“The Don” Speaks: Week 10

Editor’s Note: Almost immediately following its official inception during the first week of August, the #BillsMafia movement has had followers naming/renaming their Twitter handles using the term “Bills Mafia.” One of the first to do so was @BillsMafiaDon, the self-appointed “Don” of the movement. An active, vocal member of the #BillsMafia community, @BillsMafiaDon has been offered the opportunity to blog here at BillsMafia.com in a special weekly column.

"The Don" Speaks

Greetings Bills Mafia! Welcome back to yet another installment of “The Don Speaks” here on BillsMafia.com. First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your patience in recent weeks. I will admit, I haven’t been on my game lately, and the same can be said for our Buffalo Bills. My apologies go out to the family for my recent period of slacking, but I swear; I have good reasons behind it.

Recently, my wife and I purchased our first home, and we couldn’t be more excited to start this new chapter in our lives. Amongst the confusion and hectic nature of the move, I just haven’t had the time to communicate with you all, and have failed in my duties as your “Don” to provide you with the words of wisdom you all yearn for (vast overstatement, lol). Now that we are starting to get settled in however, I have no excuse but to bring you my best analysis from here on out.
The move to our new home was rather smooth, especially given the fact that we had to get things done in such a short period of time. There were times during the process when I didn’t think we would ever get this house, and at one point, I had started to give up any hope I may have been holding on to. Despite the obstacles we faced in the process, we were able to finally close on our house last Thursday, and we couldn’t have been happier to do so. That is, until we almost died. On Wednesday morning, we found that we had a gas leak in our new home, so we called our local electric company to take a look at our potential problem. We had no idea just how serious things were.

After analyzing our problem, the electric company found that we had TWO significant gas leaks, and determined we were one spark away from our house bursting into flames, and losing everything we had worked so hard to obtain. To go into extreme detail surrounding our situation would be exhausting, as I have other matters to discuss with you all today, but to keep a long story short, my wife and I are extremely lucky to have caught this problem before the problem caught us. Someone was certainly looking down upon us.

Once the chaos ceased in our home, I couldn’t help but to somehow relate our situation to that of our Buffalo Bills (of course I would, right?). Just as my wife and I had done, our Bills had worked extremely hard to get off to a great start in this journey to accomplishing a goal. It seemed as if our ultimate goal of making the playoffs was in the near future, but in this journey, the Bills have faced some obstacles and adversity in their growth process, as they attempt to move out of the basement of the league, and into the respectable neighborhood. While it is true our Bills have a few leaks here and there, by no means is the house burning to the ground. All we need to do is keep the faith that things will be fixed by those who know what they are doing.

The Week That Was:
Buffalo Bills 7 @ Dallas Cowboys 44

This was by far the worst loss the Bills have suffered this year.
This was by far the worst loss the Bills have suffered this year.

The Buffalo Bills went into Dallas with hopes of keeping pace with the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East, as they were readying themselves to face a tough NFC East opponent in the Cowboys. Not only was this a big game for the Bills as a team, but it was a big game for RB Fred Jackson and WR David Nelson for other reasons. Both Fred Jackson and David Nelson were making homecomings of sorts, and for Jackson, he literally was about to play in his childhood back yard. For those who haven’t heard by now, Fred Jackson’s childhood home was demolished in order to make room for the new Cowboys stadium. The home of the Cowboys literally sits on top of Fred Jackson’s old home, but unfortunately for Fred and the gang, the homecoming was not a sweet return.

From the very onset of the game, the Bills looked lackadaisical and dull. The Cowboys came out of the game with a bang, and quickly jumped on top of the Bills with a 21-0 lead and never looked back. When it was all said and done, the Cowboys absolutely thrashed the Bills by the tune of 44-7. This was by far the worst loss the Bills have suffered this year, and the first time they have lost back to back games in the 2011 season. Here are some notes from the loss in Big D.

  • The Buffalo Bills are now 2-4 since their appearance on Sports Illustrated (after they defeated NE at the Ralph)
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 7 TDs and 9 INTs in the last 5 games for the Buffalo Bills, and has slipped down to 10th overall on ESPN’s total QBR ratings.
  • RB Fred Jackson currently leads the league in rushing with 917 yards on the ground, and is 2nd amongst NFL RBs in yards per carry (for RBs that have at least 100 carries). The only RB averaging more yards per carry is Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray.
  • After going 7 straight games without a fumble, Fred Jackson has now lost fumbles in consecutive games.

Honest Analysis:
After the loss to the Cowboys, it seemed as if our fanbase had started reverting back to our old ways. Immediately following the game, many of the Bills Mafia started questioning a multitude of issues surround the Bills, one of them being Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract extension. After seeing a variety of opinions regarding Fitz and his recent performances, I decided to ask you all if you thought the extension was premature, and I was overwhelmed with the input I received from the family. I received many great responses, and it’s obvious that this is an issue we all are passionate about, regardless of which side you are on in the debate.

My take on Fitzpatrick is pretty simple. The quarterback that we saw early on in the season was a player who was playing with a chip on his shoulder, and I don’t think that the chip has gone away simply because he has received a pay day. The biggest issue for our offense in my opinion has been up front, where we have had some of our best lineman suffer significant injuries that have caused our offensive unit to take a step backwards. Say what you will about our guys on the o-line, but early in the season, they were getting the job done, and Fitz was remaining in the upright position. As soon as our guys started to get banged up, that is when things started to stall offensively for the Bills, and I don’t think there is any coincidence to this whatsoever.

Andy Levitre's versatility has proven to be a tremendous asset for our team.
Andy Levitre's versatility has proven to be a tremendous asset for our team.

One guy we have to give ultimate praise to is Andy Levitre, who has basically been holding this offensive line together with duct tape. Levitre has proved his worth by showing just how much of a team player he is, as his versatility has proven to be a tremendous asset for our team. When both of our LT’s went down with injuries (both whom were playing very well), Levitre stepped into the LT spot and has done a decent job, despite being out of his natural spot. Levitre will need to continue playing out of position now that we have lost C Eric Wood for the season. Let’s just hope we can get either Hairston or Bell back as soon as possible, or else we may continue to struggle as an offense.

David Nelson's TD (and ensuing celebration) saved the Bills from an overall grade of F.
David Nelson's TD (and ensuing celebration) saved the Bills from an overall grade of F.

In regards to the performance in the Cowboys game, it was extremely ugly. There is no denying that, and there is no way to sugarcoat it. We were outplayed in every phase of the game, and our inability to sustain drives has killed this team of late. It’s one thing to lose a close game in dramatic fashion, even if you think you’ve had a call or two go against you unfairly, but it’s another thing to get absolutely embarrassed when you’re in the process of trying to win the respect of your peers. On Sunday, we showed that we still have a lot of work to do, but by no means do I think it is over, as some of the fan base has been suggesting. The performance was ugly, so I give the guys an overall grade of D-. I could give the guys a flat out F for this performance, but the grade was bumped up due to the fact that David Nelson scored a TD in his homecoming, and gave the ball to his extremely hot girlfriend. That has to be worth something, right?

The Week That Will Be:
(5-4) Buffalo Bills @ (2-7) Miami Dolphins

On paper, you would think a game between a 5-4 team and a 2-7 team would be a no brainer, but this is not a game the Bills can be taking lightly. The Dolphins, who have looked horrid on occasion this season, have been playing much better of late, and have scraped together 2 wins, seemingly hurting their chances in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes. All kidding aside, the Dolphins have some players on this roster that could pose a threat to this Buffalo Bills.

The Dolphins have a decent front 7 that could make things difficult for Fitz and company.
The Dolphins have a decent front 7 that could make things difficult for Fitz and company.

Defensively, the Dolphins have a decent front 7, and if our offensive line does not play up to par, the Dolphins defensive unit could certainly make things difficult for Fitz and company. With Eric Wood out for the year, Levitre will be playing center in his absence, and it looks that Pears will get his first start of the season at tackle. There is uncertainty up front for this Bills offense, but the game plan here should be to feed our league leading running back Fred Jackson. While Miami has a solid rush defense (10th overall in the league), we need to utilize our best/hottest player at the moment, and that would be Fred. If there are any qualms I have regarding our offensive playcalling of late, it’s the fact that we seem to get away from Fred at times, when we should be continuously feeding the hot hand.

When it comes to our passing game, it seems like this is a matchup that should favor our offense, but it could all come down to whether or not Steve Johnson plays this Sunday. The Dolphins struggle against the pass, as they rank 25th overall in the league, so if our running game can not be established, Fitz will need to take advantage of a secondary that gives up a lot of yards. Perhaps this game will help get Fitz on track.

This game is of extreme importance to our playoff hopes in 2011, and needless to say, this is a must win for the Buffalo Bills. In the end, I feel as if Fitz will get back on track this week with a solid performance. Defensively, we can’t let Matt Moore tear up our secondary, and hopefully the return of Kelsay will help give our pass rush the boost we so desperately need. I think this game will be a lot closer than some seem to be indicating, and in the end, I feel our Buffalo Bills will move to 6-4 with a victory in Miami by the score of 20-14.

Calling Out A Hater:

We are changing the mentality of our fanbase. That mentality is not null and void just because we have lost a couple of games.
We are changing the mentality of our fanbase. That mentality is not null and void just because we have lost a couple of games.

I’m not going to be brash this week when calling out the haters, because unfortunately, this week’s haters are within our own fan base. All I want to say is this: Don’t give up. Right now, the Bills stand at 5-4, and with the Jets loss against the Broncos, a win gets us right back in the thick of things. Lately, it seems like I have gone back in time, due to the fact that there are Bills fans who are reverting back to the old mindset dominated by thoughts of futility and dooms day mentality. By no means is this season over, and with a win this week, we remain very much alive in the playoff hunt. No, we shouldn’t fire Chan Gailey and staff. No, we shouldn’t bench Fitzpatrick for Thigpen. And no, we shouldn’t be losing hope just because we face a little adversity. The team we started the year with was a team we all believed in, and that is what Bills Mafia is all about. We are changing the mentality of our fanbase. That mentality is not null and void just because we have lost a couple of games. There is still plenty of football yet to be played. So before you jump off the bandwagon, remember that it isn’t stopping anytime soon, and jumping from a moving vehicle could be detrimental to your health.

Peace and Blessings #BillsMafia,

Sean (aka @BillsMafiaDon)
Bills Mafia Blog