At 5-4 the Buffalo Bills are doing better in 2007 than they have in a long time. Despite complaints about the coaching staff, a rash of injuries and a miserably ineffective offense, somehow this team has a winning record and the second longest winning streak in the league. And I didn’t even mention the quarterback controversy! Unfortunately, in week 11, the Bills face the one team with a longer winning streak, the 9-0 New England Patriots. It’s difficult to say how the Bills will respond as there is literally no history to look at. The Bills have never faced a 9-0 opponent.
However, they have played the New England Patriots plenty and lately it hasn’t been pretty. The Bills have lost 13 of the last 14 and 8 straight. Earlier this season the Patriots beat them 37-7 in Foxboro. In fact, the Patriots have just about walked all over every opponent they faced. Only the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis colts put up a serious fight, but caved in the end. But this is the NFL and anything can happen. Its unlikely, but the Bills could win. They would need everything to go perfectly their way for it to happen, but it could happen. There’s a reason only one team has ever gone undefeated. Whenever a team is good enough to make a serious run for it, some usually underwhelming opponent upsets them. Often it’s the Dolphins themselves, defending the undefeated title despite having a miserable season. This week it’s the Bills who have a shot in front of a national audience.
It will be serious prime time football at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the crowd will be rocking, that’s for sure. This isn’t Monday night, everybody has the day off with nothing to do but tailgate all day. Its going to be a wild scene. Buffalo fans know how to show up for prime time and they demonstrated that earlier this year on Monday Night Football. Sunday night football seems to be getting bigger than Monday Night as ESPN has horribly mishandled the coverage and taken all of the life out of the coverage while NBC has brought in the best commentators and made it about football. The Sunday night games have been generally better match-ups as well which makes one wonder how the league feels about ESPN’s work with Monday night.
The Bills have elected to continue with J.P. Losman despite his unimpressive performance against the winless Dolphins last week. I think this was the right decision under the circumstances. Edwards is coming off an injury, has almost no experience as it is and really hasn’t been that spectacular when he was in. He definitely shows potential, but putting him in at this point sends a pretty strong message that the team is giving up on the playoffs. Edwards will not benefit from getting destroyed by blitzes for the rest of the season. He crumpled under pressure against the Jets. Aside from all that however, Dick Jauron made the right decision for one primary reason. His job is to keep the team focused and confident. The team is coming off a win where they did not play well. By leaving Losman in place, he is able to take advantage of the positive momentum of the win. If he benches Losman, he loses that. The players have been rallying behind Losman in a way that they didn’t when Edwards was in. More so in the Bengals game, but it showed in the 4th quarter against the Dolphins as well.
Losman has really taken an unjust amount of blame for the poor performance of the offense in Miami. The offensive mess was a team effort. Losman threw a perfect pass to the sideline on third down and Josh Reed catches it but steps out of bounds under no pressure. Michael Gaines drops a sure touchdown pass that was perfectly positioned. Marshawn Lynch loses 4 yards on 3rd and 1. And for all the criticism of Losman, did anyone notice that Buffalo’s receivers couldn’t get open against a pathetic group of Miami backups? It’s not Losman’s fault. Dick Jauron realizes that all he does by putting Edwards in right now is guarantee that Losman is out of Buffalo and probably Lee Evans with him. Edwards was less effective than Losman when he was in. He’s a rookie so that’s to be expected, but there really isn’t a strong argument to put him in when you look at the numbers.
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT SACK YDS RAT
J.P. Losman 69 109 820 63.3 7.52 2 3 9 73 80.8
Trent Edwards 80 121 790 66.1 6.53 1 5 9 71 69.9
Edwards has only had one game where he had a high percentage of completions (against the Jets the first time). For some reason everyone seems to think that that has continued, but it hasn’t. Losman has completed roughly the same percentage and gets an extra yard out of each completion on average. Losman has 2 TDs to Edwards’ 1 but both of these are embarrassingly low numbers. Edwards has thrown more interceptions.
So either the Bills have two lousy quarterbacks or something else is wrong with this offense. I happen to think that both Losman and Edwards are quality quarterbacks. Losman has more ability but is not as quick a study as Edwards. They actually compliment each other nicely. They also get along, which is a bonus these days. So where is the real problem with this offense? Its in the receiving.
I don’t think its necessarily that the Bills don’t have enough talent. Certainly it would be nice to have a more reliable 2nd receiver, but between Lee Evans, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish the Bills ought to be able to get more going than this. This is the point where I am going to point my finger at Tyke Tolbert, the Bills receivers’ coach for the last four seasons. Tyke must be a real swell guy to survive the coaching changes and the players apparently like him, but he clearly does not know how to get his players to play. Lee Evans has been slow to get involved in the offense in every season Tolbert has coached him. Light a fire under your star! Are you kidding? What kind of coach tolerates this? Robert Royal doesn’t get his foot in last season on an easy touchdown, now Josh Reed steps out of bounds on an easy out pattern? What exactly IS Tyke teaching his players? Certainly not how to get open against the worst defense in the NFL! The Bills don’t get the most out of their wide receivers and it seems pretty obvious to me why. How did this guy survive the coaching change? He sucked under Mularkey as well.
I’m also on the bandwagon with all the people who think that Steve Fairchild needs to go. He has made some of the least inventive game plans ever. His ability to make adjustments during the game are non-existent and at half time marginal at best. The whole team is being held back by this idiot. It has all been said before. I like Dick Jauron though, he is a defensive minded coach and shouldn’t be blamed for the offensive problems as much as Fairchild who was hired to mastermind the offense. Oops.
I think the Bills were caught looking in a big way down in Miami but were fortunate enough to pull off the victory. That was actually a big step for J.P. Losman pulling off a strong 4th quarter after a miserable start and actually taking the game from Miami. That win is carrying a lot more momentum for the players than it is for the fans. Nevertheless the Buffalo fans will be in full bloom Sunday night. All odds are against it happening but can’t you just smell upset? Here’s a few crazy reasons to billieve:
1.The Patriots are coming off a BYE but the Bills were clearly thinking about the Patriots last week, so both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this game.
2.Dwayne Wright averaged 6 yards per carry on 6 carries in the first meeting with the Patriots. So even if Marshawn Lynch doesn’t play (it looks like he won’t) the Bills may still be effective on the ground. Hey Mel Kiper thinks that draft pick was as good as the Patriots drafting Brady in the 6th round. Mel’s full of crap, but still.
3. Tom Brady says he’s never played a night game in Buffalo before…
4. The 12th Man.
5. Come on the Bills are just due to upset the Patriots, its been so long. Why not now?
Sometimes the ball bounces your way. Bills 27 Patriots 13. Lots of weirdness and special teams plays make it happen for this tight Bills team.
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