What Is It With This Bills Team?

Photo of QB Matt Barkley from deadspin.com.

I had business in Florida last week and missed a chance to see the Bills and the Jets at Met Life Stadium. Given how the season’s been going for the two teams, Fort Lauderdale seemed like the better option. Who’s not picking the beach over Matt Barkley?

Sunday turned out to be a good day to be in New Jersey. I had to settle for lunch at Slackers in Fort Lauderdale, watching the Bills go up 24-0 before heading to the airport. (Slackers, by the way, is a great place to watch games – TVs everywhere, typical pub food. It’s a Packers bar, and there’s great memorabilia all over).

What is it with the Bills? How can they be so bad one week, and so good the next? Yes, Sunday it was the Jets, and the Jets look to be genuinely awful. Last Sunday, the Bills didn’t deserve to be on the field with the Bears, and the week before that they could do nothing against the Patriots. Maybe there’s just THAT much difference between the good and the bad teams.

But that can’t be it, can’t be all of it. The Bills were flatter than flat at home against the Bears, and they were world beaters a week later on the road. It’s the same kind of emotional ups and downs this team displayed last season. Is it a characteristic of Sean McDermott teams?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 11: Matt Barkley #5 of the Buffalo Bills warms up prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 11, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images).

What else was different this week? Matt Barkley. Prior to Sunday, Barkley had started six games in the NFL, and he had a career passer rating of 63.7. Sunday he was 15-25 and two touchdowns for a passer rating over 117. He had the game of his career. When have we last seen a Buffalo QB so effective?

So what changed for Matt Barkley? Was it Brian Daboll? McDermott? Or was it glue on Robert Foster’s hands when in earlier games Foster’s hands were slathered in 10W-30? Zay Jones continued emergence? Or was it just the Jets?

How does everything change in a week? Holes for McCoy. Time for the quarterback to throw. Receivers open. Penalties under control. Special teams making plays.

Had to be the Jets. Had to be the Jets are just that bad, or they’re tanking.

Still, the Bills played well-executed NFL football on Sunday, something they seemed incapable of a month ago. They showed, as they have for the past few weeks, that they have an offensive line to build on, instead of one to dismantle totally. They showed the solid, disciplined defense we’ve seen most of the season.

Photo of QB Matt Barkley from NewYorkUpstate.com.

Let the quarterback controversy begin. Allen will be ready to go after the bye, but did Barkley just win the job? Does Barkley get to start until he returns to the form he showed in previous seasons? Is there a QB competition in the offing for training camp next season? I’d think the Bills would be, should be, all in on Allen. But can the Bills really turn their backs on the quarterbacking Barkley showed on Sunday?

It’s an unusual season, to be sure. Wins over two pretty good, playoff-contending teams, a near win on the road against a third, a blowout win over a bad Jets team, and a few other glimpses of some good football, combined with several absolutely horrible showings and record-setting offensive futility. A different QB every week.

Logic says the Bills should be all about losing this season, positioning themselves for the best possible rookie talent in the 2019 draft. But winning is so much more fun than losing. The Dolphins twice, the Jets again, the Jags and the Lions. The Patriots are the only winning team left on the Bills’ schedule. Bizarre as it sounds, the NFL’s laughingstock could end the season 8-8. Or 3-13.

A week off, and then the roller coaster ride resumes.


The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.

Editor’s babble: Matt Barkley, Wyatt Teller, Isaiah McKenzie… welcome to our nightmare. What a great game for the Bills to take into the bye week from a mental perspective. And what about those J-E-T-S … barf, barf, barf? Thanks to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. You can’t find Mark on social media, but occasionally he does post at twobillsdrive.com. 

3 Replies to “What Is It With This Bills Team?”

  1. Just when you think this team is hitting the final skid they bounce back beat someone, I don’t care if it was the Jets.

    Personally, I’d rather see them lose out but be competitive… The Bills need to be in the top 5 in the draft. We have drafted so many times between 10 & 20 that they never get that elite talented player.

    • I agree 100% The Bills have drafted (on average) between 8-13 during the playoff drought and that’s too far out from getting an elite player.