Why Jauron Is Still The Head Coach

Like many Bills fans, I thought that Dick Jauron’s firing was inevitable after the 2-8 finish to the season, scoring a whopping 6 points in their last 3 home games, going 0-6 in the division and blowing a 4-0 start to the season. So I was as disappointed and angry as everyone else when I heard that Ralph Wilson has decided to retain Jauron for at least another season. But, as i think about it more, I am starting to realize why this was the best move for the team this season. The Bills had 3 options as far as the coach goes: 1. Keep Jauron 2. Fire Jauron and hire one of the top available coaches (Cowher, Holmgren or Shanahan) or 3. Fire Jauron and hire another unknown coach with no experience. Bills fans of course were hoping Ralph Wilson would go with Option 2. The problem is that there is no chance that any of those coaches would come to Buffalo. In an attempt to show why, let me offer up this “letter to the coaching candidates”:

Dear Cowher, Holmgren, Shanahan,

I thought you might be interested in coming to coach the Buffalo Bills. Yes, it can be pretty nasty up here in the winter time, but its really a lovely city. If you can make it through the snow, 4th of July is really nice! Its not the biggest market in America but Russ Brandon has been doing a great job selling the souls of the Buffalo people to Toronto. But, all weather and market related issues aside, we have a really mediocre football team!

Our starting QB was given the confidence vote by Bill Walsh on his death bed! So we have committed to him despite the fact that he has a history of missing games for minor injuries, struggles in the type of weather that is most common late in the season in Buffalo, has only thrown more than 1 touchdown in a game 3 times in his career (only once in 2008), has never thrown for over 300 yards in a game, threw nearly 1/3 of his passes to his runningbacks this season, throws deep so rarely that defenses dont even cover deep against us, was ranked 27th in the league for TD percentage, 27th for TDs (tied with seneca Wallace and Mark Bulger), 23rd for passing yards, tied for 27th in the league for longest completion this season and checks down when receivers are wide open deep. But don’t worry we think he’s coming along nicely! Look at that pocket presence! Man does he look good in the pocket and he’s also great in press conferences! He’s much better than Losman at making excuses for this awful offense. Don’t worry about his tendency to get banged up because we have Gibran Hamdan to back him up. Thats right, Hamdan. Need we say more?

We’ve got two great runningbacks but a bunch of fat ineffective lineman so it doesnt matter. Our tightends wouldnt make the roster on most teams in the league let alone start. We have a great deep threat in lee Evans, but Edwards can’t throw the ball far enough for him to be a real factor, and behind him we have a solid 3rd receiver in Reed who is playing 2nd receiver and a bunch of special teams aces playing receiver behind him.

Our defense is pretty average too! we desperately need more linebackers, our only good Defnsive End is coming off an injury which may hobble him from here on out, behind him we have nobody, but I’m sure you can fix that. We need a Free Safety to compliment our underperforming first round draft pick at strong safety. Did I mention how good Whitner is at press conferences though? He guaranteed the team would make the playoffs in 2008, now thats the enthusiasm we like to see from our players! We do have a bunch of young corners but dont worry, when push comes to shove, we wont resign any of them when their contract is up as we will do with Jabari Greer this off-season. We have some talent at Tackle and middle linebacker, but the shoddy play at weakside linebacker and Defensive End all but negates their impact.

Our Special Teams is actually consistently very strong, we have a great punter and lots of strong return men. Our place kicker is consistent until the game is on the line. Unfortunately our special teams is only good because of the coaching Bobby April has provided them and he will most certainly be gone when we change head coaches.

Our last 4 coaches lasted 3 years or less. Also, the players we do have are all really young and inexperienced. So… Want the job?


Ralph Wilson

P.S. I don’t believe in paying large coaching salaries so be prepared to take a big pay cut. See you on the sidelines!

There isn’t a top coach in the league that would want to take the reins of this mess right now. So that rules out option 2. That leaves a choice between continuity hopefully leading to enough improvement for this team to take the next step, or gambling on yet another unproven coordinator a la Mularkey, Williams etc. The Bills aren’t the only team that has been disappointed by hot coordinator coaching prospects. Look at Mangini and Crennel, both were arguably safer selections than ones the Bills have made and they both failed as well. Taking a new coach from the coordinator pool woudl almost certainly result in a full rebuild of this team by a guy that has never done it before. Very low odds of success. Despite the lack of change in overall record over the three Jauron years, the team has improved statistically. Buffalo improved from 30th to 25th on Offense overall from 2007 to 2008 and from 30th to 14th on defense. Considering that the team was ranked 30th in both categories in 2007, maybe our expectations were a little high? Miami may have had a dramatic improvement in their record this year, but they actually made a smaller jump in statistical ranking, Miami defensively improved from 23rd in 2007 to 15th and Offensively from 28th to 12th. So the Bills defense actually had greater improvement than the Dolphins while the Dolphins Offense made a big jump versus the Bills smaller jump. Why? The Dolphins switched to a proven reliable quarterback while the Bills stayed pat with Awful Losman backing up Mediocre Edwards. Thankfully, Losman’s walking away from Buffalo forces the Bills to obtain another quarterback from somewhere, lets hope they have enough sense to get somebody that will improve the team rather than sitting back and smiling about the “improvement” from Edwards which happened but not to a degree that should leave us all feeling comfortable.

It would have been nice to see a big name come in and take Buffalo to the next level, but as it stands, the Bills are probably better off continuing their slow improvement under Jauron than take another wild shot with an unknown comodity. At the very least, Jauron has the support of the players which actually says quite a bit. Even when the 2008 season was already dead for the Bills, the team came out and beat Denver on the road and played a solid close game against the Patriots. (Fred Jackson’s running in that game was spectacular, the Pats had nearly every player up to block the run in that strong wind, the Bills didn’t even pretend to pass the ball and Jackson still had 5 yards a carry. Wow.)


Bills 0 – Patriots 13 – 10 Things I Think

Well, the 2008 season is over. What a disappointment. It will take months before I can start feeling positive about 2009.

1. Just when you think you’ve seen the worst conditions possible, along comes another remarkable Orchard Park game. Has the wind ever blown harder at a game? Maybe, but that was pretty bad.

The weather probably helped the Bills. It was in several ways great equalizer. The wind took the passing game from both teams, leaving both teams with only the run and some short passes. In those condtions, Randy Moss was just another receiver. Lee Evans (who got to the 1000 yards he deserved) was more valuable than Moss.

So the game came down to running the ball, where the Bills are pretty competitive. They ran well.

Unfortunately, while the weather conditions minimize the talents of the players, the conditions magnify the talents of the coaches. In that weather, players can’t make many big plays. So coaching decisions are even more important than in most other games, and this was the best coach in the history of the game against Dick Jauron. No contest.

2. Let’s hear it for the offensive line. It took another entire season, but they’re finally making a believer of me. The Bills played without their best offensive lineman, against a decent run defense that knew the Bills would come right at them, and the run game sparkled. Those guys made holes, moved the pile, just kept working to get every yard they could. It was a great show by some guys who may have learned, a little too late for this season, what it takes to make the running game go. And for those who were complaining that Kirk Chambers didn’t have a role on this team, look again. The guy clearly has progressed. He did a really nice job in the last two games. He certainly wasn’t a liability. Is it possible we’ve seen Jason Peters for the last time?

Pass protection, on the other hand, still needs serious work. Anyone watching film (heck, anyone watching the games live who’s watching the line play) figured out weeks ago that the Bills are clueless when it comes to picking up stunting linemen. It happened at least two or three times again yesterday: defensive end rushes to the inside, tackle stays with him; defensive tackle delays, then loops around the outside. One time Dockery was just standing in the backfield wondering where his man went, until he saw his man heading straight for the QB. Trent’s fumble was altogether not his fault, and several of the other times he was hit happened the same way. Either the coaches aren’t teaching (I’m betting they are) or the players aren’t learning (I’m betting thy’re not). It’s a real problem.

3. Speaking of Trent – nice game. He had a MUCH better day than he had in Cleveland in the blizzard – this game he actually figured out how to deliver the ball on plays when it seemed impossible. One of the best was the one that Royal dropped (Robert must have been amazed the ball got there). 70 passer rating isn’t great, but under the conditions was certainly good enough. (Cassel’s rating was higher, but he didn’t have to throw as much because he was (no surprises here) winning most of the game. He also wide open receivers.) Trent made good decisions, scrambled nicely, got sacked primarily because of blocking breakdowns, and had a fumble courtesy of Derrick Dockery.

Oh, and for those who didn’t like it last week when I complained about Trent dragging himself off the ground after sacks like he was near death, I won’t apologize. I will say, however, that that may have been Trent getting used to the game again after a little layoff. He got hit pretty well by the Patriots, and each time he just got up and went back at it. Good for him.

I predicted in June that Trent would finish the season as a top 15 passer. He didn’t make it (finsihed 17th), but he did finish surrounded by playoff QBs – Eli, Flacco, Cutler, McNabb, Delhomme – and way ahead of Roethlisberger. Trent has a lot of upside – he’ll work hard in the off-season and be better next year. Trent may not be a star in the future, but he’s a good bet.

4. Freddy Jackson is a gamer. Teams will spend a lot of time in the off-season devising ways to stop the wildcat; the Bills should spend time figuring out new ways to deploy it with Fred and Marshawn. (Meanwhile, if Marshawn had been healthy, this game could actually have been a win for the Bills. I don’t know if the Pats could have taken more pounding than they got with just one of these stars.)

We didn’t see anything new from Freddy yesterday, just more of the same: Quick to the hole, any hole. Really good burst. Surprising power. And a big heart. Great, great performance.

5. A couple of things about coaching. First, kudos to Dan Dierdorf, who was right on the money time after time in criticizing the Bills’ calls from the sidelines: (a) No sense of urgency with just under two minutes in the first half – that wasted time killed them in the end. (b) Too long in the huddle on the last play of the half. (c) Duke Preston fails to return to huddle after last play of the half. (d) Failure to go no huddle with the wind in the third quarter. (e) Empty the backfield on fourth and one or two, showing the Pats that it was a certain pass. Dierdorf had them all right. There were others, too (like trying a 40+ yard field goal in a tornado), but Dierdorf hit the high points.

6. On the other side of the field was Bill Belichick. While Dick was bumbling, what was Bill doing? Calling timeouts in the first quarter to keep the wind at his back, quick-kicking with the wind to get the good roll and pin the Bills deep, saving a play (the pass to Welker on the left sideline) that he knew the Bills couldn’t defend to use in the critical touchdown drive, having the RIGHT playcall on fourth down (the play action roll out keeper).

The Bills were clearly outprepared and outthought in this game, but that doesn’t really qualify as news.

7. The Ball Burglar really let us down, too. He needed two takeaways to bring the season total over $11,000 – big money to help lots of kids fight serious illness. He got none.

But the $11,000 challenge isn’t over. The Burglar needs just 15 Bills fans to agree to pay $1 per takeaway for the 2008 season – just $25 each (22 takeaways plus $3 extra for the three TD returns). Fifteen fans. You’re out there. Now’s the time to help.

And thanks to all those Burglars who have pledged a total of more than $400 per takeaway so far this season.

8. Exactly how many guys did the Bills have out there wearing number 95? Six solo tackles? SIX!!! From a defensive tackle? What a performance. Kyle Williams was everywhere. My new favorite player.

9. I hope Donte is all right. Clearly, it wasn’t his best season, but it’s never fun to see one of your guys go down like that.

It takes enormous courage to play this game. He never backs down, and he didn’t on that play.

I expect him back, playing with dedication that will be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

10. In the end, the Bills were a little below average. Overall, 25th in yards per game offense, 23rd in points per game offense. 22nd in passing yards, 22nd in passing rating. 14th in rushing yards, 16th in rushing average. The offense lagged behind the defense all season.

14th in yards per game defense, 14th in points per game defense. 13th in passing yards defense, 16th in passer rating defense. 22nd in rushing yards allowed, 21st in yards per carry defense. The defense wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough.

The Bills beat the teams they should have beaten, and lost to the teams they should lost to.

This game was emblematic of all of that. Average. The Bills were, for the Patriots and for every other good team they played this season, a worthy opponent. They played hard, fought all the way to the end, made it tough for the Pats to win. But, for the Pats and every other good team they Bills played, the Bills were just a team that wouldn’t roll over before losing. The Bills made good teams work for the win but were never able to make good teams lose. Average.

If I had to pick a team I wanted to win the AFC east other than the Bills, it would have been the Dolphins. I wanted the Pats out, and I didn’t want the carpetbagger in. Congratualations to Chad Pennington and his new teammates. They earned it, and I’m happy for Chad. Good player, class act.

See you all in the new year.


Greg's Weekly Picks NFL Playoffs

Greg’s NFL Weekly Picks: Playoffs

LAST WEEK: 10-6 :: OVERALL: 160-95-1 (62.5%)

The season has come to a close, and with a rather mediocre showing in the final two weeks, my record as a prognosticator is equally mediocre. Much like my favorite football team!

Looking ahead to the playoffs, I do see some interesting possible matchups.

First off, this wildcard weekend. I actually think all four wild card teams will win their games. Has that ever happened before? All four wild-card, road teams winning? Probably not. But that speaks to the caliber of those four divisions, NFC West, NFC North, AFC West, and even AFC East. I think all four of their opponents are better than they are.

If that happens, that sets up interesting divisional round games. All four would be divisional matchups! (Again, has that ever happened before??) Indy @ Tennessee, Baltimore @ Pittsburgh, Philly @ NY Giants, and Atlanta @ Carolina. What a great set of games! Those are much harder to pick, to be sure, but I really like the momentum the Colts have, and I see a rematch of the game a couple weeks ago at the Meadowlands on the NFC side.

So, Indy at Pittsburgh, and Carolina at New York… again, a great weekend of football. Both should be very good games. (Even if Baltimore somehow manages to upset Pittsburgh the week before… would be a good matchup of both Baltimore franchises.)

In the end, defense (and enough offense) wins. Pittsburgh will play the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants for the Lombardi Trophy in February. That will be a great game as well… I’d have to give the nod to the Giants and their crazy unstoppable running game in that one. But Pittsburgh has found a way to win all the games they needed to this year. So, you never know.

Let the playoffs begin!

(And for the Bills… there’s always next year. Which, is really true for us. There is ALWAYS next year…)


Technical Difficulties … Again

Seems we continue to have technical difficulties here at the Buffalo Bills Review. Not only was the recording electronically garbled last week, now we are not able to publish articles to the website either! Perhaps all part of Ralph’s grand conspiracy? We’ll see… if this article doesn’t publish, I may begin to believe that…

Coaching Staff Offseason Recommendations Transactions

Attention Russ Brandon: Off-Season Plan

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure that running a franchise in Madden ’08 is the same thing as running an actual NFL franchise, but they seem to have done a good job of adding enough of the pieces that it very closely parallels that experience. And, in that the Bills have languished in mediocrity for a decade or more now… wouldn’t you think they’d want some advice from a successful NFL owner/GM? I have managed to take the 2007 Buffalo Bills – a middle of the pack team – and turn them into the highest rated team, and a financially successful organization after just three seasons.

So, Russ, if you’re listening… here’s what I’d do.

Football Man at the Top
I really believe Russ Brandon has been good for the Bills, and will be good for the Bills. I think if he wants to keep the franchise moving forward, the first thing they have to do is bring in a “football guy” to make football decisions. Right now Tom Modrak and John Guy are making those decisions, and they are doing a 7-9 job of it. What I would do is bring in a guy who has proven to win wherever he has gone – and a guy who has been around – and put him at the top of the chain for football-related decisions. Not a business guy… that’s Brandon. A football guy.

My top pick? Mike Holmgren. He’s retiring in Seattle. Doesn’t want to coach for now. But he could perhaps be persuaded to continue earning a fat paycheck as the Head Direction Giver for the Bills, much like Bill Parcells in Miami. Turned them around in ONE SEASON. These Bills have much more talent than the Dolphins did last year.

Once Holmgren is here, he can evaluate the staff, the players, and maybe with a little pruning and a few additions… we’re right where the Dolphins are this year.

Russ… please… if you are listening… this is almost mandatory.

The JPs must go. They are both a cancer to this team. I didn’t know that about the larger JP until this past off season. But the way he handled his dispute with the Bills (which was interesting, in that he had THREE more years on his contract…) was just ridiculous, unprofessional, and revealed much about his character. Then the way he has played this year, coupled with his various public comments, and then sitting out the last two games… the man HAS to go.

QB JP is a free agent, and will be gone. But LT JP still has two years on his current contract. And, maybe his undeserved second invite to the Pro Bowl will actually benefit the Buffalo Bills.

Here’s the plan. Trade our “young, talented, two-time Pro Bowl LT” to one of the top three teams in the 2009 draft (Detroit, Kansas City, or St. Louis) and select Michael Oher or Andre Smith with that pick. Both these guys are super highly rated tackles in what is being called a rich offensive lineman draft class. Michael Oher should be amazing. He could easily equal (and hopefully exceed) what Peters did this season. So trade Peters for their top pick… straight up. They get a “proven”, Pro Bowl left tackle, and we get to dump Peters.

The Bills will have the #10 pick in this year’s draft. That’s a pretty good pick. If they do trade Peters for a top three pick, that would be two of the top ten picks in the 2009 draft. Theoretically… that’s amazing. And what they really, really need is a top-notch defensive lineman. A real play maker. Like a Bruce Smith. Oh, how we miss Bruce Smith. There seem to be some pretty good choices in this draft class, too. Athletic guys who can make things happen on the field. That’s what we need.

Also, we need to build depth. We should draft a decent QB prospect, as we’ll be losing one this off-season. (I have already said, I’d like to see University at Buffalo QB, Drew Willy as a Bill.) We also need to think about depth on both lines. Our middle round picks should be used for both lines, offensive and defensive. With the #10 pick (and hopefully a top three pick) the Bills could have three picks in the top 50. Maybe trade up with some lower round picks and get another high second round pick if that fits our needs. A few quality guys from this draft might be just what we need to break out of mediocrity!

Free Agent Signings: Defensive Play Makers!
A lot of people have their sites set on Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans. He is definitely a force, and a good player. But he is not the type of guy the Bills generally go after. In the news too often for the wrong reasons. However, there are a couple other guys who may be worth the Bills shelling out big bucks for.

Terrell Suggs is my top choice. He is a defensive end/linebacker who makes lots of plays. He could be much like Cornelius Bennett was for the Bills in the 1990s. Bennett was just all around great. All over the field, making big plays when we needed them, covering, tackling, and especially, getting pressure on the QB. Imagine a Bills team with a healthy Aaron Schobel, Marcus Stroud, one of those top DEs from the draft, Terrell Suggs, and the current playmakers, Poz, Mitchell, and the secondary. That is much improved right there.

Another guy they may take a look at is Julius Peppers. Peppers has always been a force on defense, though he is getting older, and perhaps losing a step. But if they can not get Suggs, I would think Peppers has enough left in him, teamed with some guys already on the field here, to make a difference for Buffalo.

Give Dick Jauron an Ultimatum
It is quite obvious that the players like to play for Dick Jauron. That’s a good thing. Should rally them to play their best football. But so far… that has only equaled 7 wins. Three years in a row. That’s not good enough. Russ, if you’re listening, you really need to say to Dick… this is it. You either make the playoffs, or we are going to bring in someone else who can. The NFL is a very short season. While good plays, and players who are happy are all good things… winning is really the bottom line. When a team has not made the playoffs for a decade… that’s really inexcusable. (Reference again the 2007-2008 Miami Dolphins… worst in the league to AFC East champs in ONE season.)

So, early in the off-season, let Jauron know that he is in fact playing for his job this next season. Whatever that means… hiring new assistants, letting them have more game day decision control, bringing in better players… whatever. The ultimatum is: playoffs, or pink slip.

That’ll Do It!
And, Mr. Brandon, if you are listening, and if you heed most or all of this wise counsel… our Buffalo Bills should be once again, not only competitive, but perhaps even champions.

Please do whatever it takes to get President Wilson to authorize these moves, and you’ll be the smartest GM in town.


Buffalo Bills 2009 Opponents

Since the season has ended for our Buffalo Bills… it’s time to start thinking about next year! Now that we know the order of finish for the teams in each division, we also know the teams that we will play next season, home and away. (The actual schedule of the games isn’t available until sometime in April, usually.)

So here it is:

HOME: Buccaneers, Colts, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Saints, Texans, Browns

AWAY: Dolphins, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets, Panthers, Patriots, Titans, Chiefs

Playing the AFC and NFC South divisions next year should be quite a challenge. Most of those teams were not only very well-rounded, successful teams in 2008… they are also young. Meaning they’ll very likely be as good or better next year.

I just hope we don’t go 7-9 again.


Incompetence Reigns Supreme

If there was any doubt regarding the game-day competency of Dick Jauron I hope Sunday set the record straight.

With the wind the bills botched two scoring chances in the first half:
1. Let’s run Professor X and then try a 46 yard FG with killer winds. Very conservative play calling at this point. Trent had already proven he could throw the ball with the wind…
2. The end of the first half was an embarrassment. First, with 22 seconds left (and no time outs) you throw! Obviously, there was confusion amongst the coaching staff as the play call was late coming in and then they ran a bone head play. Of course, The Duke of Preston did not help by trying to be a tough guy. Remember the Denver game last year when they kicked a FG with 8 sec and the clock ticking, we had 22… 
Incompetent coaches breed incompetent players. Sad, we deserve better. Let us hope that the inner circle gives Dick his walking papers. I am not holding my breath.
The Bills failed to score a TD in three home games this year (counting Toronto). 
Greg's Weekly Picks

Greg’s NFL Week 17 Picks

LAST WEEK: 10-6 :: OVERALL: 150-89-1

The final week of the season (following a busy week of holiday fun!) is imminent. All sixteen games will be played on Sunday. And there are several games that will affect the playoffs, making it a very interesting week indeed.

Kansas City (2-13) at Cincinnati (3-11-1)

Could the Bengals win three in a row to end the season? Nah. Look for KC to win on the road. WINNER: Kansas City.

Detroit (0-15) at Green Bay (5-10)

Detroit can make history… or avoid it. I think they’d prefer the latter, and may play hard enough to make that happen. WINNER: Detroit

New England (9-6) at Buffalo (7-8)

The Bills have lost 10 in a row to the Pats. The Pats need to win to make the playoffs. Not a good formula for a Bills win. Still… I just have a feeling the players will be loose enough to win… WINNER: Buffalo

Chicago (9-6) at Houston (7-8)

Chicago needs to win the playoffs… but Houston might be better. WINNER: Houston

NY Giants (12-3) at Minnesota (9-6)

The Giants have wrapped up home field advantage, and Minnesota needs to win. That’s a recipe for… WINNER: Minnesota

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (11-4)

Um… WINNER: Pittsburgh

Oakland (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6)

Tampa Bay needs to win, and Oakland is playing for next season. Should be an easy one. WINNER: Tampa Bay

Carolina (11-4) at New Orleans (8-7)

New Orleans is tough at home, but Carolina wants to win the division. Breaking the streak of the home NFC South teams winning… WINNER: Carolina

Tennessee (13-2) at Indianapolis (11-4)

Maybe the hottest team in the NFL right now? Going with the hot team. WINNER: Indianapolis

St. Louis (2-13) at Atlanta (10-5)

Atlanta would still like to win their division, too… WINNER: Atlanta

Washington (8-7) at San Francisco (6-9)

My head says San Francisco wins this one, but Washington beat Philly last weekend… WINNER: Washington

Seattle (4-11) at Arizona (8-7)

Wouldn’t it be weird if Arizona finished 8-8? Very possible, but going with the favorite here. WINNER: Arizona

Jacksonville (5-10) at Baltimore (10-5)

A dismal season comes to a merciful end for the Jags. WINNER: Baltimore

Miami (10-5) at NY Jets (9-6)

Miami wins, they take the East. For some reason, I have a feeling the Jets will play one more good game this season and end up on top. They’ll also be rooting hard for the Bills in the earlier game… WINNER: NY Jets

Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1)

Philly still has an outside chance at the Playoffs, and I like the cold-weather team in late December. WINNER: Philadelphia

Denver (8-7) at San Diego (7-8)

Denver had a three game lead with three games left, but a determined SD team could take the division with a win at home. WINNER: San Diego


Buffalo stands a chance to not only end the streak o losses to to New England, but knock them out of the playoffs in the process. They looked pretty decent last weekend, but if they give up 500 yards to the Pats this week, they will not look very decent on the scoreboard.

Fun to see so many key divisional matchups that actually matter this weekend. Looking forward to seeing the games!

Go Bills!

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Bills 30 – Broncos 23 – 10 Things I Think

1. By Sunday morning before the Broncos game, I had come to realize something important about being a Bills fan. It doesn’t matter to me if the Bills fire their head coach. It doesn’t matter to me if Jason Peters plays or doesn’t play. It doesn’t matter to me if Trent Edwards succeeds or fails.

The Buffalo Bills matter to me. I’m a Bills fan, and I watch the games. I root for my team every week. I love it when they win; it hurts when they lose. I get pleasure out of it every week, even when they lose. All the rest is just noise, and the noise makes me unhappy.

So I was completely at ease Sunday afternoon, because I was ready simply to enjoy what I love – another Bills game. Well, not completely ready. There was a big storm in New England, so I drove to a local sports bar instead of one of the better bars. The local joint only has about 12 TVs. We walked in; 9 TVs had the Pats blowing out the Cards, and 3 had the beginning of the Jets game. THe Pats game kept going and going. Finally, after about 10 minutes of dealing with waitresses and changing tables, 10 minutes of my blood pressure rising, the Bills were on – and down 7-0! First thing I saw was the Bills first offensive series. I would have been better off watching The Deer Hunter or some other upbeat movie.

2. The past couple of months have been so discouraging, I’m finding it hard to get excited about a win. I have to stop and think about it first.

This was a great win! Come from behind, on the road, bad weather, against a playoff-contending team with a winning record. Great win! The team was dealing with the Peters thing, Lynch being injuired, Trent coming back, all of the noise about the coaches.

I love the players on this team, and they deserve some success. Against the Broncos, they got some.

3. There are a lot of things wrong with this team, and slow starts is one of them. It’s absolutely maddening. I didn’t see the opening drive, and I haven’t gone back to review the play by play. Why should I? I’ve seen it before. The defense can’t stop the opening drive, and the Bills can’t move the ball to open the game.

I’m convinced it’s because everyone knows what the Bills are going to do. The Bills have announced to the world that they will play passive, bend-don’t-break defense and adjust as the game goes along. That’s an invitation to offensive coordinators to script the first drive and take advantage of the Bills’ passive approach.

On offense, it’s clear the Bills will try to run the ball and won’t throw deep. So the defensive coordinators script their opening defenses to attack the standard offense and give the QB some new looks.

The Bills were down 10-0 before they began to compete. It’s happened virtually every week.

I think the coaches put the players at a serious disadvantage by playing such predictable schemes. When the Bills play predictable schemes, they have to be better, physically, to win. Other teams also win by outsmarting the opponent, disguising defenses, presenting different looks.

4. A bad-weather win for Trent! The first of what I hope will be many.
Here’s what I like and don’t like about Trent Edwards:


a. He stands in and takes a hit.
b. He makes decisions in the pocket promptly, and he works to find the open man.
c. His throws are accurate. (Anyone wonder like I did that the ball he threw behind Roscoe was intentional? BIlls were going left to right on the screen, Roscoe came off the left side of the line, and about 12 yards downfield cut across the middle. Looked to me like the linebacker was coming into the zone, Trent saw it and threw behind Roscoe. Was Roscoe supposed to see it too and settle in the spot instead of continuing the crossing pattern?)


a. He’s a drama queen after he gets hit. Get back up and show your team you’re ready to go.
b. His throwing motion is ugly and impedes his ability to throw the deep ball. He needs to work on that.
c. I’m still not convinced he recognizes when a receiver will get open. Having said that, he didn’t have trouble finding Josh Reed. Josh made the Broncos pay for doubling Lee all day.

I still think Trent is the QB of the future. He’s in his second year in the league, 15th in passer rating, 5th in percentage completion and 12th in yards per attempt. In QB rating, he’s ahead of McNabb (can we please stop with the “sign McNabb” pleas?), Favre, Roethlisberger, Delhomme and this year’s savior, Kerry Collins.

5. The bad play I liked the most: Marcus Stroud’s hold. Cost the Bills a takeaway (and cost the Ball Burglar nearly $400) in the process. Why did I like it? Because it was a guy trying to make a play. He was trying clear a path for his teammate to make a run at the QB. He didn’t just quit on the play because he was blocked – he understood what was happening on the play and tried to make something more happen. He helped create the pressure that may have forced a quick throw and the interception. Of course, the INT may have happened anyway. Still, Stroud was doing whatever he could.

6. Speaking of the interception, I thought the DBs played pretty well. That’s a big-time passing offense with a really effective QB, and the Bills forced 20 incomplete passes. That’s a lot. McGee was outstanding. Just running down the wideout on the end-around saved four points – if they’d gotten the touchdown on that play, instead of field goal later in the drive, at the end of the game a field goal would have tied the game. He had some nice pass breakups. He’s a good player.

I continue to like Leodis. The INT was nicely done – he has closing quickness better than anyone on the team. There was a third down pass in the second half that they completed against him for a first down, but he was right there.

What bothers me about the back seven is that they can be in the zone, give up a completion and have three guys there to make the tackle. Why can’t one of them be there for the breakup? Poz, particularly, seems always to be a half-step late. Maybe he isn’t good enough. Maybe he’s still learning.

Corner made some plays and got beaten badly sometime too. The game ending play, he was beaten. His recovery was spectacular.

I guess the Bills had Scott at strong and Whitner at free. I saw Whitner cause the fumble Corner recovered, I saw him overrun Royal on the end around when McGee saved his bacon. I didn’t see much more of him. He was playing free safety against a team that put up 532 and he made 3 tackles? What’s with that? 3 tackles? Were the Bills in the zone all the time? I don’t know, but I think the Bills are not turning him loose. He has his assignments and he does them. When you draft a safety in the first round, he’s supposed to be someone the offense game plans for. The Bills haven’t made him into that kind of player.

7. The Bills running backs are GOOD. Obvious, I know, but it has to be said. Marshawn had several sweet runs, and Fred did too. They’re getting some running room and they’re making plays. Second half, particularly, it looked like the Bills had worn the Broncos down. Unfortunately, by then the Bills were down to Jackson and Omon, and the Bills (wisely) weren’t going to pound Fred over and over again.

8. I really like how the offensive line is performing. No sacks, nice run blocking. It does appear that the line is coming together, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. I’d like the running game to be dominant, and they have a ways to go to get there, or even near there.

I have no idea about Peters. No idea. Poor guy has all this talent and behaves like a jerk. We’ll never know, of course, but the Bills probably share some of the blame here. If it’s true that they haven’t even talked about redoing the contract, they’ve bungled this situation. We don’t know what was said when Peter’s came back, but the sense people got was that the Bills had committed at least to get started. The contract should be redone in the off-season; in order to accomplish that, the Bills should have been having conversations during the season – not to finalize the deal but at least to advance the ball. Jason should have known what the schedule was.

If, as I fear, everything has gone sideways, the Bills may now have a guy who doesn’t want to be here, who wants even more money, and who will be that much more difficult to motivate in the future.

In short, the Bills should have been building a relationship with Jason over the past three months, and it seems like they weren’t.

As I said at the top, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’ll be rooting for the left tackle wearing the Bills uniform next season. I hope it’s Jason Peters. If it isn’t, I’ll still be at the games.

9. Everyone complains about the pass rush. You know what? With a very few exceptions, if you rush four in the NFL, you don’t get to the QB. Most teams do not have a guy who beats his man one-on-one very often. The offensive linemen are too good.

Mercifully, as the game wore on the Bills came with some blitzes. I would have come with more. Pressure created the McKelvin interception, and pressure created the Mitchell interception. You need regular pressure, so that the QB hurries throws and so that the QB is always worrying that you’re coming.

And the opposite of the blitz is that awful prevent defense with a three-man rush. Get rid of that baby – that’s an automatic first down every time the Bills run it. Terrible. Against good QBs, and Cutler is a good QB, no pass rush leads to pass completions.

The defense on this team is okay. They keep the score down, and that’s a good thing. But they give up a lot of yards. Look at the scores this time of year, and look at the teams that are winning. They have defenses that are shutting the opponents down. Tight. The Bills are much too soft.

10. Fred’s catch and run was the play of the day. Fabulous. If Trent had thrown it deeper and to the sideline, does Fred go straight to the end zone? Did Trent lead him into the middle of the field intentionally? It was an easier ball to catch that way. Did anyone else worry that Fred would get stripped from behind? I did.

The catch was followed by Xavier not-ready-for-prime-time Omon twice, a great job by Johnson running his route and a great throw by Trent delivering the ball. I will NOT anoint Johnson as the second coming of anyone, but he’s definitely showing some stuff.

A woman from Kenmore who now lives in South Carolina and comes to New England for the holidays showed up for the game at the table next to mine at the sports bar in Glastonbury, Connecticut. She was there with her husband, a Packers fan. Bills fans are loyal.

I gave her a Ball Burglar business card and asked her to join. The Ball Burglar has cruised past the $10,000 mark, but we’re not done yet. We need you and your friends to join. The Ball Burglar is THE Buffalo Bills fan movement – hundreds have joined and we need hundreds more. Proceeds go to Hunter’s Hope and Carly’s Club, two great western New York charities fighting serious childhood diseases. Please join today – all we ask is a buck for every takeaway the Bills get. Thanks!

Happy holidays to all! See you next week.


Greg's Weekly Picks

Greg’s NFL Week 16 Picks

LAST WEEK: 12-4 :: OVERALL: 140-83-1

Can you really believe how short the NFL season is? Baseball spans most of the year. Hockey seems to as well. Basketball is definitely not short. But the NFL season is a mere 17 weeks long. Seems to always go by WAY too quickly.

I’m getting better as the weeks go along. But there are some seriously difficult picks this weekend! Let’s take a look.

Indianapolis (10-4) at Jacksonville (5-9)

Any other year, this would have been a tough pick. And it ended up being a close game. But the Colts are streaking, and the Jags are not. And Manning seems to be able to overcome any weaknesses his team has. WINNER: Indianapolis.

Baltimore (9-5) at Dallas (9-5)

This is a really good matchup. Two very good defenses. One great. And two offenses that can score when they need to, edge to Dallas there. Hmm. Really tough. Both teams want it, too. I just think Dallas has been too erratic this season. WINNER: Baltimore

San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)

San Diego still has talent, but west coast teams are still not doing well on the east coast this season, and Tampa still has a great defense. WINNER: Tampa Bay

New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)

Detroit is well on its way to 0-16. Drew Brees in a dome? Yeah. WINNER: New Orleans

Miami (9-5) at Kansas City (2-11)

Miami has a great shot at winning the AFC East only one season after going 1-15! WINNER: Miami

Arizona (8-6) at New England (9-5)

West coast team playing at East coast team… AFC East rolls on. WINNER: New England

San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)

Two teams playing for next season. WINNER: San Francisco

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2)

Game of the week. Could be a preview of the AFC Championship. (Gotta leave room for Indy.) In the end, Pittsburgh is better overall. Defense equals Tennessee’s, offense is better. WINNER: Pittsburgh

Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10)

Not been a good year for Ohio. Going with the hot team. Bengals win their second straight. WINNER: Cincinnati

NY Jets (9-5) at Seattle (3-11)

The Jets have been struggling the last several weeks. Should have lost to the Bills last week, but for JP Losman and Dick Jauron. I think they will struggle on the road against Seattle, and could lose. Jets are the safe pick, but… WINNER: Seattle

Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)

Houston has been playing well. And now they get to play Oakland. WINNER: Houston

Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)

Not sure the talent is two games different (like their records) but Buffalo does not do well in cold, and they are the ones traveling, and Denver can win their division with a win. The Bills just don’t beat playoff teams, no matter how suspect. However, in the Bills favor, they are getting Edwards back, and Lynch has been running really well – and the Broncos defense is atrocious. This one really could go either way. I think I’ve landed on… WINNER: Buffalo

Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)

Another pretty good game here. Two teams playing well. Can Atlanta stop Peterson? Can Minnesota stop Ryan? Going with the home team. WINNER: Minnesota

Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)

NFC East battles are always fun. Philly is back, and Washington seems to be fading. WINNER: Philadelphia

Carolina (11-3) at NY Giants (11-3)

Another great game! Both teams have had fantastic years, but Giants are on a bit of a slide. I am going with the upset. WINNER: Carolina

Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6)

Green Bay started out well. WINNER: Chicago


Bills could win their last game of the season this week. Here’s hopin…

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