Bills 2012: The Nightmare Continues . . .
Has it ever been worse for a Buffalo sports fan?
The Bills showed gradual improvement in 2011 under the tutelage of head coach Chan Gailey, and fans had every reason to expect that their defense—with the established studs like Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, and Mark Anderson and Jairus Byrd would be well complemented by high draft picks in Stephon Gilmore and Marcell Dareus—could be elite.
Instead, the Bills' defense has set records in yards allowed in successive games and appear as open for business for the ground game as a graveyard on Halloween.
It's a little too easy to lay the entire fate of the organization at the feet of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The numbers don't lie: in terms of quarterback rating, he's 14th in the NFL with an 86.1 rating and an above-average 15 touchdown throws. He'll never be confused for a franchise quarterback, but he should be good enough to get the Bills over the hump in an otherwise weaker conference.
The hardest pill to swallow for Bills fans is the horse tranquilizer-sized capsule that is the team's future. The NFL wants two teams in Los Angeles and at least one team in Europe in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the Bills are owned and somehow run by a 94-year-old man in one of the NFL's smallest markets in one of the NFL's oldest and rustic stadiums with an expiring lease.
It's hard to see the positives right now. And Buffalo fans don't even have the Buffalo Sabres to distract them from the ugly truth of their team this year due to the NHL lockout.
The Bills are 3-4. It could be worse. But, there's doubt that they've earned to be considered among the bottom five teams in the league this year.
Warning: My second-half predictions will not be kind.
The guy the Texans don't miss.
The Bills will come off the bye and meet with their former coach Wade Phillips' defense in Houston. In a cruel twist of irony, the man whom Bills owner scared off and basically fired almost immediately after the Bills' last postseason appearance gets a chance to school his former team on how a real defense operates.
Meanwhile, the Bills defense, allowing somewhere around 804 yards rushing per game, gets to be matched up with the NFL's consensus No. 1 fantasy pick in running back Arian Foster.
Add a dash of Houston stuffing the Bills offense the way the 49ers did in Week 5 and you got a painful butt-kicking on the docket, one that proves Houston doesn't miss the $100 million man one iota.
Houston's a real team. We've already seen how the Bills match up against real teams this year in games against the 49ers and Patriots. This can't be pretty.
Brady saves his favorite smiles for Bills games.
The Bills haven't won in Foxboro since 2000.
In their Week 4 matchup in Orchard Park, the Patriots had two rushers who finished with over 100 yards. I challenge anyone who doesn't play fantasy football to name them both without help.
The Bills will need help—lots of help.
That is help to lose more games to better their chances of drafting an elite quarterback.
That's where the Bills' season will feel it is after losing this game and going to 3-6.
This Dolphin running back (Daniel Thomas) can't wait to play the Bills.
In Week 11, the Bills come home to Ralph Wilson where they will be so lucky to find themselves given the chance to show the whole world what a mess they are on the NFL's prime-time Thursday Night Football game.
That means short rest for both teams. And for a team that has struggled so mightily against the run this year, you'd think the Dolphins will be planning to give the Bills a steady diet of rushing attempts.
Much is made over the New England Patriots' dominance of Buffalo in the last decade, but the truth is the Bills have been putrid in their own division during the same time span; lest we forget the Dolphins' 35-8 drubbing of Gailey's squad in Miami and their confident 30-23 beatdown in Orchard Park.
Plus, there's the added fact that prime-time home games have been the bane of the Bills existence. Fans will never forget the Monday night game against Dallas that Coach Jauron creatively bungled away or the 2008 loss to Cleveland when Trent Edwards threw three interceptions in the first quarter.
Bad mojo all around. The Bills go deeper into their shocked shells.
The Bills will get their first look at Luck.
This one's a bit of a toss-up. Bills fans will have every reason to expect a loss with this one, not that that's any different than any other game.
But, there's a few things working in the Bills' favor. The Colts don't have a strong running game, and they don't have a strong defense. Gailey and Fitzpatrick have proved that, in most cases, they can find a way to move the ball effectively. And don't forget the Bills' superb backfield tandem.
The Bills will have 10 days to prepare for this game, which has to work in their favor.
This is the game where Bills fans feel torn about winning. When your season's lost, what's the point in screwing yourself out of a high draft pick.
Mike Mularkey makes his triumphant return.
I have to admit, I base this loss on the assumption that Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy and geared up to pad his stats against a historically bad run defense.
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey makes his first visit to Buffalo as head coach since he resigned in frustration all those moons ago. Never underestimate one coach's desire to show his old team what they're missing.
I think this game has stinker written all over it; one that could result in an immediate firing of Chan Gailey.
It'll be that landmark pathetic performance by a team whose players have all but given up.
Steven Jackson's already salivating over the Bills.
The St. Louis Rams are a pretty bad football team.
Good thing for them that the Bills may be even worse.
Things get really ugly for the Bills after two weeks of consecutive home losses. Bills fans pool money to buy a billboard that demands Tarvaris Jackson be given a start. Home games have record-low attendance. Jim Kelly makes public, critical comments about the state of the franchise.
Older Bills fans have bonfire parties to burn their memorabilia in efforts to forget the entire heartbreak.Younger Bills fans decide they have better things to do than be Bills fans.
Marshawn Lynch looking for a banner day in Canada.
Could there be a single opponent on the schedule with more to prove against the Bills than Marshawn Lynch? Lynch has clearly blossomed into one of the best running backs in the league, impossibly strong and hard to tackle. The Bills' defense has proved their particularly soft and unable to tackle.
It all will prove a toxic combination for the Bills, as Pete Carroll lets Marshawn run the game, redeeming himself against the team that gave him up for a fourth-round pick.
And speaking of questionable moves by GM Buddy Nix, the Bills will have Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to admire as another "one that got away." Wilson was drafted 75th by the Seahawks. If you'll remember, the Bills traded up to draft the talented, but very raw receiver, T.J. Graham.
Who would be a better fit for the Bills? A promising, young quarterback (even as a backup to Fitzpatrick) or a receiver with 12 catches through seven games?
See Week 11. Not much has changed except for a regular week's rest.
This might be the only Bills game all December that will be on local TV due to blackout policies, but that doesn't mean anyone will watch it.
If you do watch it, promise to do so with a sense of absurd humor. That's all we got left.
My how things change during the course of an NFL season. For his strong Week 1 performance against the Bills in Jersey, quarterback Mark Sanchez drew a favorable comparison from commentator Marv Albert to Joe Montana.
At least the Jets have a viable backup, even if he can't really play the position. That's a boast the Bills just can't make these days.
This final game in the season, I predict, will be ever bit as forgettable as the final games in previous deflated and lost seasons—somewhere between a real football game and an exhibition.
If the season truly tanks for both teams, there might be record low attendance for this game. If the team really enters this game 4-11, I could even see legions of season ticket holders organizing a boycott and opting to stay home on Dec. 30.
If the Bills can magically find a way to fix their defensive schemes and get more production from Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams over the bye, there's reason to hope they could turn this thing around. As it is widely speculated, a 9-7 record may be good enough to cut it in this year's AFC.
In order to do this, the Bills really need to find a way to split the next two games at Houston and at New England. Both are tall orders, but I just don't think they could save their season after sinking to 3-6.
If the Bills can manage a split and enter Week 11 at 4-5 and beat the Dolphins at home, they could find themselves running downhill against the Colts, Jaguars and Rams.
Seattle is looking very tough, but they'll be traveling east to the underwater-appearing Thunderdome that is the Rogers Centre in Toronto, so anything can happen.
I just want to give the despairing souls of Bills fans a slight boost during this restful bye week.