I wish I could say there was a lot learned by watching the drubbing of the Jets this week, but after the game all I was left with were two things; questions and a sore throat. Don’t get me wrong, the Bills Backers down here in Virginia Beach had a hell of a time cheering on Geno and the Bills (you didn’t read that wrong). All I’m saying is that a horrible performance by one team does not necessarily equate to a great performance by the other.
Usually when the Bills grab a lead and it starts to slip away, my natural reflex is to think “great, not this crap again”. Somehow though, this game felt different to me. I don’t know if it’s because we were playing the Jets or if the Bills’ resolve to win this season kept me at ease. Who knows, maybe it was the four beers I had before halftime. Either way, once New York pulled Geno Smith, I knew this would finally become a ballgame. Sure enough, Michael Vick marches them right down the field for a touchdown. That guy’s talent still scares me, but not enough to think we would end up losing the game.
Due to the bye this week, I’m going to dig a little further into those questions I was left with after Sunday’s win. The throat is on a bye week too, which helps. A quick shout out to “Bryan” who noticed last week’s post getting cut off at the predictions portion. It’s a good thing, too; even though I called how the game would play out, I didn’t predict the score would be that lopsided. Ok, enough with the banter; on to the Triple Take!
Why The Bills Won
I didn’t need ESPN to report that Geno was benched in favor of Michael Vick as the Jets’ starting quarterback going forward. Smith has rare athletic ability, but that’s about where it ends. His reads against Buffalo were so poor that 50 Cent might start harassing him on Twitter like he does to Floyd Mayweather. I’m actually surprised Rex Ryan didn’t do this earlier in the season. There’s a lot a quarterback can learn when backing up a seasoned veteran, and Geno Smith certainly isn’t ready to be “the man” just yet. Kind of reminds me of…
Orton didn’t have to do much in the game. When you’re an NFL quarterback and are asked to throw less than 20 times, one of two things is happening. A: you’re winning big, or B: the team doesn’t trust you. Thankfully, in this case it was the former. Even though his number wasn’t called much, Kyle’s veteran savvy ensured the Bills kept the lead. Most of his incompletions were throw-aways, not forced throws that could have ended up being picked off by the Jets. Orton was only 10-17 for the night, but those 10 completions went for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Talk about efficiency!
It’s hard to say who was the best Bills player on defense this week, which means the whole squad was on point. The first quarter seemed like an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show; you get a pick, and YOU get a pick, and YOU GET A PICK! Sure, the switch to Vick got the Jets back in the game a bit, but even if you take out Geno Smith’s blunders, Buffalo’s defense still would have had a +3 turnover differential. On a day where the Bills offense scores 43 points while only going 3-12 on third down, Schwartz’ defense kept the Jets from turning this into a shootout.
WINNING THE BYE WEEK
Time Heals old Wounds.
Halfway through the season, the Bills are seemingly healthy compared to past years. With two weeks off to rest, Buffalo will be getting back some major producers and will be close to others. The most noticeable return will be Fred Jackson, but having both Marcus Easley and Marquise Goodwin back in the lineup will help keep starters off of special teams. Leodis McKelvin has been formidable as a returner, but had he been injured in the past few weeks Sammy Watkins may have been returning kicks. Not that he wouldn’t be good at it (in fact, he has all the tools to be), now just wouldn’t be the time to subject him to additional hits at the pace he’s being targeted in the passing game.
Finding the “Best Five”.
Coach Doug Marrone has been preaching his “best five” offensive linemen strategy all year, but Buffalo still has issues running the ball and protecting the quarterback. The revolving door at Left Guard is still an issue, three of the linemen on the roster are rookies, and the right side is being played by personnel who weren’t originally playing at their respective positions until right before the season opener (Henderson LT playing RT, Pears RT playing RG). These two weeks should give the offensive coaching staff some time to really dig into what the issues really are and get to the bottom of this.
The Bills offensive line issues are contributing to the offense’s two big stat issues; third down efficiency and red zone efficiency. Sunday’s win saw a dramatic decline in the former, yet somehow an amazing show in the latter. Buffalo had 7 straight drives Sunday where the team either went 3-and-out or 3-and-kick (fg attempts after turnovers). In fact, if Sammy Watkins doesn’t celebrate prematurely on his 84 yd catch, the Bills’ only two drives of more than 4 plays would have been on their first possession (7 plays, touchdown) and their last (6 plays), which was aided by a neutral zone penalty on their first third down.
TRADE DEADLINE MOVES?
(*NOTE: I’m writing this on Monday Night, I know the deadline will pass before publication)
Option 1: Get Draft Picks.
Buffalo needs to shore up the draft next year after paying a big price for Sammy Watkins. Even though Watkins has shown he may have been worth two first-round picks, no team wants to enter a draft with their hands tied. Dealing either Mike Williams or one of our backup defensive linemen could do the trick to get anywhere from a second to a fourth rounder, but I’m not sure the Bills see it as a necessity. One of the biggest strengths of the Bills right now is our depth, and stocking picks doesn’t do them much in the “win now” department.
Option 2: Shore Up the O-Line.
As far as help for this season is concerned, the biggest hole Buffalo has is the offensive line play. I’m not sure if the Bills have enough value to trade for a top-end lineman right now without adversely affecting our starting lineup elsewhere. The only way I could see this working is if a team like Seattle or San Francisco would be looking to dump a big salary contract before the year is up, but they’re contenders and most likely wouldn’t want to rock the boat halfway through the season.
Option 3: Sit Tight.
I’m not in favor of the Bills making any moves, as the roster seems pretty set as it is. Buffalo is on the back end of a rebuilding cycle and will have some money to spread around when the re-signing and free agency periods begin. The return of Kiko Alonso will allow the Bills to dump off some salary at the Linebacker spot, and I don’t see Mike Williams returning next year (a team-friendly contract restructure could change that). That will give the Bills some added room to focus on the offensive line in free agency, as well as the possibility of having to throw money at Kyle Orton. Let’s face it; if we make the playoffs, Orton is getting a contract extension. That’s how the league works, and QB’s demand a lot of money.
I predict the Sammy Watkins showboat reel will win 2nd place on the week’s “not top 10”. It would have won outright if it weren’t for Chicago Bears’ defensive end Lamarr Houston’s celebration injury. I predict the “discount double check” celebration dance will be banned, as it has injured two players so far this year. I also predict most Bills fans will enjoy their Halloween a little more “vigorously” without the normal weekend football festivities planned. With that being said, be safe out there Friday night everyone.