I’m not sure how much my heart can take this Buffalo Bills’ season. Every Sunday this season my blood pressure has risen dramatically for many reasons: an overtime win, a complete thrashing in the home opener, two last second comebacks, a failed game winning drive on a blown pass interference call, and of course screaming at Brady and company. Not sure if I can take this the whole season but I’m strapped in for the ride. Just don’t tell my doctor, I hate pills.
A personal note, if you will; I’ve enjoyed writing for #billsmafia this season and have been toying with an idea the past few weeks I want to roll with from here on out. Fortunately/unfortunately some other things have popped up (looking at you Trump) that kept me away from trying this out, so here we go! If you like the format or would like to see tweaks, don’t be shy; I write for the love of the team which means you readers have skin in this game too!
Watching the game felt like a flashback from the previous week. I could easily imagine being a sportswriter with the Buffalo News and having the same exact headline two weeks in a row; “Turnovers, Penalties lead to Bills Loss”. But instead, we got to see the maturation of a team in progress, a team that would have keeled over in seasons past.
WHY WE WON
Sammy Watkins. Watkins easily had his best game of his young career, hauling in both Orton touchdown throws. Yes, we all know he has the skillset but it was nice to see the game plan revolve around him like a true #1 receiver. Of the 14 times he was targeted, he managed 9 catches and one game-saving drop. On the final drive, Orton threw behind Watkins on a crossing route, and instead of allowing it to fall into the hands of the Vikings safety, he batted it safely to the ground.
The Team Believes. The mark of a winner is more than stats; it’s how they react when the game is on the line. The Bills have already had two game winning drives this season, so it doesn’t surprise me that the seeds of a winning mentality are beginning to sprout. With over 40% of all NFL games ending within a one score margin, this is definitely a positive sign.
Defense Rising to the Occasion. Let’s face it, the Bills offense up until that last drive was sketchy. A lot of good plays and a lot of shooting themselves in the foot to stall drives. The defense on the other hand kept Minnesota at bay on many occasions where it felt like they could put another dagger into the game. Leodis McKelvin had a monster game with interceptions on back-to-back pass plays (one of which setting up Watkins’ first score), but also had to deal with returning punts and kickoffs due to C.J. Spiller’s injury.
WHY BUFFALO WOULD LOSE TO THE JETS
The Classic “Letdown Game”. After a game like this week’s, human nature would point to rest and recovery of both the body and the mind. During the postgame locker room speech, Doug Marrone mentioned the amount of work it will take to keep player’s heads in the game during practice this week. Taking the Jets too lightly might end up costing the Bills a game they cannot afford to lose.
Lack of Running Game. Having a solid starting running back in the NFL is rare these days. Having two is a luxury. Losing both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller was a blow Buffalo might not be able to recover from. Anthony Dixon has shown ability, but he’s not on the same level as those two workhorses. Bryce Brown has ability, but his unfamiliarity with the offensive scheme may limit his production. Adding to this conundrum is the fact that the Jets’ best asset is their run defense, currently 8th in yds/game and 6th in yds/carry.
Jets Adding Weapons. For a few seasons now the Jets have been lacking on offensive weaponry. This offseason they took a splash and picked up former Broncos receiver Eric Decker, and just this week traded a fourth round pick to Seattle for Percy Harvin. Decker isn’t playing with Peyton Manning anymore, but is still on pace for 850 yards and 8 TD’s on the season, which isn’t bad playing in New York. Adding Harvin gives the Jets a double bonus: a playmaker with game-changing ability, and frees up Decker from double teams.
WHY BUFFALO CAN BEAT THE JETS
Sketchy Pass Defense. The Jets may be able to neutralize Buffalo’s run game, but the Bills will be going up against possibly the worst pass defense they’ll see this year. Currently the Jets sit dead last in passing touchdowns given up (18, or 3/game), and are 31st in opponent passer rating (108.3). After not having a 300 yd passer since November 19th, 2006, Kyle Orton could give the Bills their 2nd this season.
Bryce Brown. I know this seems contradictory to earlier, but hear me out. Brown and Dixon were signed as insurance policies in the case Jackson and/or Spiller went down with injuries. With Doug Whaley’s foresight being 20/20, it’s time to cash in insurance policy number two. Just how good can Bryce Brown be? During his short career he has averaged 4.6 yds/carry, which is right in between what Jackson and Spiller have averaged in theirs. Also, let’s not forget he was the #1 football recruit out of high school in 2008, the first time a RB was the top rated player since Adrian Peterson.
Teams Going Opposite Directions. It seems the Bills and the Jets have very similar storylines, yet the teams aren’t competing on the same level. Both have very talented defensive lines and can stop the run. Both have had to sit their second year QB for the veteran backup. Both coaches could be on the hot seat this year if things don’t improve from last year. Somehow, though, one team is a game out of first place in the division, the other has a game in the W column. Five straight losses can kill a season, and the Jets are coming off a game against New England they should have won, ultimately losing on a last second score (once again, the opposite of what Buffalo did). New York played their hearts out just to lose, and I don’t think they can muster up that much emotion after the letdown this past Thursday.
Unlike the past few weeks, I see the Bills taking an early lead in this one. Watch for them to lean on the passing game out of the gate and milking the run game late. With The final will end up being close, but the game will feel like it never was. Bill