The Buffalo Bills are having a better season than usual so far this year. They were tied for the first place in the AFC East only a week ago and remain a respectable 3-4.
Yet so much in the NFL has to do with strength of schedule. It is easy to feel good as a team after games against Kansas City and Cleveland. After wins against the Browns and Chiefs and a blowout loss to the New York Jets, how many fans were really buying into the hype?
After Week 3, I predicted the Bills would lose six of their next seven to drop from 2-1 to 3-7. I stick by that prediction, and it will continue with a loss at Houston after the bye. Here is why.
Defense? What Defense?
OK, the Bills spent $100 million on a flashy new defensive end (Mario Williams), so they're going to have a good defense for the first time since 1996... right?
Calling the Bills defense the second-worst in the NFL would be homerism at this point. They yielded 48 points to the Jets, 52 to New England, 45 to San Francisco and 35 to Tennessee. They are dead-last in the NFL at stopping the run and not a whole lot better against the pass.
As Sal Maiorana of DemocratAndChronicle.com put it:
Mario Williams said he doesn’t care what we think about his performance. Truthfully, there hasn’t been a performance to care about. Let’s call it now—this guy is soft, and the Bills have apparently whiffed to the tune of $100 million. He was invisible yet again. He said in the locker room he needs to get better. You know what, he was supposed to already be better when he got here. He was supposed to be one of the best in the league. He’s not, and the team he left, Houston, is now 6-1 without him.
Strength of Schedule
Are the Bills capable of making the playoffs?
Strength of schedule is crucial in the NFL and so often overlooked. The Bills have just finished the easy part of their schedule and are headed into the hard part.
Meanwhile, the rival Patriots and Jets are headed into very easy stretches. If the Bills lose two or three more in a row, that is not a collapse. That is just their schedule evening things out.
Buffalo has missed out on a golden opportunity to start the season hot. It had five winnable games in its first seven, while the rest of its division started out 4-3 or worse. The Bills could easily be in first place right now in the AFC East.
The fact that they are not bodes very poorly for the rest of their season. If they lose their next three games—in which they will be underdogs—they will be 3-7. Can the Bills recover from that to pull out a winning season?