Minnesota.

What word stands out to you in that sentence?  Is it, “outstanding” or, “one?”

Call me a cynic, a pessimist or some other derogatory term, but I’m choosing to focus on the word, “one.” The Bills and their rookie quarterback still have a ton to prove after playing just one good game.

How many times have we seen a shiny new QB look good and hang all of our hopes and dreams on his shoulders, only to be let down? Remember when Kyle Orton took over for EJ? Remember Tyrod’s throw to Harvin week 1 against the Colts? Remember Losman’s first game against Houston? Remember Trent Edwards? I realize Allen did a lot of things really well, including hurdling a 6’5” linebacker en route to a crucial first down. He read the field well. He threw the ball accurately. If not for some drops from his targets, his numbers would have been incredible.

The defense was very disruptive. They found the magic of forced turnovers that they had so-often harnessed last year when they beat good teams like Atlanta. They nearly shut out a great offense on the road in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.

I’m not here to discredit anything that Allen did or anything that the Bills did yesterday. I’m merely asking the question, “Can they sustain this?”

I can’t forget how miserable they looked from top to bottom as a team for two straight weeks. I also can’t forget that Allen is a rookie and will have his ups and downs. I’m not sold that Allen is ready to be the franchise QB for this team for the next 15 years. I’m not signing on the dotted line to say all this team’s problems are behind them. They still severely lack talent at many positions and they’re still only 1-2 in the standings.

It seems most Bills fans – at least the ones I’ve talked to on social media – are completely buying in to the idea that the Bills will be good because they beat a top defense and a top team convincingly. It’s. One. Game.

Completing 31/44, with 480 yards, 6 TD and 1 INT…these are the numbers from Matt Flynn’s playoff game against the Lions in 2011. Everyone was ready to crown him the next Aaron Rodgers because of that crazy stat line. It was only one game, though. What has he done since then? He’s been handsomely paid to lose job after job (Seattle paid him big money only to have him lose the starting job to Russell Wilson in camp in 2012) and is currently out of the league.

I’m not saying that Josh Allen will collapse or that this might not be a turning point for the Bills, I’m merely saying I’m not ready to hand Allen the key to the city and bet the over on the Bills season win total.

Maybe you’re already a believer. Maybe I’ll be late to the party when Allen plays near perfect football all season long. Maybe the Bills somehow go on a Cinderella run again and make the playoffs, in which case I’ll deserve all of the people telling me, “I told you so!”

I won’t be convinced until I see sustained success. That doesn’t mean they have to win every game. It doesn’t mean that Allen can’t make any mistakes. I’m just not willing to make a true evaluation until the end of next season. This team needs another offseason and draft to finish building an NFL caliber offense.

This also means I won’t give up on Beane, McDermott and Allen if the rest of this season goes south. It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate Allen and this team with the current roster and schedule. This is such a small sample size, so I’m unwilling to snap to judgment either way.

Here’s hoping that our beloved Bills are on a track to continuous, sustainable success. We know that no one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills…and no one hurdles linebackers like Josh Allen.

Week Two: Buffalo makes better, bad

Week Two: Buffalo makes better, bad

Read the article below and then check out this week’s podcast!


The Josh Allen era came in like a lamb on Sunday, with the Bills dropping a 31-20 decision to the Southern California city to be named later Chargers. It felt like a classic game for both teams. The Bills, despite only losing by 11, never really felt like they had a legitimate chance at winning this game after the Charges ran roughsod through their defense in the first half. The Chargers, a trendy Super Bowl pick, spent the whole second half playing down to their competition. Ultimately, the top level offensive talent that LA possesses turned out to be enough to build a lead that Buffalo's debuting signal caller was not able to surmount

For Bills fans, the narrative going into the game revolved around what Allen would do in his first start. The Bills staff, alongside a lot of draft experts and "draft experts," called Allen a project QB. In layman's terms, no one thought he was the kind of quarterback you should be planning on starting week 2 of his first season unless the sky has begun to rain meatballs and cave in Chicken Little style. After another Peterman disaster in the wake of trading away the only quarterback on the roster with experience, it may have been the best choice. But it was a choice caused by a chain reaction of baffling personnel decisions. More about those in a bit.

A rough start

Allen was okay. He wasn't great, but unlike Week One, it felt like there were flashes of arm talent and ability that could jump start an offense. They were mixed in with poor decisions and bad reads of defenses that are completely inevitable at this point in time for most, if not any rookie QB. We did get to see a couple flashes of the rocket arm, most notably on a deep bomb to Zay Jones that he desperately tried to drop, but hauled in for a 57 yard catch. The pass was not only the second longest in air throw (64 yards) documented since they started recording that statistic, but also longer than the sum of total yards on the drive, as the Bills went backwards and had to settle for a field goal.

With a rookie QB, a group of receivers that had the #3 receiver cut late in the week, an offensive line that has been much maligned, and an injured LeSean McCoy, this offense looks to be a roller coaster shooting out of the blocks for a season of ups and downs. I believe we'll see flashes of great play from this bunch. This doesn't feel to me, after the second half yesterday, like the 0-16 Lions or Browns teams. Despite my pessimism I do believe there are wins to be had. After the Cardinals barely crossed midfield yesterday, I'm not even convinced the Bills are the worst team in the league right now. What they are is a team lacking talent characteristic of a team tat wants to be taken seriously as a contender.

It’s personnel

Trusting the process seems harder and harder with each passing glance at the depth chart. How does this team determine the best course of action with their draft assets is to trade up and draft Allen? If it wasn't for Denver wanting Chubb, we would have given up more. Then, we bring in a veteran QB to replace the veteran QB that half the fanbase hated for not throwing for 300 yards (which, as an aside, Allen did not do). We then traded that guy.

We got rid of Tyrod Taylor so we could run *checks notes* a slew of designed quarterback runs in the second half.

We let Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods go because they're not worth the money. They got replaced by Benjamin and Jones (drops everything), signed Kerley (cut), and traded for Coleman (cut, cut, and cut).

We traded Ronald Darby and let EJ Gaines walk. They get replaced by Phillip Gaines - a walking blown coverage - and Vontae Davis, who literally quit in the middle of the game, saw what he was in for, and retired. 

Do I think less of Vontae Davis because he retired at halftime? A bit, yeah. I think we all like to believe that the players who suit up for our teams are doing their best for the city and the organization they represent. The Bills are a laughing stock today because of Davis's actions. 

Spitting in the wind

As bad as losing a started to a broken spirit, torn psyche, and a concussion of the will to carry on - the feeling that it gives me about how the roster is being built, and the lip service that is always given to the character that the team searches for in players, is far worse. The team that I would imagine didn't offer anything for occasional drug enthusiast Josh Gordon, despite his immense talent, looked at Jeremy Kerley in the offseason and saw a guy who they felt could contribute to this team. They sat down with Vontae Davis and saw a man ready to begin his career anew. They brought in Anquan Boldin last season and saw a veteran receiver ready to teach a new generation of Bill. The character these guys had totaled one and a half games combined for people penciled in as starters.

What does it mean to be a high character guy? Because I'm not seeing it from a lot of the recent Bills additions.

What Beane and McDermott have done is create a question - are the Bills tanking, or is their ability to build a roster not what they claim it to be?

Silver-plated linings

All that being said, there was a lot of positives to draw from the game, especially in the second half. Allen got his first career touchdown pass in a tight window to Benjamin. Benjamin, much maligned after Week One (some warranted, some not so much), made a tough catch in the area he will be relied on to make plays. The offensive line gave Allen the most time to throw per dropback of any quarterback thus far this season.

The defense felt like they took the Vontae Davis news personally and held the Chargers to 3 second half points. The pass rush especially felt like it came to prove a point coming out of the locker room. Lorenzo Alexander, one of the true leaders of this team, had an impact second half. Jerry Hughes had an elite rusher level sack. Hughes can be frustrating as a fan because you watch him maul a guy one play, and then line up in the neutral zone to wipe out a huge stop the next.

I feel like the team is in a better spot - at least mentally - than they were after Baltimore. Injuries and depth are going to be an issue, as this team wasn't deep to begin with. With McCoy likely to see a little less work if he does play, it will fall on Ivory and Murphy to try and take some of the pressure off Allen. The secondary is a MASH unit without Davis, and both Johnson and Gaines dealing with injuries. McDemott may just have to spam engage eight on a few plays due to lack of other options.

We leave Week Two with more questions than answers, with two tough road games looming ahead. We're going to learn a lot about this team by the time September is done. 

Some Quick hitters

Bills MVP: Chris Ivory got to score the first touchdown of the season in what will assuredly be a post season trivia question. He did also have a nice 30 yard catch and run in garbage time

Chargers MVP: A lot of teams are going to regret passing on Derwin James. He was absolutely everywhere yesterday, including a sack before Allen could fake a handoff on a play-action pass.

Rule of the Day: Apparently, muffing a punt is only a fumble when recovered in the field of play, and a touchback when recovered by a teammate in the endzone. I did not know this. I feel like basically no one on the field knew this either, minus the official. Thankful to hear the news today the Taiwan Jones did not suffer anything worse than the gash on his forehead.

Former Bill of the Week: Sammy Watkins went for 100 recieving yards and the Chiefs offense poured it on in Pittsburgh. Also, Ryan Fitzpatrick is living his best life

Future Bill of the Week: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. Coming off a six interception season, Williams is part of a Tigers defense that has shot up into the top ten with a pair of big early season wins. He would pair nicely across the field from former Bayou Bengal Tre White.

Beer I drank to Cope of the Week: Ballast Point's Dead Ringer is a personal favorite Fall beer for those games between the time when it's 90 and the time it's snowing, which is roughly one Bills home game

Next Opponent: The Bills open as 17 point underdogs at Minnesota, a great team that blew a winnable game, and would like nothing more than to prove a point. This is the largest opening line since the pre-Bortles Jaguars were once 26.5 point underdogs at Denver

The Buffalo Bills Think You're Dumb

The Buffalo Bills Think You're Dumb

 ** photo courtesy of Heather Prusak - WGRZ **

** photo courtesy of Heather Prusak - WGRZ **

The Buffalo Bills think you are dumb.

            Head Coach Sean McDermott thinks you are dumb. After yet another dud of a performance by Nathan Peterman at quarterback (combined with a complete team failure to execute in any aspect of the game during the 47-3 loss at Baltimore), he told media types he needed to check the tape before deciding on who should start Week 2. Then, during his press conference in announcing rookie Josh Allen starter (more on that later), he refused to answer anything. “I don’t feel a need, honestly, to elaborate,” said McDermott on Wednesday. Great. This is the same presser where he said starting Peterman Week 1 “was the right move and I’ll take that to my grave.” What changed? One game performance dug up your coffin?

            General Manager Brandon Beane thinks you are dumb. He was part of the brain trust that has taken a playoff team and neglected to make any sort of necessary adjustments. He lost center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito to retirements, traded tackle Cordy Glenn, and his major signing for the offensive line, Russell Bodine, is the current backup center. He sent a ridiculous amount of draft capital to move up five spots, and then took the rawest of the top five quarterbacks available in Allen. This was followed up with another move up in the draft, eliminating any surplus Buffalo garnered in the previous draft. Then AJ McCarron, the free agent quarterback who appeared to be the smart choice to start based on experience, was shipped off for a fifth round pick to Oakland. Now the Bills, saddled with the worst quarterbacks in the NFL before the McCarron deal, now will be forced to ping pong between two inexperienced options, neither ready for prime time.

            Owners Terry and Kim Pegula think you are dumb. You got your playoff appearance ok? So shut up. That’s what you wanted, right? And after unceremoniously removing Tyrod Taylor from the team, Terry appeared to be a driving force in taking Josh Allen, entranced by the large measurables and strong arm (please ignore the inaccuracy and inability to garner even a second team All-Mountain West slot). The reign of the Pegulas with the Bills so far has been schizophrenic, with quick burnouts on coaches and management, an insular attitude with only public relation-approved material being presented to the public, and indications that the public facing side does not match what goes on behind the scenes. The Bills are their biggest toy, so they can do whatever, but so far the Pegulas have barely garnered the respect paid to them by so many.

            And we get back to where we started. The Buffalo Bills think you are dumb. Its time to stop blindly declaring Super Bowl and assuming 300 yards passing is a magic elixir for wins. The team is a complete disaster and there’s very little reason to have hope. The hope against the Los Angeles Chargers is to stay competitive. The fear is that Allen is being thrust into a spot he is not ready for and his development could be destroyed. 

            On Sunday at New Era Field, remember it is indeed ok to boo. After all, the Bills brass thinks you are too dumb to do so.

Weak 1 - Why do we do this to ourselves?

Weak 1 - Why do we do this to ourselves?

The first NFL Sunday is something football fans around the world await with bated breath. We suffer through the preseason, the injuries, the rumors, the what-ifs and predictions, waiting for the kickoff to come and meaningful football to arrive. We grab our beers, fire up the grills, stock up on folding tables, dig our Travis Henry jerseys out of the closet, and tell ourselves, "This year could be our year."

I don't know how to say this, but I don't think this is the Bills' year.

The best 53 man roster that the Buffalo Bills could assemble walked onto the field in Baltimore on Sunday and got absolutely embarrassed to the tune of a 47-3 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens. As bad as that result looks, it was not remotely as close as that score indicates. Joe Flacco had Elite truthers everywhere rejoicing, watching their golden boy from Delaware shred the Bills defense like cheese at a restaurant. And by the time he said, "That's good," and looked up from his soda, it was 40-0. 

I joined the 716 Sports Podcast three years ago, writing these columns on and off since then. Usually, when I sit down to put words to keyboard, I have a few launching points, because typically when a professional team loses a game, you can look at one or two areas that really set them back. The problem with that this week, is that everything was awful. Out of the 53 rostered players, maybe 3-5 showed up. The punter was one of them. I never want to notice the punter being good.

Offense

The Bills have hit another in a series of new lows at the quarterback position with their insistence that Nathan Peterman has the talent to be a professional quarterback. He is now 0-2 – not just in record, but in his attempts to finish a game when he starts. There are other factors that did contribute, and we'll get there, but if you watched the throws that Peterman did get off - man oh man were they ever off. Two more interceptions to add to his ledger, one which he airmailed to a safety who was not covering anyone at all, and one that Kelvin Benjamin got outmuscled on (and how do you outmuscle tall Eddie Lacy is beyond me). The rest were behind, in front, below, and above. Everywhere but in the window they were designed to be in. Somehow he left yesterday's game with a worse passer rating (an immaculate 0.0) than his infamous five pick game from last year.


I don't know why we're surprised. This is a man who couldn't stand out enough to take the job at Tennessee. Tennessee has been arguably to worst managed college program over the last ten years. They gave so many unworthy people chances that Alvin Kamara was a relative unknown before the Saints showed he's an elite talent. And still, Peterman couldn't hack it. If Pitt doesn't beat Clemson his senior year and shoots his name into the discussion, he's as much of a keyboard warrior as I am.

The Peterman experiment is dead on arrival. They may go to him again at points this season - either because they don't see it that way or because Josh Allen goes in and gets torn limb from limb while the offensive line circles up for their Sunday book club - but it's true. There's nothing you can look to that shows he has the arm talent or playmaking ability to turn this around. McDermott will say that he needs to evaluate the game tape more (which is baffling by the by) and that he's impressed with Nate's ‘mental toughness,’ but mental toughness by itself is worth absolutely nothing. Mental toughness means something when you're Aaron Rodgers playing hurt on Sunday night, because it's paired with generational talent. Being mentally tough when you have a pool noodle attached to your shoulder isn't worth a damn. My grandma is mentally tough. It doesn't make her qualified to start.

It is fascinating that a professional football organization can miss on so many quarterback prospects in a row, spanning multiple owners, general managers, coaches, etc. It feels like Marv Levy found a genie in the late 80s, and asked him for four Superbowls in exchange for never having a talented QB once Kelly retired. The evil genie, with a twinkle in his eye, said "Sure Marv, you can go to four straight Super Bowls." And so it was written. This curse can end when the quarterbacks leave Buffalo. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just put up 400 plus and 5 TDs on the Saints. Nothing like flipping away from the Bills game and seeing that.

I don't know how to say this, but I don't think this is the Bills' year.

Does this mean it's time to hand the reigns over to Josh Allen, the shorts wearing rocket-armed Wyoming product? Yes. It's just up to Beane and McDermott to get together and admit it. He will have growing pains, and it will be rough. The season will feel long. But growing with Allen is better than stagnating with Peterman. 

The running game gets a bit of a pass because they never had a chance. Everyone knows LeSean McCoy is the most talented man on the offense. Until there's a threat of a passing game, it's eight man boxes all the way down the next 16 weeks. Marcus Murphy looks to have some promise, and it will be interesting to see what the share of touches will be between he and Chris Ivory as the season carries on. Also, I found it amusing that, when asked about his running back depth on the pregame show, McDermott said "Don't forget about Pat DiMarco." DiMarco was on the field for one play on Sunday. He's an offensive captain. These are symptoms of a larger disease.

The receivers are a complete joke. Kelvin Benjamin put in less effort on the field than I did into this sentence. It felt like he was just trying to post up every defensive back, and kept forgetting Cam wasn't there slinging the ball to him anymore. Remember the time he tried to blame Cam for his poor play? What a jabroni. Jones and Kerley may not be completely lost causes, but it's hard to make open field moves when the ball is five yards behind you. Clay continues to be a non factor.

The lack of receiving threats makes the quarterback question seem hollow. Even if Allen goes out there and slings it around, will his good decisions and throws be rewarded with good catches and efforts? Will there be players committing to and getting open when he unleashes that arm 50 yards downfield? Daboll can't rely on 25 swing passes to Shady if he wants to win games this season.

 Defense

The defense doesn't get a free pass either. The secondary, which many would say was the strongest point of this team last year, got shredded for a half by gummi bear enthusiast Joe Flacco and his island of misfit receviers. The day didn't get a good start when it was revealed that new starter Vontae Davis was not active for the game. As good as Tre White is, he can't cover both sides of the field, and Phillip Gaines was not great. Linebackers and safeties couldn't shut down the tight ends, play-calling was odd, and Flacco had one of his easier professional days.

The run defense was solid if nothing else. For as many shots as the Ravens got to take running the clock down, they never really got gashed badly. The scores they allowed on the ground were due to sheer force and numbers

This season feels like it's already time to say "There's always next year (tm)," dust off a bottle of beer from the cellar, and find a love for a good novel. But I'll be back in my place by the TV Sunday, as I know many of you will as well. Maybe it will get better. Maybe we just like watching disasters. Maybe we hate ourselves. Maybe it's all of them

Some Quick hitters

Bils MVP: Corey Bojorquez. The newest Bill didn't make things any worse for the defense as he did his job in some wet conditions. He also held for the only Bills score of the day, as the Bills were the only team to play Sunday and not score a touchdown

Ravens MVP: Maxx Williams, for leading the league in consecutive X's per first name

Stat of the Day: The Ravens held a team without a first down in the first half for the first time in team history, a feat they didn't even accomplish when they had the best defense in the NFL in the early 2000s, in a division where they play Cleveland twice a year 

Former Bill of the Week: Ryan Fitzpatrick is such a conundrum. Once a year he puts up a game like he did Sunday (400+ yards and 5 TDs) before he goes back to having the arm talent of a Harvard vaedictorian

Future Bill of the Week: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. Turns out Herm Edwards going back to coaching isn't as bad as we thought. Harry has looked great so far this season, showcasing great route running and excellent hands, something the Bills lack in spades.

Next Opponent: The Los Angeles Chargers of San Diego. Joey Bosa is hurt maybe. Other than that, the Chargers will be out for blood after getting carved by Bills "What if" Patrick Mahomes. This does not look good on paper



HOW TO FUND A NEW STADIUM

HOW TO FUND A NEW STADIUM

So…just when are the Buffalo Bills going to be getting that downtown stadium anyway? Once Terry and Kim Pegula won the bidding process from the team in September 2014, it has seemed inevitable that the eventual conclusion would be a sparkling new downtown football stadium after a near half-century at New Ralph Rich Wilson Era Field Stadium in Orchard Park. Given the success of attractions like HarborCenter, Canalside, Seneca Buffalo Creek, and others this decade, the move downtown seems more logical. 

But recently, that dream has had its share of cold water thrown on it. Kim Pegula, in a May 2018 interview, indicated once again there is no rush to begin the process of a new stadium. But the reality is that in the next five to ten years, Buffalo will have a new football stadium. The problem lies in what to do with the thing. With the lack of desire to increase ticket prices and avoid personal seat licenses, it stands to reason this stadium will need to be occupied frequently and used as a magnet to attract many outsiders to the city.

An actual Winter Classic that’s…ya know…a real home game instead of one in New York City. And the possibilities keep going. 

Taking the geography and infrastructure challenges involved, there are many opportunities to make a new downtown football stadium into a true success and not just an underutilized behemoth. Assuming a stadium with a retractable roof would be built downtown, what follows is probably more of a wish list than a realistic proposal…but why not dream big?

1. The Buffalo Bills should play there. Hell, make them play ten games instead of eight every single year! We’ve now concluded the obvious options.

2. Soccer USA: Most countries have a centralized stadium that the national team utilizes for international matchups. In the United States, we lack that current structure. Seattle has a passionate fan culture, as does Portland and Kansas City, amongst others. Columbus holds the legacy of “Dos A Cero” against Mexico. But oftentimes in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles and Houston, the US Men’s National Team is the rooting underdog against Mexico, Costa Rica and other regional rivals. Insert the new Buffalo downtown stadium. A tricky spot to travel to for international foes would create a natural home field advantage, USMNT supporter groups would be able to have the centralized home they’ve needed for years, and US soccer fans could finally have their Wembley or Azteca. The Pegulas should speak with the United States Soccer Federation and partner in order to help offset costs and customize the true American soccer facility our country needs.

3. MLS: A byproduct of the previously mentioned US Soccer partnership, Buffalo would be a logical landing spot for the league. Five teams (Atlanta United FC, Seattle Sounders, New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC) currently share their facility with an NFL or CFL team. As the league continues to expand, with new teams scheduled to land in Nashville, Miami and Cincinnati in the next few years, why wouldn’t Buffalo be interested in attracting new fans downtown 17 times a year, plus extra Cup competitions.

4. Grey Cup: So…this is probably a reach, but initial research indicates a city doesn’t necessarily have to be in Canada to host Canada’s football championship, so let’s go with it. Fans of Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal would much rather look at another facility on the eastern half of the continent rather than a trip to Edmonton or Vancouver. Hosting the CFL’s Super Bowl would also potentially show NFL officials that maybe that Super Bowl played in Western New York could really happen.

5. College Football. Neutral site kickoff games have become part of the fabric of college football again in the last decade, after years in decline. Why wouldn’t a Labor Day matchup between Syracuse and Penn State be a big draw in this area with the Pegula influence and all those Syracuse alums that pop up every March? Besides the big matchup, the Buffalo Bulls could draw a big-name opponent into a two-for-one series with UB hosting downtown, the MAC Championship could finally move out of Detroit, and why not have a lower-level bowl game between the ACC and Big Ten?

6. College Basketball: Buffalo has routinely scored high marks in attendance and execution for its hosting of the NCAA Tournament six times in the current millennium. Why not for the granddaddy of them all, the Final Four? A stadium designed with basketball in mind would allow for a facility to break up the monotony that currently exists in host cities (from 2000-2022, just nine cities will host). An opportunity exists to take advantage and build a facility that is conscious of all sports, even when that chance may only exist once a decade, such as this.

7. Wrestlemania: Another once a decade shot, as Wrestlemania gone to the same 25,000+ seat facilities four times in 34 years (Toronto, Orlando, New Orleans… New York [East Rutherford] will join them with Wrestlemania 35 in 2019). A new stadium, given the location to the extremely valuable foreign fanbase for shows, would be a magnet for many to come to the Queen City for the biggest show of the year.

8. High School Playoffs: For basically every sport. We all know that the Carrier Dome in Syracuse hosts the high school football championships, but the facility is brutally dated. Not only could a facility of NFL quality in the state change the game for football, but it is not a stretch to assume lacrosse, soccer and field hockey could come aboard too.

A refresh of the downtown area with a stadium as a focal point would change the dynamics of the entire region.

Honestly, this list is just the start, and mostly focused on adding new events to the area. Concerts that would go to New Era Field today would just shift north a few miles (or a couple dozen miles west from Darien Lake). An actual Winter Classic that’s…ya know…a real home game instead of one in New York City. And the possibilities keep going. 

We all know Buffalo is different. It’s small on the relative scale, and the city may need some help to build the facility. But a downtown stadium would be a help to our community. A refresh of the downtown area with a stadium as a focal point would change the dynamics of the entire region. It does mean that much, and for those with any concerns about the viability of the franchise, this would squelch those worries.

It’s time Buffalo dreams big and the city matches what it is in our minds. The Bills are the uniting thread that ties the city together. Build that stadium and invite everyone to reap the benefits.

Trying to process

Trying to process

It's been a long 365 days for fans of the Buffalo Bills. Since the organization obtained general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Shaun McDermott, we've been asked to trust the process; and for the most part, we have. We trusted the process when Tyrod was benched and Peterman threw five interceptions against San Diego. We trusted the process when the team seemed to fall apart after the first few scripted drives. We've trusted the process through snowstorms and, of course, the streak breaking playoff berth.

Here we are again, being asked to trust the process. This is an ask of biblical proportions. We're all familiar with Job's trials and tribulations, but to be honest, they pale in comparison to Buffalo's draft night jostling, sending two second round picks to Tampa to move to seventh in the draft for JOSH...allen. 

If you are new to the podcast, we are a passionate bunch. And with that in mind, we have our knee-jerk reactions to this...process...

Steve Bermel: "I know a lot of people in relationships who date someone and hope they'll be something that they're not. It seldom works. You're in it because of what you hope for rather than what you have. The Bills are hoping for something that isn't yet there. If their hope comes true? Wonderful! Brilliant! If not, this has sloppy breakup all over it. 

Bill Kenney: "One of the great revolutions in recent years is trusting the statistics in conjunction with, or over, what the human eye sees. We are not as smart or perceptive as we think we are. Which brings us to the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Buffalo Bills taking Josh Allen - a quarterback lacking any convincing statistical profile that mimics one which has been successful in the NFL. But McBeane got us to the playoff, I guess. And so we once again are blindly forced to #TrustTheProfile."

Jeff Boyd: "Being a young Bills fan - too young to remember the glory days - is about hope in the future and trust in the process. We want to believe that what we are on the cusp of an offensive renaissance. We are waiting on the new face to lead us forward into a new era of greatness. After this year's first pick, I find myself unsure instead of optimistic; second guessing instead of cheering. I want to be wrong, but I find myself feeling round one de ja vu."

Erik Wollschlager: "This feels very much like two men who are in their second year of managing/coaching an NFL team and want to prove to the world that they know something no one else does. We've seen this before. I am sick of seeing this. Don't prove to me that you can identify sleepers. Find me the players that will help my team win, or stop wasting my time."

Justen Ehrig: "Being a Bills fan is like continuously going to a shitty restaurant that your friend owns. You keep going back because you’re loyal and you think/hope your buddy is going to figure it out. But he doesn’t and you just keep getting the same shitty food. What the FUCK just happened?!

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The Picture

The Picture

The Picture will be the lasting image.

In the afterglow of the Buffalo Bills breaking a nearly two decade long streak of failure, of finally making the playoffs since the last season of the previous millennium, two big burly boys are flexing shirtless in the visitors locker room at Hard Rock Stadium. Under the words “Not this team right?!?!,” Eric Wood, with an arm wrapped around fellow veteran Kyle Williams, sent the tweet that ended up defining the mood of an entire fan base.

Not this team, right? Wrong. And Eric Wood was a big part of that.

Only one Bill played one hundred percent of the snaps on either side of the ball in 2017, and that was Wood. He was graded the number 16 center in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, but occasionally its ok to ignore the rankings.

The man from Louisville was drafted to be a rock in the middle of an ever-shifting offensive line, and after injury plagued seasons at the beginning of his career, Wood played in all 16 games in four of last five seasons.

It’s difficult to write much more about Wood until we get final word. After news broke that he will be addressing the future of his career on January 29th in a tweet after his name was identified as the injured Buffalo player, it appears that everything is set. Most fans never get to appreciate the intricacies of offensive line play, and the biggest compliment the casual observer can pay is rarely, if ever, does a player’s last name and an expletive slip from our lips on a Sunday afternoon. Over the past nine years, this was the case with the redheaded center.

As the 2018 season comes calling, the Buffalo Bills will be entering it without their most tenured offensive player. Since 2009, Wood has been a pillar not just on the field, but also in the community. Any media or charitable request featuring the Bills seemed to have him associated with it. So for the man to continue in life, he has to say goodbye to the game.

 Photo courtest of @ewood70

Photo courtest of @ewood70

 Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Cousins Are Cool -- But Just One Is Great

Cousins Are Cool -- But Just One Is Great

GIMME COUSINS.

Pay Kirk Cousins lots of money. 

 Want to be a Buffalo Bill, Kurt? Er, umm...Kirk?  Wesley Hitt | Getty Images

Want to be a Buffalo Bill, Kurt? Er, umm...Kirk?

Wesley Hitt | Getty Images

Yes, Cousins will demand a pretty penny if, indeed, the Redskins decide to move on from him and allow him to become a free agent. Here’s why One Bills Drive should buck up and pay the man:

QBs are expensive

If you have a good quarterback, whether you drafted him, traded for him or acquired him via free agency, at some point you’re going to have to pay them a lot of money. Middle of the road guys are making $20-$25M a year. Guys who sling the ball all over are making almost $30M a year. 

I know this team likes to save money & find talent amongst street free agents and draft picks, but if you’re going to spend up on one position, quarterback should be it. 

This team is also significantly less cash strapped in two years when lots of expensive contracts and dead money disappear. 

You know exactly what you’re getting

Kirk Cousins is not the best quarterback in the NFL, but he has been able to throw for 4,000 yards with an inconsistent backfield and targets like Jamison Crowder. He’s an above average quarterback who certainly will get this team out of the basement when it comes to passing stats. 

Drafting a QB is the great unknown. A roll of the dice. There’s a high chance of a drafted signal caller not working out. 

Keep your draft picks

If the Bills pay Cousins in free agency, they won’t need some extravagant package of assets to move up and get a shiny target. Instead, they get to draft position players like DT, OL and WR. Each of those positions is significantly less likely to be a bust than a quarterback. (Those positions are also all needs the Bills have currently.) You also get to spend all your currency as you have it versus mortgaging your future or even turning two first round picks into one. 

You also don’t make another team better by giving them more currency to draft with. 

Let’s be real, moving into the top 10 will cost at least three picks, right?  Awfully pricey for an unknown asset. 

There are plenty of options at the Bills quarterback position going forward, but signing a quality free agent looks pretty appealing when you look at it this way. 

** Title photo courtesy of, http://httr4life.com ** THANKS!


Death By Proxy

Death By Proxy

 Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Photo courtesy of NFL.com

On November 15th, Sean McDermott sledgehammered the existing wedge in the Buffalo Bills fan base by announcing that rookie Nathan Peterman would replace Tyrod Taylor as starting quarterback for the massive road game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. For the biggest game of the season, yet another one perilously close to breaking hearts of #BillsMafia, the Bills will have a signal caller seeing his first significant action of his career.

Few shrugged at this decision and said Well, let’s wait and see. Either you loved the boldness and think Buffalo had to bring in Peterman to win now and preserve a playoff spot, or you think that benching Taylor will result in the death of the season and continue the longest postseason draught of the big four sports leagues in North America.

On November 13th, not 36 hours before the decision came down, we at 716 Sports Podcast recorded a show that featured a contentious debate. Of the five in the room, three felt Peterman should come in, and two of us felt Taylor should remain the starter. I defended Taylor, and in the time since have come to realize what it is that made T-Mobile so attractive for me.

 photo courtesy of DemocratAndChronicle.com

photo courtesy of DemocratAndChronicle.com

We’ve all seen the stats for and against Tyrod Taylor. He protects the ball from turnovers, but he held on to the ball too long, but he was a rushing threat, but he couldn’t lead teams coming from behind, but he extended plays, but he didn’t throw to certain positions well, but…whatever you want to pull out, you would ignore the other side, because that’s human nature.

The reason I loved Tyrod Taylor as Buffalo Bills starting quarterback was because he was unconventional and tried to be successful unconventionally. In Taylor, the Bills took a chance on a shorter thrower who wouldn’t just stand in the pocket and take a sack or throw it away. He looked different in stature and in style.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I always am overanalyzing situations and thinking, Is this how most people do this or no? There was a comfort in seeing Tyrod in 2015, the least known of the three quarterbacks in the preseason race (EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones being the others) win the job and just be different out there. It often wasn’t pretty, but it happened. Paired with LeSean McCoy, Taylor and Shady made a formidable duo from the backfield, and for some reason, it clicked.

Then, in the span of two games, everything changed. In losses to the Jets and Saints, Taylor fell out of favor with the coaches, fan frustrations grew, and 13 days after having a chance to move to 6-2 and closer to that elusive playoff spot, the Bills career of the most unique quarterbacking weapon in Western New York in a generation is over.

Will Tyrod Taylor play again in Buffalo? Maybe, but the relationship is severed. The Bills have conformed, for better or worse, to the traditional norms of the quarterback position. Nathan Peterman could throw for 300 yards or 55 yards, and Team Peterman will be happy to explain away whatever because he is comfortable. Tyrod challenged everyone on what a successful quarterback could be. He ultimately lost that challenge, and now, we root as one for the local football team to finally deliver on the promise of football into January.

Thanks for the memories, Tyrod Taylor, from all of us square pegs in round holes.

Bills drop a Tyrod, but the Process rolls on with Peterman

Bills drop a Tyrod, but the Process rolls on with Peterman

These sneaky Bills. 

The Bills surprised everyone this morning with the news that Nathan Peterman will be the starting quarterback over Tyrod Taylor on Sunday in Los Angeles. This was shocking because Sean McDermott insisted on both Sunday and Monday at his press conferences that Tyrod would be the starting quarterback going forward. 

How should fans feel about the decision? Tyrod has underperformed, to say the least. Through 56 minutes of NFL football on Sunday, Taylor managed just 56 yards, 3 points & an interception. It's the second time this year he only helped the offense score 3 points (Carolina, the 9-3 loss where he threw for only 125 yards.)

Opposing teams have begun to strategize his ineptitude, saying, "We're going to make Tyrod Taylor play quarterback." That's never a compliment to a QB's play. It implies that you struggle to throw the ball consistently. It means that as long as they can stop the run and force you to throw, they think they can beat you. That has happened in the losses to Cincinnati, Carolina and New Orleans. In the Jets loss, the offensive line's inability to block would've made it difficult for any quarterback to have success. 

Is Tyrod a bad quarterback? No. But what makes Tyrod a good quarterback? Is it his ability to lead his team to wins? He's hovering right around .500 for his career. Is it his ability to throw the ball all over the yard? Far from it; he averages 152.7 yards per game. Before the Tampa Bay win, Tyrod had never won a game when he was forced to throw the ball more than 30 times: he was 0-11. It isn’t his ability to extend plays and run the ball, either; teams have figured out how to stop him from breaking the pocket and it's nearly eliminated his ability to scramble. 

But he protects the ball, right? He's thrown 10 TDs and just 3 INTs. That's like saying a running back is good because they don't fumble. Not fumbling is important, but if you only average 1.5 yards per carry, you're not a good running back at any level. 

Tyrod Taylor's best feature has been to extend plays with his feet and aid the offense in their rushing attack, but neither of those things have added up to too many big plays this year. How many times does Taylor run or throw for only 5 yards after extending a play? Most NFL QBs can find a receiver 50 yards downfield who has gotten open with all the time they were bought. 

Fans have said that Peterman isn't ready to be a starter. How does anyone know? We've seen him play four minutes of quarterback in a regular season NFL game and he threw for 79 yards and a touchdown. He outperformed Taylor in every statistical aspect in just four minutes. Although that isn't a good indicator of what Peterman is, it doesn't mean the Bills don't need to find out. The coaches must think he's ready to play, and their opinion is a lot more important than any fan's. 

Peterman may be good. He may be terrible. He may be average. In an upcoming offseason in which the bills have a lot of draft currency, it's imperative to know what you have in him. Do you need to draft a first round QB, or can you use those picks for linemen or weapons? If they don't find out what Peterman can do, they may foolishly pick in the wrong direction. 

Is the timing strange? Possibly. The Bills still sit in a playoff spot, so it is weird to make a change, but the Bills also can't afford these two losses to turn into a longer streak. Tyrod may not have been the problem in both of the losses, but he certainly hasn't been a solution either. 

None of this is to say that Peterman is really good. It does say, that after two and a half years, Tyrod may not be very good. 

 

What if Peterman is good? What if he shows the ability to deliver the ball on time? What if he throws for 300 yards and 3 TDs a game. What if he takes the Bills to the playoffs this year? These are all things Tyrod hasn't done in his time as a starter.

One thing is for certain, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, Sunday's game just got a lot more interesting. 

GO BILLS. 

 

The Evolution of Trusting the Process

The Evolution of Trusting the Process

For a generation of Buffalo Bills fans, trust in the franchise has been a foreign concept.

I was 14 when, on January 8th, 2000, the Music City Miracle happened, and with it went the last playoff appearance for Buffalo. The playoff streak can now drive, buy a ticket to a R-rated movie, and in a few scant months can serve in the military, buy a pack of smokes and get a porno mag (the last two are such a foreign concept for anyone actually turning 18 this winter thanks to logic and the internet). In that time, Ralph Wilson and the Pegulas have brought in a series of coaches and quarterbacks ill equipped to handle the pressures of being a success in Orchard Park, with each compounding upon itself.

Think about it. Coaches like Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey were nice uncle figures in way over their heads. Gregg(gggggggggggggggggg) Williams and Mike Mularkey were not ready to be managing a team as head men. Doug Marone was such an asshole, he called himself Saint Doug for going .500 then took $4 million and a positional coaching role in Jacksonville, because money and quitting was better than being the head man. And Rex Ryan…he talked. A lot. And got his truck wrapped, talked shit and got 31 games.

Quarterback, the glamour position in sports, has been even worse. Between retreads (Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Fitzpatrick), noodle arms (Trent Edwards), OH SWEET JESUS JUST COME IN FOR A YEAR AND MAYBE IT’LL WORK (Kyle Orton) and all the other disasters (Alex Van Pelt, JP Losman, EJ Manuel), Bills fans have been fed a steady diet of nothingness, failing to fulfill on promises that weren’t even lofty to begin with.

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Which brings us to Thursday, November 2nd. The 5-2 Buffalo Bills travel on a short week to the 3-5 New York Jets for the annual Thursday tilt with Gang Green. This game was thought of so lightly in the NFL that its one of just three Thursday Night Football games that are an NFL Network exclusive, which is like complimenting a popsicle on how warm it is. Few believed our hometown team would be in position like this in Week 9, and if you did, good for you and say hi to Santa when he stops by next month.

The truth is, this game will define a generation of Bills fans. If you are currently between the ages of 16 and 35, we deserve a team that’s successful and coming from nowhere. We deserve Tyrod Taylor as the best franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly, and we should be able to tell the old-timers at the bar defending Jack Kemp that Kemp never in a million years could evade a rush and flick it downfield as casually as you toss a Halloween candy wrapper in the garbage. We deserve Sean McDermott, like the coolest gym teacher ever, telling us to #TrustTheProcess and believe when no one else does. We deserve this because seriously goddammit, we’ve put up with a lot since we could consciously choose to root for this team instead of just inheriting this mess from our elders.
 

Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, near the Jersey swamps where so many bodies and dreams are buried in the muck and mire, the Buffalo Freaking Bills have a chance to make an entire new generation say, Holy crap they can do this for real, and its not just the alcohol talking (although maybe it’s a little bit of the alcohol). This is the biggest game in Bills franchise history since Week 17 of 2004. I don’t remember what happened in that game, and it doesn’t matter. Don’t let the old scribes and talking heads tell you how you should act and feel. Scream until you’re hoarse, call in sick and let’s go do this damn thing.

An entire generation needs this.

Broncos Offense A Little Hoarse

Broncos Offense A Little Hoarse

Sometimes in the world of professional sports the deck is truly stacked against you. The Bills came in to week 3 coming off an anemic offensive showing against a struggling Carolina team, while Denver stomped a mudhole on the Dallas Cowboys like mid 90's Stone Cold Steve Austin. Denver and their up-and-coming quarterback were dominant in September while Buffalo's was being dragged in the media as fans called for Peterman. Cordy Glenn was out against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Every expert on every media outlet, yours truly included, didn't give the Bills much of a chance. Yet, in spite of all of this, welcome one and all to Victory Monday.

The Bills shocked the system on Sunday with a complete team effort to the tune of a 26-16 victory over the previously unbeaten Broncos. Trevor Siemian lost his first game ever in the month of September. Denver's last seven drives featured no touchdowns and two interceptions. Up is cat. Black is dog. Chaos abounds, and I love every second of it. Being a Buffalo sports fan has conditioned me to never expect the outcome we got yesterday. I'll admit that I spent the majority of the second half steeling myself for the Denver comeback that never came, waiting to be disappointed. That moment never came. Instead we head into week 4 with a strange feeling I haven't had in this team in years. I've googled the symptoms and came up with "pride." This feels foreign, but also nice. I could get used to this.

The Buffalo offense moved the ball in spite of a struggling run game, which was the one thing anyone who laid out a game plan for how the Bills could pull this game out would have said was the number one key to success. Is it concerning that McCoy only had 21 yards rushing? Maybe a little bit, but this was a Denver team that just held Ezekiel Elliot to a worse average than that embarrassing Dallas's top tier offensive line, so it's not the end of the world. Tyrod did a good job of including him in the passing game to get him into that 20-25 touch range that you should see a player of his caliber get in every game.

I hope a lot of Tyrod haters were eating their words at their post-game meals. Watching that first drive sack by Von Miller had me worried for Tyrod's safety, but the line did a pretty good job at giving him time, all things considered. Four sacks allowed to that defense is a victory in my book. Too often we try to evaluate Tyrod without looking at what he's dealing with. He has the quickest time from snap to release in the NFL for a reason, and I'll give you a hint, it's not because everyone is super open at the snap. It was also refreshing to see a few passes fly for more than 10 yards downfield. Both Kaelin Clay and Nick O'Leary had 25+ yard catches, which I hope sets the tone for this offense moving forward. It felt like they were finally willing to be aggressive and go for it on at least some of their drives yesterday, and it seems to energize the team.

It's refreshing to have a kicker that I feel gives us a chance from 50+. Stephen Hauschka was great yesterday. All of those Dan Carpenter misses (spiked helmets and all) feel like they're firmly in the past now. I'll never grasp why the Seahawks let him go in favor of shank machine Blair Walsh, who has already won a playoff game for the Seahawks...the only issue is that he did so while kicking for Minnesota. Special teams is the facet of the game that no one wants to talk about until it's gone south, but Buffalo football has been sullied more than most by bad special teams play. Looking at you, Carpenter, McKelvin, everyone involved in that kickoff fumble against the Jets last year, etc. He was named a team captain and is already being called a great teammate. Let us enjoy having one of the best in the game.

The story of this team's success continues to be the defense. Siemian looked more like a seventh round pick yesterday than he ever has in the month of September, where he was previously undefeated. He looked rattled by the pass rush at times, and threw high on a number of catchable balls as a result. Shaq Lawson continues to look more and more comfortable out there. Kyle Williams keeps looking five years younger than he is. All of these successes were had against a solid Denver line without our highest paid defender. It's too early to say if that is sustainable, but yesterday was a big step. The best Denver offensive player was Jamaal Charles, whose knees are being held together by rubber bands and a lever and pulley system.

With Darby and Gilmore gone, it was unclear how this secondary would look coming into this season. Three games in, it has been a rousing success. EJ Gaines is doing his best to make the Sammy trade look better each week. Both he and Poyer seem to be very much at home here in this system. White has played like a rookie at times, but he shows flashes of why he was a first round talent. Denver has some elite receivers in Thomas and Sanders, but they never had tons of room to work. In the passing league of today, this is something a successful team will have to be able to do consistently.

Yesterday's game was refreshing for a couple of reasons. First, it's always great to see all the bounces go Buffalo's way. Andre Holmes had no business catching that tip drill touchdown pass, but it counts all the same. Holmes only really has a job because Anquan Boldin retired to work on his humanitarian efforts unless Tom Brady needs a guy and Rod Streeter got hurt, but it's good to see him get in on the action regardless. The drought has brought out statistical anomalies of a number of receivers over the course of it's existence from players who haven't been good for anything once they left here. Be sure to file your Holmes jersey next to Roscoe Parrish, David Nelson, and beloved local media star Donald Jones. I also discovered while writing this question that CJ Spiller is #40 all time in receiving for this franchise. As of the writing of this column, he has been cut by the 3-0 Chiefs more times than the Bills have won.

We still won even with the trademark drive where the other team scores while we commit two personal foul penalties. If you were hoping Jerry hughes had learned a lesson at any point, those hopes were dashed like a dingy in a hurricane when he torpedoed himself into Siemian for a roughing the passer call. Hughes has the cleanest reputation amongst guys who take as many 15 yard penalties as he does. Meanwhile, in New York yesterday, Ndamukong Suh has referees reaching for their flags when he lines up for the snap. No one will remember this flag though, because von Miller got 15 yards for psyching Tyrod with the classic "down low, too slow" hand motion while Taylor looked for help getting up. This is the best penalty caught on camera since Marquette King spiked a penalty flag last year.

Where does the team go from here? It was hard to see a light at the end of week 2, but now the Bills are once again tied for the division lead. If it wasn't for Tom Brady somehow pulling a comeback out of thin air again, we could have the lead outright. None of the teams who were supposed to be top of the league really seem all that good. New England barely beat a Texans team that has a rookie QB. Oakland just got run into the turf by Washington in prime time. The Steelers just lost to the Bears. meanwhile in the AFC East, Miami just got taken apart by the Jets, who are awful at tanking. Suddenly you look at the division, and winning three more games there isn't out of the question. Winning two more in the AFC West doesn't seem ridiculous anymore either. Playing Atlanta on the road is a tough task, but they are one terrible NFL rule away from losing last week to Detroit. Suddenly the whole NFL feels wide open. In a world where Blake Bortles has thrown fewer interceptions through three weeks than Aaron Rodgers, is anything truly impossible. I know I'm setting myself up for disappointment, but maybe, just maybe, the Bills are onto something here.

 

Welp...

Welp...

Each NFL season consists of 256 regular season games. Some of these games will produce moments which will live on forever in highlight reels, blooper reels, and in the memories of those who watched and attended the games. That being said, for the sake of the Buffalo and Charlotte residents who were subjected to yesterday's contest, I hope we all forget about this game faster than Doug Marrone sends out the punt team on fourth down.

What a truly terrible football game. Any matchup that goes on for that long and has no offensive highlights should be deleted from the NFL archives and never spoken of again. Ince next week’s games start, any reporter who wants film of it should find their search ending in a dark room full of people talking about how they made the footage disappear, "for the greater good." The greater good for the NFL is to forget this game ever happened. The Jets, who are trying to go 0-16, and are well on their way, outscored Buffalo and Carolina combined against a team that is making a good case for being top 5 in the NFL. Kevin Hogan came off the bench for Cleveland and threw a touchdown. This game set football back five years.

The passing game is horrendous. I mean, I don't know what I expected when Tyrod lost his top three receivers from last year (four if you count the illustrious Bills career of Justin Hunter), but I never envisioned it being as bad as it was Sunday. This team has regressed from being second-last in passing offense last year, which is a sentence deemed offensive to the word "regressed." Tyrod is a quarterback most comfortable sitting in the pocket and throwing downfield, so we've given him all the tools to succeed by taking away his favorite vertical passing target, continuing to never have a good amount of offensive line talent, and changing the offense on him again. I've seen and heard a ton of Bills fans wanting to move on from Tyrod to Peterman, but I don't know what more Tyrod could have done yesterday. It felt like he was pressed for time every time he dropped back with the galloping ghost of Julius Peppers hot on his trail.

These fires were fueled further by the game clinching play where he looked to connect with Zay Jones as the Bills drove down the field as time was running out. I know we want to point fingers, but does scapegoating Tyrod or Zay make it better? The fact of the matter is that this offense went out yesterday and just got beat into submission for the better part of 60 minutes. McCoy had 9 rushing yards on 12 carries. We had one first down in the entire half. This isn't all on Tyrod.

We like to vaunt the quarterback in the NFL like they're the be all and end all of a team winning. To a degree this can be true - your quarterback handles the ball every play and is in charge of breaking down the defense to give his team the best chance of success in the chess game at the line of scrimmage. At the same time, it's hard to win a chess game with one king, a couple of multi-directional pieces, and a bunch of pawns. Tom Brady doesn't walk into Charlotte on Sunday and throw for 447 running for his life and trying to throw bombs to Charles Clay and Andre Holmes.

Does this excuse Tyrod? Not at all. He leaves plays out there, more some weeks than others. There are throws you want him to make that he doesn't...or can't. I just don't see where throwing Peterman into the fire makes things better. Nate looked pretty good at points in the preseason, but so did the 0-16 Lions team (4-0 preseason champs). It's easy to look ready when half the guys you line up against are out of the NFL or on practice squads right now. This isn't to say that we should never give him the chance to start, but the second you hand the ball over to him, you admit that you're desperate and that the season is a loss. If their response to the Watkins and Darby trades speaks to how Beane and McDermott feel about throwing in the towel, then they'll ride with Tyrod until they can't justify it, and then maybe a couple weeks longer.

I had a slightly different game day experience than usual this week, as I was driving to Toronto during the entirety of the game, and had the radio on instead of my normal comatose pose on the couch with two screens of football and some wings and beer. The first thing I heard turning on my car was talk about how Brandon Tate was benched for the game. Tate has earned the title "return specialist" because he isn't good enough to suit-up frequently at wide receiver, but is still here. I don't get how this man has a job at all in the NFL. In his career as a punt and kick returner, Tate has three returned touchdowns, and has fumbled the ball 12 times. He is four times as likely to cost you a possession than to score. Dante Hall and Devin Hester were return specialists. Brandon Tate is a returner. There's nothing special about it. This comes from a team that also had a kick-off specialist. These are code words for "we only had 52 players with enough talent to make the NFL roster." This is why people were mad Brandon Reilly got put on the practice squad. At least he can run routes.

That being said, let's take a step back and enjoy the defense for a moment. The pass rush was alive and well on Sunday. Jerry Hughes was mentioned on the broadcast more than any other Bill. Kyle Williams, black eye and all, continues to be a warrior. Shaq Lawson got in on the action with a sack and a big hit on a goal line run stop, which was encouraging to see as he continues to get more comfortable at this level of competition. Eddie Yarborough continues to be a feel-good story in a sea of sorrows.

Even with all of that, Jordan "how was I rated a 68 overall in Madden" Poyer was the best Bill out there Sunday. It seems that he has truly found a scheme that he can thrive in. His 11 tackles and one sack has won me over. This guy is playing his heart out on the field and it shows. For as bad as the Bills have been at drafting, they have found some quality free agent defenders over the last couple years.

The thing I'm glad to put behind me is all the radio talk about how unique of an athlete Cam Newton is. At best it makes me jealous that he's better than any Bills QB who has suited up since Jim Kelly. At worst, it becomes ridiculous because he's not an elite level passer. He makes up for some of that with his mobility, but that gets limited every time a lineman launches themselves into him while the officials look the other way while telling Cam he hasn't earned those calls yet. It's amazing he can still formulate sentences the way people dent his helmet. Heaven forbid we be graced with a guy who smiles and has a personality in the NFL these days. Tune in next week when Al Michaels buries Cam while praising human robot Matt Ryan.

Next up is the Denver Broncos, who just stomped on the throats of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. If you thought McCoy had a rough day, go watch Zeke Elliot try and run against Denver to the tune of 8 yards, This is not a good sign. Denver, led by vaunted pass rusher and guy taken one pick ahead of Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, looked killer on the defensive side of the ball. Meanwhile on offense their seventh round pick QB has looked real good so far. This has a chance to get bad early if the Bills don't show up offensively. This will be the biggest test of this team yet by far. Come next Monday, we'll have a good idea how this season will play out.


Pre-Season: Week 5

Pre-Season: Week 5

When I prepared for the return of this column, I did not think I would get to open it with stating that the Bills are leading the AFC East; not today, nor at any point of the season. But due to an act of God - namely, Alex Smith throwing more than a bunch of checkdowns - a category five hurricane, and the assembled cast of green jerseys we'll discuss at length later, here we are. Truly miraculous. Turn off your tv's folks. Stop reading the news. It will only get sadder from here. This is like reading the opening acts of Julius Ceasar where he and Brutus are still pals. Read this, and turn back forever.

The return of the NFL season can be signalled by a few traditional signs.

  • -Your local pizza place has an atmosphere of pure chaos likened only to the scramble for a fumbled ball
  • -You have seen at least one, if not multiple shaky vertical videos of people jumping off vehicles through a table in Orchard Park
  • -Local zubaz viewings rise 700%

Sunday I buckled in for the Bills season opener, only to be greeted with what surely must have been a fifth preseason game. Because there's no way an NFL team in 2017 would be rolling out the series of starters that the New York Jets went with on Sunday.

Except they totally did. Tuning in to watch competitive NFL action and getting this football game is like ordering a UFC PPV but instead getting a video of two kittens pawing at each other.

The captain of the USS Darnold is none other than long-standing NFL punching bag Josh "Don't call me Luke" McCown, who is a whopping 1-17 in his last 18 NFL starts. Josh McCown is the poster child for any argument against why Colin Kaepernick isn't a free agent for talent reasons. The Jets’ passing attack against the Bills secondary that has less established talent on it than at any point in recent memory was for McCown to throw the ball as quickly as humanly possible in the direction of the nearest receiver equivalent. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are both long gone, jettisoned in the off-season because they're established talents with no value on a team dead set on picking first. Instead we have...Robbie Anderson? Jermaine Kearse? Oh boy. The best receiver on their roster was inactive because he was just cut by the 49ers, who drafted second last year.

The ghost of Matt Forte is still here, in no small part because they couldn't trade him. Forte has reportedly assured (WHO) the trade rumors swirling around him were false. They were not. this is Marc Bergevin totally not trading PK Subban levels of obvious. Unfortunately for the Jets, Forte is an old dog in a young pups corps, and people would rather have their sixth round pick start than pay Matt Forte the kind of money he makes. It's a shame really. Forte has been a top five back for most of his career on a Bears team that never got him the glory he deserved. Now he's out there seeing eight Bills in the box because the passing attack is a laugher. I wonder if the Jets pictured McCown starting for them when they knocked him out of a game in Cleveland last year.

For as bad as the Jets are, and in spite of the fact that the Bills won, I'm still not inspired by this win. We had every chance to put this game away, and it never really felt like it was over until the sealing interception came through. This is the type of game that we blow all of the time, only the Jets are far too bad to take advantage of it.

The passing game was more or less what we expected it to be. The Jets’ one strong point is their defensive line, but I felt Tyrod looked pretty comfortable, for the most part. His mobility bails him out when things start to break down, which I have a suspicion may happen a lot this season. There was some of the miscommunication that comes with having your top three receivers from last year all gone and getting a concussion in the preseason, but nothing is perfect. The renewed focus on using Charles Clay as more than a multi-million dollar false flag was a pleasant surprise. The play design on the Holmes touchdown was excellent. Ultimately, Tyrod never had to push the envelope too much, and other than an untimely interception in the red zone, I think he's happy with how that game played out.

LeSean McCoy was the true star of Week 1. I have to admit I started writing his season off the second he went to the sidelines banged up, because this is Buffalo, and the players on this team are cursed to never be healthy. Ronald Darby forgot he didn't play here anymore before he lined up his ankle parallel to the ground. If you haven't seen it and are moderately squeamish, don't watch the slo-mo replay.

That being said, Shady looks great in this zone blocking scheme. The way he sees the field is truly impressive. With David Johnson slowed and Leveon Bell just now reporting to Pittsburgh, he has a strong case as being the best runner in the league at this moment. If the Bills are going to surprise people, it will be because of the reliability of McCoy. Secondary shout out to Mike Tolbert, who ran so aggressively I already forgot the name of the running back we cut at the end of the preseason. Jehuu Caulcrick? Cierre Wood? Ronnie Wingo? Whoever he is, he probably has Tolbert's face on a dartboard today.

The defense played pretty well, without being pushed to their limits. Apparently Ramon Humber can tackle pretty well, so that's neat. Hyde and Poyer both got interceptions in their Bills debuts, which allows us to forget that our secondary is young and inexperienced. There was no sustained pass rush, in part because McCown was getting rid of it ASAP.

Marcell Dareus was a non-factor, and more than that, didn't seem to factor in on late downs. When they were in 3rd and longs, they went with one DT, and that was Kyle Williams. I know Dareus was banged up a bit this week, so we'll have to see if this is an ongoing theme. For a player being paid as much as he is on the heels of being sent home for a preseason game - this is not a good sign for things to come.

On a side note, because I have little to no respect for myself as a human being, I watched about a half of the Rams/Colts game yesterday. It was weird to see Sammy playing for another team, but good to see him getting touches without limping back to the huddle at the same time. I know we as a fanbase like to hate on him because he never produced like a top 5 pick, but it isn't his fault the powers that were reached on him like that. I hope he finds his form out there.

Up next is the Carolina Panthers, or as I like to call them - Buffalo Bills South. They're an actual football team with talent that is hoping to win, so this should be a much better test of your first place Buffalo Bills. Who knows; maybe I, the oddsmakers, historical data, people smarter than I, people dumber than I, and the elephant at the zoo who picks games based on arbitrary ancient elephant secrets are all wrong and the Bills are good enough to contend this year. I guess only time will tell

In the immortal words of Yosemite Sam...

In the immortal words of Yosemite Sam...

2016 will probably go down as one of the worst years ever socially. We lost a lot of good celebrities, and we had one of the worst elections in the history of elections (which, regardless of how it went, would have ended up with one of the most hated candidates of all time being elected.)

Despite what happens in the outside world, Buffalo generally can keep its head down and continue to push through – as long as it’s not steel mills and factories closing. One thing that’s been consistent, however, has been our Buffalo Bills; and by consistent, I mean that we can trust them not to make the playoffs…consistently.

 A lot of this feels like the 70s. We LITERALLY didn’t beat the Miami Dolphins  in the entire decade. Much like that era, we have another team we can’t seem to beat in the Patriots. The only difference is that the Patriots’ dominance is going on almost two decades.

 The Bills tend to lose in the “Billsiest” ways. Everyone remembers the Leodis McKelvin prime time fumbling debacle and the 2004 Pittsburgh game when we couldn’t beat scrubs and saw Willie Parker’s breakout performance. The problem always seemed to be the coach. They were never fired up enough, intelligent enough, either too strict or too relaxed. The Bills were blessed with a great dynasty team in the 90s, But even that team was marred by turmoil. The Bills drafted Jim Kelly, who decided he was too good to play for Buffalo and went to the USFL. If it wasn’t for a strange series of events in which its owner died and our current president-elect drove it into the ground, Jim Kelly may not have ever come to the Bills. We may not have had those four super bowls to hang our hat on.

 Is there a curse for the Bills? Was if giving us four super bowls, but losing each one, some retribution for sins of the past? You would have thought just one…right? Scott Norwood’s wide right (which, if Thurman would have gotten out of bounds and Jim could have gotten him three more yards would have been in his range on grass to make that field goal.)

 If we won one, would we have gotten to four? What if Don Beebe doesn’t run down Leon Lett? What if Frank Reich doesn’t play against the Oilers, who had whooped us the week before? Every team has its issues but the Bills are an interesting case. One owner for 50+ years and no NFL championships. He has scouts and player personnel people who have been around since the glory days but have never won – scouts who can’t hit on first round picks but seem to do fine in the later rounds. Where exactly does the change need to happen to change the path of a team? Is it the coach? The GM? The Owner? The Scouts? The player personnel staff? Should we fire anyone and everyone who has some impact on the Bills roster decisions and start over? Do we need to burn down the Ralph – I mean New Era Field – and start anew? Cleanse the demons so to speak?

 This finally brings me to the news today in which the Bills have fired their eighth coach since Marv Levy retired in 1997. The Bills have had 13 QB’s who’ve played meaningful time. Pittsburgh has had three coaches in 50 years and have won six super bowls with 27 playoff appearances since Chuck Knoll took over. They’ve had three franchise QBs and nine different QBs play meaningful time since 1969, to put the Bills problem in perspective.

 Now that Rex is gone what’s next? What kind of coach are we going to get this time? Tom Coughlin’s name has been thrown around but he’s a retread coach who has two rings because of two lucky catches. I think he did well with the Jaguars in the 90s, basically turning an expansion team in a playoff team in three years, and he maintained a good team for three more before it dipped back to mediocrity. He took the Giants to the super bowl twice and had four seasons out of 12 with 10 wins or more. Most other years he was 9-7 or less. Are we going to an offensive minded coach? Or defense? Are we going after Mike Pettine again? Can we lure Jim Schwartz from the Eagles? Are we going to hit the college ranks?

 A new coach means new staff, new play book, new communication, new QB, etc. The law of Probability gives us hope that at some point we will have a series of events occur that will be in our favor. I’m willing to give Doug Whaley another chance. I believe the roster is better since he took over. We have depth, which is something we spent years without. There are guys like Keith Ellison and Coy Wire who were backups to starters who wouldn’t be starters on other teams. At least now there’s not a noticeable drop off. We also seem to have more questions at positions we thought were locked down after Rex was hired than before.

Our entire defense seemed locked and had depth. Now, there appears to be holes at safety, corner, defensive end and linebacker.

 The offense still needs another wide receiver. Woods is a good slot guy but shouldn’t be on the outside. Hunter was barely used but showed us the importance of a big body in the red zone, as he usually scored when he did play. Then there’s Tyrod Taylor. He recently had his first 300 yard passing game of his career. He’s very Michael Vick-like in that he has the ability to scramble and make something from nothing, and he can hit a deep ball like no one in the league, but he can’t make all the throws on the field. However even Drew Bree’s wasn’t Drew Brees his first few years and even when he did finally have a good year, the Chargers still drafted a guy to take his place. 

 Regardless of who the Bills get, at least there will be something to talk about this offseason.

 The Pegulas being in charge of two Buffalo teams have yet to produce a winner. The Sabres are still struggling even after tanking and getting a lot of top draft talent. They made bold moves and spent a lot of money on the Bills roster only to have that not pan out either. They’ve changed the coach, they’ve changed the name of the field, they brought in a new QB, shipped out some unhappy talent and we’re still no better off.

 I think we need to blow it all up. Build a new stadium downtown with a dome or retractable roof. Make it an event down there with shops and bars that surround the stadium. Designate parking lots near the base of the Skyway that are vacant for tailgaters and run shuttles. I think we just need to change it all. Leave nothing to remind us of the past – just like breaking up with a girlfriend in high school when you burned all the pictures and notes. What do you think Bills fans? Where do we go from here? Who do you want to see brought in? Anyone else fired? How about the QB and many free agents we have? Hope you all had a Merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate as long as you celebrated the hell out of it and have a happy New Year! 

 

Week 7 Rant

Week 7 Rant

Hope is a fleeting feeling, especially for a Buffalo football fan. It's hard to nail down the exact source of this hope that keeps creeping into our consciousness every once in a blue moon, but, no matter what the history books say about winning streaks, trap games, injuries, or the Indian burial ground that Ralph Wilson built his stadium on, we still find ourselves flirting with it cautiously, like that girl at the bar you're pretty sure is there with her boyfriend but is still eyeing you up.

Following the Bills’ week six domination of a San Francisco team that was just begging to be put out of its misery, I could hear the hope in the voices of Bills fans. I could hear it in my voice. People were even confident, which is a feeling normally saved for Browns games. At the end of week seven, however, a lot of that hope has left the building.

The fish remained thoroughly unsquished as the Bills went into Miami and found themselves between a Hard Rock and a hard place in a 28-25 loss. The Dolphins alumni came back to checkered endzones, throwback uniforms, and frequent looks at the back of Jay Ajayi as he ran through arm tackles like he was covered in grease.

If you were to have told me last Monday that Miami would outrun the Bills by almost 200 yards,I would have enjoyed a sensible chuckle. Seriously though, where has this Miami running game come from? Two weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins cut two of their starting offensive linemen. Not demoted, cut them. The team couldn't block for anyone, and the coaching staff decided to go in a completely different direction, figuring that a couple of cheaper replacements literally could not be any worse.

Compound that with the fact that Ajayi wasn't even being considered as a feature back by the Dolphins coaching staff until there were so many injuries they literally had to play him. They scratched him in week one because of attitude issues, but thankfully for him and the Dolphins, Arian Foster's legs are actually carefully intertwined twizzlers that are about to collapse upon themselves like a neutron star at any moment. Now this second year man is the fourth running back EVER to have back to back 200 yard games.

It wasn't even like Miami was really being creative with their running game either. For the most part, they just hammered the same stretch play over and over. The Dolphins coaching staff was probably crafting another play for Ajayi, figuring that the Bills defense would have to stop it eventually, but that day never came. Backed up at one point to their own one yard line, Ajayi ripped off a 53 yard run. What did we expect, a pass from Ryan Tannehill?

Tannehill is a tall drink of terrible quarterback. I used to frequently call him the worst starter in the NFL, but we live in a time where Landry Jones, although on an injury basis, is getting snaps, so I've upgraded Tannehill to 31st. Has anyone ever done less with the talent around them consistently then Tannehill? He might not have AJ Green or Julio Jones out there, but Jarvis Landry is the most wasted talent in the NFL, forced to play duck hunt on a series of Tannehill wobblers week in and week out.

The lone saving grace on that statsheet for Tannehill (did you know he played receiver on college?) was a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. If you watch as much football as I do, you may remember Kenny Stills as the guy who dropped a game winning 80 yard bomb all alone 20 yards behind the nearest Seahawk week one.

Redemption time came on a third down in the fourth quarter when Stills was able to adjust on an underthrown ball, losing Darby on a move to the inside. Still, Darby had time and room to recover. Or rather, he would have, if Jonathon Meeks hadn't come in and taken him out at the knees after also being unable to adjust. That play counted for 66 of Tannehill’s 204 total yards on the day.

Let's stay on Meeks though, because normally, he wouldn't be the guy coming to help over the top in that situation. Unfortunately, Aaron Williams wasn't available, because Jarvis Landry decided to launch himself into Williams’ jaw with a blindside block that earned him all of fifteen yards in penalties.

The punishments and discipline of the NFL were being thoroughly dissected after a series of taunting and excessive celebration calls, capped off by another botched investigation into the Josh Brown allegations. With each passing week, the hierarchy gets weirder and weirder for a league that's so conscious of its image at all times that they once denied DeAngelo Williams the ability to dye his dreadlocks pink in support of his mother's fight with breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month.

Here's an updates chart of what will get you in trouble with the NFL:

            -       Wear some cleats that show you have personality - Just a fine

-       Leave your feet and lower your shoulder into someone's head - 15 yards

-       Celebrate by shooting the football through the uprights like Vernon Davis - 15 yards

-       Aggressively inform the other team you got a first down - 15 yards

-       Domestic violence incident - 1 game, until the public gets a hold of more evidence,        then Goodell will act shocked and banhammer you, albeit with full pay

-       Smoke weed - 4 games the first time

-       Be Josh Gordon - well, he had a good run

The fact that Jarvis Landry was able to continue playing in that game yesterday after knocking Williams out was a joke. I get that he felt bad after the fact, and he did look to be remorseful. But we have to set up a system that punishes the action, not the intent. In the same way that Vontaze Burfict escaped punishment for diving at the knees of a player with his back turned away from the ball, the NFL shows yet again they have no interest in discipline if it involves taking a big name off the field.

We're in an age where healthy players are retiring because they can't justify the health risk any more. I have a feeling Calvin Johnson won't be the last guy to hang up his cleats because he's scared of being on the receiving end of the ever growing list of quality of life threatening injuries that a guy like Aaron Williams has.

At the very least, the NFL has to look into implementing a version of the targeting foul that the NCAA has. It is far from perfect in its current form, but there has to be some detraction to a player and a team for headhunting that is more than 15 yards. Aaron Williams might never play again, and it costs the Dolphins 15 yards.

LeSean McCoy was not ready to go Sunday. I appreciate the fact that he was willing to go, but if he did not have his normal burst, which hamstrung him with regards to what he excels at. At some point during the week, someone in charge, whether it's Rex, or whoever, needed to weigh the pros and cons of trotting a limited version of Shady out there. He's been incredible this season, no two ways about it, but risking further injury when you have an able backup isn't the best long term plan.

Tyrod is running out of people to throw to at an alarming pace. With Goodwin getting hurt yet again, Watkins on IR, and Woods in a walking boot, Justin Hunter Endzone Hunter has rapidly gone from being cut by the Titans to having a legitimate shot of being a number one receiver this week. This is terrifying. We're going to play the Patriots! Brady is angry! Belichek hates losing! Gronk really wants touchdown number 69! And in the midst of all this, Tyrod is going to have to try and march this team up the field with a possibly injured Shady and the island of misfit receivers.

It's a sad commentary on your game when your punter is likely the best player on the field. Any kicker should never be the best player. Albeit it's better than the alternative, which is watching your kicker miss a 30 yarder in overtime to win the game. Looking at you, Seattle and Arizona. When's the next debate of why ratings are down?

That hope I mentioned early on has been replaced with dread as I look at the schedule and see New England up next. This isn't your newborn baby cousin's Jacoby Brissett led Patriots. This is the real deal. This is the ultimate test. Give me something to believe in.

Tuna Time

Tuna Time


            Prosperity can be difficult to handle when one is not used to it. Expectations and attitudes change, because human nature is fickle. It’s easy to get complacent and lose that one extra unit of focus.

            The Buffalo Bills have not dealt with prosperity in a long time. Oh sure, they’ve had some minor successes in recent season, including the first consecutive non-losing seasons since the 1990s. But even bigger than that, the experts in the Nevada desert expect them to win on Sunday for the first time in a road division game since…drumroll…2007, when they were favored (and defeated) the worst Miami Dolphins team in franchise history.

            The fact its been essentially a decade is remarkable. But here we are, staring down a 2-4 Fins squad riding high off of an upset win last week over Pittsburgh. Bovada has the Bills -3. Fans expect a victory in South Florida, as does every player and coach in the locker room. What are the keys come reckoning?

1.                    Attack Ryan Tannehill. There’s no reason to let up on defense. Rex Ryan’s attacking style has worked wonders against the Miami QB in the past, including twice last season in Bills victories. Tannehill doesn’t fare well against pressure, and a QBR of 43.4 ranks last amongst the 31 qualified candidates. Attack the head of the snake, and the body dies.

2.                    Shut down the rushing attack. Hello, let’s meet Jay Ajayi. The second year man from Boise State exploded for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries last week against the Steelers, officially announcing his superiority over the broke down Arian Foster. Ajayi shouldn’t have that performance against the Bills, however. The run defense (hey Zach Brown from the second tier) will need to stiffen up, but they’ve done a nice job this season against superior talent.

3.                    Touchdowns, not field goals. Buffalo showed a killer instinct last week, scoring 21 points in the 4thquarter and knocking out San Francisco 45-16. Dan Carpenter is still shaky in the kicking game, so scoring six points is key. The red zone attack has been efficient this season (73 percent touchdown percentage, 6th in the league), and to pick up the road win, that will have to continue.

So it is truly a new era (that was horrible and I apologize) for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. After a slow start, the expectations are to march into Hard Rock Stadium and win, period. No excuses will be acceptable. 5-2 is the goal, and its reasonable to assume that even with a potentially limited LeSean McCoy on offense, the Bills should roll. Bills 27-14.


The Real McCoy and other puns

The Real McCoy and other puns

When I was young, I tried a variety of sports, trying to find that niche set of skills that would allow me to be slightly above average at something, and therefore slightly proud of myself. One of my failed experiments was a pair of seasons of youth soccer. My lone memory came in one of the last games I played, when I got a breakaway from midfield, and ran in on the goalkeeper. I could see my parents cheering in the stands as I wound up with all the might I could muster, and struck the goalie square in the chest without them so much as moving. That ended my soccer career.

Not all was lost, however, because even if I had to relive that every day, while everyone I’ve ever looked up to watched and jeered at the fact that I managed to flounder away what anyone with an iota of talent would have succeeded with, it would still be better than being Chip Kelly, the man who traded away LeSean McCoy.

The Buffalo Bills, powered by McCoy’s skills, determination, and highly publicized dislike of the opposing coach, to a 45-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The McCoy/Kelly divorce began dramatically with the trade that sent Kiko Alonso (legend and all) to Philadelphia for a flabbergasted McCoy, and continues to make its candidacy as the steal of a lifetime for Doug Whaley. Yesterday’s game was the football equivalent of running into your ex-wife who you moved on from because you thought she wasn’t good enough for you, only to find her more successful, happier, and somehow more attractive, while Jed York is constantly reaching out to you about buying Cutco knives and going around throwing grapefruits at small children on the street for fun.

Here’s a series of things I was told unironically by friends and family in the 24 hours following the game.

-The Bills are going to beat New England twice this year

- Anthony Lynn is a genius, and future coach of this team

- LeSean McCoy is a candidate for NFL MVP

- This is a playoff team

- Tyrod Taylor is a franchise quarterback

- Jar Jar Binks is my favorite Star Wars character


Put yourself back in the mindset Bills fans were in after that week one loss to the Ravens. Everything was on fire and everyone deserved to be fired; we were taking down Bills flags and giving up on the year because that game was awful and we were awful. Imagine someone telling you any of the things listed above then. I personally would have laughed in your face.

 Photo courtesy of FOX Sports.

Photo courtesy of FOX Sports.

Now, if you look at that list, it’s harder to shoot it all down outright. Sure, a couple of those things are bound to fall apart, because this is Buffalo, after all. What are we masters of, if not finding creative ways of building ourselves up as sports fans before having the rug pulled out from under us, sliding off a cliff into an avalanche, and striking a few trees on our way down? But is it really all that crazy to think that this season could finish on a high note?

Crazy things happen when a team goes out and wins four games in a row. A significant portion – 25 percent –  of your season goes into the win column, just like that. The “Victory Monday” feeling has become something that you begin to look forward to. The team goes out with confidence and wins a game that they’re supposed to, instead of falling into the classic trap game that sneaks up on unprepared teams. National reporters take notice and start calling your team “sneaky good.” Local reporters are forced to write new articles about how great McCoy is to replace the one from the offseason saying we should cut him.

You may have noticed I’ve mentioned McCoy a lot already. I have. And I will continue to do so because he was the best player to take the field in the entire NFL in Week 6. Four weeks into the Anthony Lynn offense, and McCoy looks like the star we were promised when he came here before last season. He’s seeing his blocking better, he’s making sharper cuts, and he’s exuding confidence that comes with knowing that he’s at the top of his game.

300 rushing yards doesn’t come from just one man, though. Tyrod continues to have a great sense of when to escape pressure and the pocket. On top of that, he continues to make smart decisions at the end of plays, by getting out of bounds and not leaving himself open to the type of hits we see a lot of running quarterbacks get hurt on. Mike Gillislee looks great, Jonathon Williams looked great; hell, I might have been able to look great behind that line. As banged up as it has been, the offensive line continues to give their playmakers as much time as they need to make decisions. In theory, this will only get better as the missing pieces fall back into place.

The passing game gets overshadowed, in part because of the prominence of the running game, and in part because it didn’t put up eye-popping numbers. That being said, the passing game did everything it was asked to do. The quarterback position isn’t always about being the best statistical position on the field. There are games where all you need to do is go out there and control the game, limit mistakes, and pounce on opportunities. Tyrod executed all those points to perfection. That pass to Justin Hunter, Endzone Hunter was picture perfect. Other than getting ambushed on a handoff, Tyrod did a great job of securing the ball as well.

While we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, let’s talk about Colin Kaepernick. Before we start, put your beer cans down, angry patriots, and stay away from those tackling dummies. That was some of the worst form I’ve ever seen from Bills fans executing professional wrestling moves in the parking lot. A spear involves leading with the shoulder, not with your fist, head, or gut. It looked like amateur hour out there.

Kaepernick has been all over the media because of his protest of the anthem and ESPN’s need to remind us of that fact at every possible opportunity, because they don’t know what to report on when Lebron isn’t playing. I had to read so many hot takes on the internet that my keyboard melted and I’m actually on fire. The burning…oh god the burning.

To sum up my thoughts on everyone who has anything hateful to say about Kaepernick, whether a blog post, slur hurled his way, or t-shirt advocating shooting him purchased, I give the universal response “get the fuck over it.” He played yesterday and the terrorists didn’t suddenly invade and wipe away our freedoms. The world is still spinning on its axis. OBJ and the kicking net are still madly in love.

You know who else didn’t stand for the anthem? Jim Kelly. Thurman Thomas. Marv Levy. This is because the NFL didn’t play anthems before games with teams out on the field until 2005. Teams would be in their locker rooms sitting, or perhaps kneeling while the fanfare played. And no one cared. The NFL fines people for wearing cleats commemorating 9/11. They charge to US Military for any sort of celebration of our armed forces. This isn’t some high and mighty pure-bred American organization that he’s casting a light on because he hates America. This is a man who has taken on a ton of hatred from all sides to try and cast a light on something he feels passionate about. While I may not walk the same path he does, I respect him and his right to do so.

As far as his quarterback play, it was pretty average. He under-threw a lot of his targets. He tried to underthrow Torrey Smith on the touchdown as well, but he had enough time to turn around, stop, adjust, read War and Peace, and then catch that ball, because Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams thought it was week two again. Kaep is a good runner, but the blocking isn’t good enough to open holes. It also wasn’t great at pass protection. Or run blocking.

Chip Kelly got to be known as an offensive mastermind for his schemes in Oregon, a moniker he kept alive for a while after he debuted on Monday Night Football and had the Redskins confused by his elaborate formations and schemes. The thing about schemes, though, is that they’re only as good as the personnel you have available to run them. The 49ers team that goes out on the field on Sundays, especially considering the Navorro Bowman injury, is quite arguably the least talented group in the NFL. Week one drubbing of the Rams aside, there hasn’t been a whole lot the Kelly can put on his resume when Jed York inevitably fires him, because Jed York is incompetent. That’s probably being generous, considering the location of their stadium, and the fact that he took a NFC Championship winning team, fired the coach, destroyed the talent around a young quarterback, and still expects people to park on a golf course to watch Christian Ponder take snaps in a couple weeks. We all know that it’s going to happen.

All of a sudden the Bills are 4 and 2. The Dolphins, who have been floundering (I’ll pause here for a laugh at the pun) are up next, and it’s another game that the team should win. I can’t help but be optimistic that this team can pull it out and make it to five in a row. Let’s go Pummel the Mammals.

Fishing For Answers

Fishing For Answers

Somewhere in the bowels of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Jeff Fisher sits at his desk, lit by the flame of a single candle. In one hand, a half empty bottle of Keystone Light: in the other, a picture of Tyrod Taylor's look of bewilderment after throwing a touchdown pass. Splayed in front of him are local newspapers detailing how his coaching threw the game away. “That's some 7-9 bullshit,” chant the voices in his head. A single tear runs down his cheek. A call comes in from Jared Goff, sent to voicemail.

It wasn't pretty, or encouraging...or...impressive...but the Buffalo Bills have their first three game win streak since 2011, thanks to their 30-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. You may remember 2011 as the season the Bills beat the Patriots to go 3-0, and marched to a 5-2 start, before losing 8 of their last 9 to finish 6-10; a season that football insiders refer to as “Bills-esque.”

I'd be remiss if I didn't start with reflecting on the history that we saw yesterday. First, the Rams scored their first touchdown in Los Angeles since the Carter administration. More importantly, though, we saw Tyrod Taylor line up behind left guard and call for a snap, causing a wild scramble and an 18 yard loss because this whole quarterback thing is just chock full of surprises in this crazy world we live in.

Tyrod seemed mentally absent for 99% of yesterday's game. The snap was one thing, and that alone will power SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 for a while. On top of that he looked incredibly confused after throwing a touchdown to Justin Hunter to cap off that drive, as if Hunter had dropkicked a puppy into the stands directly afterwards. Having flown from Buffalo to Los Angeles before, I know the jet lag can be tough, and I sympathize, but I also am not allegedly one of the greatest physical specimens in the most violent sport in the world.

The passing game itself was a tire fire on top of it. Charlie Whitehurst, the fifth quarterback to play for the Browns this year, had more yardage and big plays than Tyrod in a quarter less of action. Before you tell me that's not a fair comparison, go and find a good play Tyrod made yesterday. I'll wait here. I know you can't see my through this text based medium, but I'm twiddling my thumbs.

The Rams were missing ¾ of their starting defensive line and Tyrod still looked like his mental clock was set on panic and scramble, which doesn't help the whole “overthrowing receivers” thing that seems to be going on. Take away the 22 yard scramble on the first drive and Tyrod was responsible for 130 yards of offense. I'll give you the scramble back if you want, but that number still isn't good. While the Rams have a pretty good defense when healthy, the strength of it was standing on the sidelines yesterday while forming a circle and chanting to transfer their energy to Aaron Donald, who is essentially a bipedal hippopotamus that human beings are expected to block.

The running game, on the other hand, is getting better by the week. It might get lost in the shuffle of offseason fights with cops at a nightclub, trying to throw a party for only female guests, and Buffalo sportswriters bashing his contract (1v1 me irl, Bucky Gleason), but LeSean McCoy looks every bit the part of a featured back in a league where running back by committee is becoming the norm. He's now the sixth active running back to reach 8000 yards in his career, which puts him in pretty elite company: Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, and Matt Forte if you were wondering. It's amazing what an offensive coordinator who understands how to play to his strengths has made such a difference. Not gonna act like Anthony Lynn has been a cure-all, but the running game is night and day.

Three things in life are certain; death, taxes, and Jeff Fisher being unable to resist the urge to fake a punt. Thanks for being you, Jeff Fisher, because if it wasn't you at the helm of the Rams yesterday, maybe the team would have gone for it instead of kicking a fourth field goal, in lieu of relying on Jonny Hekker’s sneaky athleticism.

For the record, I don't feel bad for Rams fans in the least bit that they're saddled with Fisher as their head coach. Their owner is a crook who played into Roger Goodell’s singular fixation that their needs to be a football team in Los Angeles - even though two other teams have already left for greener pastures before - to rip the hearts out of St. Louis. They undid the brains of taking a slew of picks for the draft pick that became RG3 by trading up for a quarterback they don't have any intention of using. Now when the Rams bottom out we get to see their top 5 draft pick get used by Tennessee to pick another Big 10 lineman who will try and make sure Marcus Mariota lives to see 30.

More important than all of that, is the fact that Case Keenum is their starting quarterback. I refuse to believe that Keenum is one of the 40 best quaterbacks available to an NFL team, and the fact that the Rams trot him out there week after week shows they just don't care about winning a game that doesn't come entirely from defensive touchdowns and 50+ yard Legatron field goals. Todd Gurley is getting hit behind the line of scrimmage on over half his carries because opposing defensive coordinators look at Keenum, laugh derisively, and then put 8 guys in the box every play. That is also part of the reason Keenum’s yardage totals are average, instead of awful. Not to go unnoticed were Nickell Robey-Coleman and Lorenzo Alexander, who championed the defense yesterday in holding the Rams to four field goals, while tacking on three takeaways and 4 sacks.

What does an NFL player do when they’re suspended? My extensive research has turned up the answer “it depends.” If you're Tom Brady, you work out a ton, and throw passes to old teammates and your supermodel wife. If you're Marcell Dareus, you claim to go to rehab, go partying instead, and apparently don't keep peak physical form, allowing you to get hurt on your first day at practice in a month. Enjoy your millions Marcell. You're on your way to an amazing Jamarcus Russell territory of bad contracts in another bad decision’s time.

All that being said, a win is a win. We head to week six against San Francisco with ever mounting questions.

Can the Bills push their win streak to four? Is Justin Hunter good at anything but being tall? Will Reggie Bush be active two weeks in a row? Stay tuned Bills fans, different bat-time, different bat-channel, same bat-division.