How different things might be this week had the Bills managed to pull off a victory against Tennessee on Sunday. Not only would they have entered their bye week on a high note, but they would be 4-3 and tied for the AFC East lead.
But the Bills didn’t win on Sunday and now the bye week will serve more as the eye of a hurricane more than anything else; a brief reprieve from another onslaught of assumed misery. Most fans (and probably most media) have already chalked up a pair of road losses for the Bills after they exit the bye. Can you blame them? The Texans and Patriots boast dynamic offenses that will be a chore for the porous Bills' defense to stop. Beyond the bye is a far more mature schedule than the one that many expected to yield a nine or ten-win season back in August. Myself included.
At the bye, the Bills are in something of a tailspin. Quarterback play has been non-existent, the run defense is just as historically bad as in recent years and the vaunted pass rush hasn’t shown up. There are a few bright spots in the form of CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson and a stunningly dangerous kick return duo of Leodis McKelvin and Brad Smith. The offensive line has also performed well despite a number of injuries. So there’s that too.
The biggest news that the bye week has yielded is the report that Mario Williams may get wrist surgery. I say go for it. Williams has been a virtual no-show for most of the season, doing his best work against rookies who he could bully and push around without needed very much finesse or variety to his approach. However, against more experienced tackles, Williams has been neutralized. Not to be an apologist for his play, but I’m certain that wrist has plenty to do with it.
All he seems capable of doing is latching onto his blocker and driving them back into the pocket. If he tries to do anything more complicated that involves swatting with that hand or using it for leverage, he is in effective. Call it what you will, but it certainly seems to be limiting some of his choices off the line.
Back in late August I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Bills Kickoff event at the stadium. It was then that I saw Williams with a cast halfway up his left forearm. At that point, I stated that if he doesn’t end up with at least one sack per game that he would be roasted by everyone with a Facebook account in addition to those in the media. Well, call me Nostradamus. Williams has been labeled a bust by some after seven games – because that is the intelligent approach – and now could be on the shelf with the surgery.
At this point the defense can’t really get much worse if he is gone. However, he has been solid in run support for most of the year. Let Williams get the surgery and plan on having him at 100% for next season. Obviously it isn’t even a less than ideal scenario, but it would appear this season and the favorable schedule won’t be capitalized on anyway.
As for the rest of the roster, what is there to say? There are the expected pros and cons that come along with every NFL team’s season. It just seems as if the cons are in far more significant positions than the pros at this point.
Joe shot me a handful of coordinators from throughout Buffalo’s history and posed the question: Is Dave Wannstedt the worst coordinator in Bills history? At first I thought no, but it would see as if yes is probably the proper answer. In my lifetime there have been some real duds (See: Schonert, Turk) and there were certainly plenty of goats in those thin years in the 70s and early 80s. However, Wannstedt was given a very impressive roster of defensive linemen and an average supporting cast in the defensive backfield and linebacking corps. Yet, his only contribution has been historically bad results. The bottom line is that Wannstedt just isn’t capable of calling a defense in today’s NFL. If this was 1998, the Bills would be onto something. But it is 2012 and it seems blatantly obvious that he is incapable of producing any tangible results.
When does the magic end?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing a pretty good job of proving he isn’t deserving of the contract he was awarded last year. He is as erratic as ever and has been making some clutch throws for the other team on a near weekly basis. In fact, when he has been needed to move the ball late in games, the play calling and his execution has been very conservative.
Obviously quarterback is the most pressing need for the Bills and they will certainly be in position to draft a quarterback at some point come April. But some questions that linger surround the Bills final record, the needs of teams above them in the draft order, and how things will shake out for the quarterbacks expected to go early in the draft. Worst case scenario is yet another year where the Bills are just mediocre enough to finish out of the top five or six picks and aren’t within striking distance for one of the elite QB’s on the board.
(Not so)Great Expectations
With nine games left, what should be expected of the Bills? Certainly there are fans out there saying things like “Lose them all and draft first” or “I don’t even care if they move” or tweeting #GiveUpForGeno. However, I’m a competitor and I hate the thought of quitting on a season. The schedule that originally had a fairly favorable home stretch now seems a bit more intimidating.
The Dolphins don’t appear to be a walk in the park and the Colts and Rams have been quite competitive to this point in the season. Obviously the Pats and Texans will be a bear to handle and this team still needs to prove they can beat the Jets. The Seahawks are not pretenders while the Jaguars should be the closest thing to a layup the Bills encounter. I’d still expect to see at least three wins (Jags, Colts, Rams) come out of this batch of games with the high end being five (Jags, Colts, Rams Dolphins x2) based on what the Bills are capable of doing. Unfortunately this has not been the season everyone had hoped it would be, but there are still nine more contests to drink in.