My sincere apologizes go out to all of you die-hard Bills fans scattered across the country (and world for that matter!). I have yet to write an article on the greatest NFL team in the history of the game. Well, since Jauron and the boys are 4-1 and a legit playoff contender their time has come.
Six weeks into the season and the Bills are arguably one vicious hit by Adrian Wilson from being undefeated right? As the coach would say, "Not so fast my friends." Looking back to last week, Kurt Warner and that Arizona offense (minus Anquan Boldin) completely dominated our defense in every way. They pounded our big guys up front and opened holes for Hightower and James (especially late in the game). Not to mention Kurt "turnover prone" Warner had all day and then some to throw anywhere he wanted. The dink and dunk offense worked to perfection against us that game and our defense really needs to get ready to come to work this week and hopefully heal up before we take on those Chargers.
Part of the reason we struggled is obvious. Injuries. Not only did we lose Trent on the third play of the game, but our defense was limping through those four quarters. Schobel was playing with a damaged foot, Mcgee was inactive again, Simpson was out for the second half and Stroud was ineffective when he was in because he has some lower body issues. I think those guys not being 100% healthy made something to us Bills fans painfully obvious: we do not have the depth on defense that many people thought we did. We need those guys healthy if we are going to make the playoffs.
Correct me if I'm wrong but did the Bills' defense force one three and out in the first half? That is a sign of trouble if we hit the injury bug later in the year. And for those of you that blamed J.P. for the loss all I have to say is shame on you! I know J.P. is no Trent and part of that is because Trent can consistently move the chains and make the tight throws on those ten to fifteen yard outs, slants, and ins when coverage is tight. Plus he has that innate clock in his head when he knows the ball has to be out after a few seconds when the pocket is collapsing. He is a gamer and gets the ball out real quick. However, the team gave J.P. a very slim chance to win that game.
Losman was near perfect, PERFECT, in the first half and we were still losing. Part of that is because we failed to maintain long, clock eating drives. But the other side of it was our defense could not hold up against the Cardinal offense. They were moving up and down the field at will. By the time J.P. got the ball in the second half I believe the Bills were already down by more than two touchdowns. Of course those costly turnovers in the second half didn't help us try and get back in the game.
I believe J.P. showed us what we already know. He has progressed in his release and reading coverages but obviously is still hesitant to throw in the tight spaces and make quick read throws. He hangs on to the ball longer than he should and loses his presence when the pocket collapses. However, J.P. is a backup quarterback that is capable of winning us games in the future IF we can keep the game close (within a touchdown).
Now it's time for the positive. The Bills are 4-1! And that Arizona loss doesn't look too bad now does it? Especially after last week's NFC East meltdown (how amazing was that)? Whether you believe it or not the Bills are one of the top seven or eight teams in the NFL. Who would have thought that in the preseason? What Buffalo needs to do going forward is try and stay healthy (as best they can) while keeping their heads straight. With such a young team, one of the most important concepts for this squad going down the stretch will be focus. Don't let success go to your head and maintain a good attitude going into every week/game and continue to practice and prepare as you would normally. Fight hard every week and show up with that blue collar Buffalo mentality and come ready for work with your lunch pail.
That said, this is not a team that can blow out their opponents and can take anyone lightly. I say that because after six weeks the Bills still struggle to run block effectively and have yet to find a capable threat opposite Lee Evans. Don't believe me about the run blocking scheme/problem? Watch Marshawn Lynch run the ball and tell me why and how he averages less than four yards per carry? Even if you do not believe in his "Beast Mode" downhill stiff-arming style, his average should still be up there around six yards per carry the way he can punish and outrun most linebackers. Oh and how many more times must I see Melvin Fowler get blown up right off the snap and shoved back in Lynch's face two yards behind the line of scrimmage? He's a smart player and does what he can with his size but I think it's about time for a new center don't you?
Also, the Bills are seriously lacking a threat at tight end which is one of the most underrated positions in the game. When you run the ball as much as the Bills (try to) do; an athletic, reliable tight end can cause some serious damage down the seam once the linebackers freeze up for a second. But, outside of the preseason and the lone touchdown in the opener against Seattle, how many touchdowns do you think the Bills tight ends (as a group) have in the past three years? I don't know but I can tell you right now it's no more than eight as a collective group.
And despite the coaches' best efforts to rush along James Hardy in the offense, he is not there yet. You can see flashes of brilliance (see Jacksonville game winning TD) but also times where he is lacking concentration (see Oakland drops). Josh Reed is a great slot receiver. Let me say that again, Josh Reed is a great SLOT receiver. And Roscoe Parrish is an amazing game breaker and change of pace guy coming in off the bench for Reed.
So, you would think with all this talk about issues at wide receiver, offensive line, and tight end that I believe the Bills are due for a losing streak coming up right? Wrong. One reason for that is parody. You have got to love the NFL (especially the AFC) this year. Outside of the Tennessee Titans, there is not one undefeated or dominant team still standing. Even the Titans have looked suspect (on offense at least) in a couple games.
You tell me who looks that much better (on a consistent weekly basis) than our Buffalo Bills? Denver? They couldn't stop an offense with eleven of my oldest relatives running it. New England? Spare me some time and refer to the Miami and San Diego game tapes. San Diego? They have not been consistent and their two supposed strong points coming into the season (LT and the Charger defense) have been questionable at best so far. The Steelers injury problems and offensive lineman are worse off than ours.
The two teams I would look out for in the second half of the season (outside of those stingy Titans) are the Indianapolis Colts (as they continue to get healthy and progress) and the (I can't believe I'm saying this) New York Jets. The Jets are alot like the Chargers. Not in their talent, game plan, or style of play, but in the mode of inconsistency. The Chargers and Jets could be really tough to beat as the season gets into November and December. In the Chargers case as LT gets healthy. For the Jets, as Favre grasps the offense and continues to connect with his targets, that team could put up a fight against our Bills squad.
How about those Browns the other night?! Taking the returning champs and putting them in their place on Monday Night Football. That is another team to look out for as they get healthy and some guys back on defense. Derek Anderson held Brady Quinn on that bench by putting up a performance for the ages last night. And that was without stud tight end Kellen Winslow! I'll tell you one thing, there are going to be some exciting Bills games coming up on what looked like a rather boring schedule for Buffalo. Chargers at home, Browns on MNF, and the thick of the AFC EAST schedule kicking in!
So with that said, what is the outlook for the Bills over the next two months? Much obviously depends on how quickly the defense can forget last week and rebound after that demoralyzing game in the desert. More importantly, how will Trent come back from the concussion he sustained against Arizona? The word from One Bills Drive is that he has practiced this week and will be ready to play come Sunday. But everyone knows you don't know how you'll feel or play until you stand up in the pocket and deliver that first throw downfield and take a shot. Lets see him do that and get up okay and then I'll be satisfied.
The Special Teams have been pretty good (even without Parrish) the past couple weeks, but there has been some sloppy play to correct with some of the backups getting more time as the starters continue to be a little banged up. The kicking game, however, is as solid as its ever been. Lindell is rock solid and Moorman is never really off his game. The kickoff return and coverage teams have some cleaning up to do but, again, they will get better as we get some guys back from injury (McGee, Parrish, Simpson, etc).
The Bills have five AFC games in a row coming up and three in the division. The next month is an important one and will go a long way in determining how serious a contender the Bills are in the AFC and NFL. I would love it if Buffalo went 5-0 in that stretch but I believe as long as they can get through those games with a winning record (3-2) with two of the wins coming in the division (which I think they will do) then our Buffalo Bills will be set up nicely for the end of November and December games. A 3-2 (at the minimum) mark over the next month would put the Bills at 7-3 (2-1) going into games against KC, SF, MIA, NYJ, DEN, and NE. Do that and the Bills would most likely control their destiny in the AFC East.