Excitement for the Buffalo Bills was at a 10-year high following the team's 2-1 start and headed into a huge AFC East game against the New England Patriots, but here we stand just 10 days later and the Bills are on the ropes, desperate for a win.
In the past 86 minutes of football, the Bills have been outscored 90-10 by their opponents.
No one envisioned it getting that bad at any point this year, much less for such a long stretch of time.
Can the Bills claim their identity? Here's a progress report for the Bills up to this point and headed into Week 6.
This will be short and sweet.
Through five games, the Bills have two redeeming qualities to their football team: a running game and a solid offensive line.
Beginning with the men up front, the Bills didn't give up a true sack until Week 4 against the Patriots, and have given up just five sacks this season. Their 3.2 sack percentage allowed by the offensive line is third-lowest in the NFL, and their 22.4 pressure percentage allowed is second-lowest according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Second-rounder Cordy Glenn has been a revelation at left tackle, but missed last week with an ankle injury and was replaced by Chris Hairston as a result.
The offensive line has had a hand in the stellar performance of the running game as well. Guards Kraig Urbik and Andy Levitre, along with center Eric Wood, have opened up holes in the running game up the middle, and the Bills have done a lot of damage between the tackles.
Running back C.J. Spiller was a revelation in the absence of Fred Jackson and still leads the league in rushing YPA with 7.6 yards a crack. As a team, the Bills rank fourth in rushing YPA with 5.1.
Virtually everything else.
In fact, even the offensive line was hit by injuries to Glenn and Urbik, and will now be calling on their backups to play significant roles.
The troubling thing is that the Bills spent the necessary money to lock down pass-rushers and a quarterback, yet those two might be the most disappointing aspects of the team through five games.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been unpredictable on the field, showing flashes of the brilliance that made him a well-paid man in the midst of last season. His 84.2 rating is a blatant misrepresentation of his season, which has been down-and-up-and-down since the start.
Through five games, the defense has been an utter disaster. There's no pressure up front, the back end can't cover and the front seven is getting gashed in the running game. Three quarterbacks have eclipsed the 300-yard mark, and three have eclipsed a 120 passer rating. Alex Smith's 156.2 fell just 2.1 points short of a perfect rating. They have allowed 558 yards rushing in the past two games.
Overall, they rank 31st in points and 31st in yards.
Other than that, they're just fine.
The Bills running game has been a force, and if they can facilitate the passing game by getting Jackson and Spiller going, they could be difficult to defend, especially if defenders start creeping into the box and opening passing lanes for Fitzpatrick.
They get the Arizona Cardinals this week followed by the Tennessee Titans next week. The Cardinals were exposed a bit against the St. Louis Rams, and by the look of things, the Titans aren't much better off than the Bills at this point. With two struggling offenses to tee off on, the Bills defense might have been handed a little gift headed into the bye week.
It's very possible that, despite the problems on both sides of the ball, and despite three dreadful performances, the Bills could be above .500 entering the bye week.
And no matter what happens in the next few weeks, the Bills still have a chance to make a late push with games against the Colts, Jaguars, Rams, Seahawks, Dolphins and Jets to close out the year. Those are all winnable games.
Immediately after the bye, the Bills are treated to road games against the Patriots and the Texans. Good luck with that.
Not only that, but three of the Bills four games after the bye are on the road, and their home game is on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football, leaving the Bills with a short turnaround.
Fitzpatrick entered his eighth year in the NFL without ever showing any level of consistency, with bad mechanics and worse decision-making plaguing his career to date.
And if the defense can only get it done against cupcakes, then they're not living up to the high-dollar figures and high draft picks that have been spent on the unit as a whole.
The Bills lost to a Jets team that was still at full-health in Week 1, as well as two juggernauts in the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
It's looked bad, but the season isn't over after those two losses, even if it feels like it.
The offense needs to become more consistent through the air, and the defense needs to find its identity.
We don't know what team is going to show up any given week, any given half even, as evidenced by their blown lead against the Patriots, and that is precisely the problem. No consistency means no expectations, and that can lead to a lost season.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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