Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)
It seems crazy to talk about the playoffs when your team is at 1-4 but fans of the Buffalo Bills should keep their hopes alive. While the odds are not in favor of such a turn around, it has happened before. Bills fans need only look at 2001 when the 1-4 New England Patriots made it all the way to the Super Bowl with a similar gaggle of unknown players. (Sure many of those players are now big names but they were far from it at the time, Tom Brady who is Tom Brady? Bledsoe was the starter) Perhaps you remember the Patriots daunting Tight End combination of Arther Love, Rod Rutledge and Jermaine Wiggins? Or was it their fearsome group of Wide Receivers in Troy Brown, Charles Johnson, Fred Coleman and David Patten? Or maybe it was their powerful group of runningbacks in Antowaine Smith, J.R. Redman and Kevin Faulk? The Patriots dinked and dunked their way to the Lombardi Trophy with screen passes and run after the catch. So much so that the following year Brady was criticized for not being able to throw the long ball (he proved those critics wrong!). After Bledsoe was knocked out with an injury, Brady played well enough to take the starting job. He wasn’t statistically amazing, but he just looked better under center. So much more confident that the Patriots left him in when Bledsoe came back from injury. Sound familiar?
Bills fans in their never ending quest to prove it can’t happen to them, will point out that Dick Jauron is no Bill Belichick and that the Patriots had a lot more defensive talent. Defensively, the Patriots had a lot of over the hill players and diamonds in the rough, but one could make the argument that they were in better shape than the Bills are this season. As for Belichick (in 2001) he was not the proven commander that he is today. Prior to that season Belichick’s record as a head coach was 41-55. Including only one winning season in Cleveland when the Browns went 11-5 (without that season he was 30-50). Browns fans drove him out of town claiming his winning season was a fluke and that his 5-11, 6-10, 7-9 and 7-9 seasons better described his ability to coach. He spent four seasons as an assistant to the Patriots and then the Jets before New England decided to give him a second chance as a head coach. He rewarded them with a 5-11 season in 2000 before breaking out in 2001 once Brady became the starter (coincidence, I think not). This coaching history sounds eerily familiar to the History of Jauron.
This is all merely coincidental and Jauron probably isn’t the coach that Belichick is, but fans shouldn’t be so quick to assume that he isn’t. Brady proved that a solid, accurate quarterback who maintains his composure can make his head coach look a genius. Trent Edwards may be a rookie but Bills fans have to admit that he has many of the traits that Brady had in his first season as a starter.
- Pocket Poise
- Quick Release
- Great Short Passing Game
Edwards hasn’t shown an overwhelming ability to throw the deep ball but neither did Brady that first season. I’d bet money that this is why Lee Evans has been endorsing Losman. Evans knows that had Losman been throwing the ball in the New England match-up, Evans would have had an easy TD catch in the corner instead of the ball getting intercepted when it fell a little short of the target. But aside from the deep ball, Edwards has shown this far, that he has a greater ability in just about every other area of the quarterback position than Losman. Most importantly he has the ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. Losman just loses his composure to easily. Everyone thought the Patriots were crazy to let Bledsoe go after their first Super Bowl win, but no one is questioning the move now. Losman will find success to a modest degree somewhere in the NFL but unless Edwards gets injured against the Ravens or simply implodes to a degree that says “this guy isn’t ready”, Losman will be warming the bench for the rest of this season and will be traded afterwards. (Note: for those of you who think the Bills would be better off trading Losman now, you are totally wrong. Losman and Edwards are friends and resentment is low similar to the Bledsoe/Brady situation. Losman has said he will help Edwards be successful if Edwards gets the nod. This is not a Johnson/Flutie situation. Also, trying to unload Losman midseason sends a message that Losman has no value to the team which means the Bills will get very little for him. Losman’s contract runs through 2008 so the team can trade him in the off-season and not sacrifice their QB depth for the rest of 2007. The Bills are better off blaming the benching on a nagging knee injury and letting Edwards prove he is the starter in the mean time so that Losman didn’t lose the job as much as Edwards took it away. This preserves Losman’s trade value while dumping him now will land the Bills next to nothing. Losman was a first rounder, trading him now for a late round pick will go down as a colossal management blunder)
In 2006 the Bills came off the Bye week with a much improved offense. The Bills are praying for a similar result after the 2007 Bye. The offensive coaching has been pretty awful to date and fans are calling for the head of Fairchild (justifiably so). Had the Bills offense been able to score just 1 touchdown against Dallas, the Bills would have won and the killer finish wouldn’t have been a possibility. There were several plays that stand out as bad calls by the coaching staff but overall offensive execution was poor despite good pass protection and decent run blocking. The Bills need to find consistency on offense to help keep their defense off the field. At the end of the game the Bills were at a disadvantage because on those final critical drives, the defense had crossed that 50 play threshold where statistically the odds shift in favor of the offense. See the 4th quarter of the Dallas – New England game for more evidence of this. The Bills Offense put the defense and special teams in a position to lose. In a game where the defense forces 6 turnovers and scores two touchdowns and the special teams converts a fake punt, drops the ball inside the 5 and scores a 102 yard kickoff return TD, the problem is not the defense or special teams. The Offense scored 3 points and was unable to get a first down when that is all that was needed to kill the clock and win. They were unable to protect the ball when the game was in their hands and they gave up what should have been a dominant upset win.
Regardless of everything else, the Bills have bumbled their way through the worst of their 2007 schedule. So far the teams the Bills have faced have a combined record of 18-6. Three of their opponents are leading their divisions at this point. Every team but the Jets was undefeated when the Bills faced them (ok Denver was 0-0). Moving forward, the Bills have 11 games against teams with a combined record of 28-34. The Bills face 4 opponents with 1 win or less. Lets give the Bills a little credit in that they lost two of their games by 1 point and the other two to division leaders (the Pats have crushed every opponent as badly as they crushed the Bills and the Bills had their starting QB and MLB knocked out of that game). When the Bills played a weak team they easily handled them (Jets). Its not out of the question that the Bills can win two against the winless Dolphins another against the feeble Jets and 1 against the hapless Bengals (who the Bills seem to beat even when they are a dominant team). That puts the bills at 5-4. Barring a miracle, the Patriots will win again which puts the Bills at 5-5. That leaves 6 teams Cleveland, Philadelphia, NY Giants, Jacksonville, Washington and Baltimore. Is it totally out of the question that the Bills can win 4 out of 6 of these games? The Eagles are pretty awful as is Washington, Bills 7-5. Jacksonville is inconsistent but seems to always pull off a close win against the Bills, Bills 7-6. Cleveland is not a good team, but have been able to score a lot of points at times. The Bills have struggled to score so this looks like a loss unless the offense comes to life, Bills 7-7. NY Giants are good at times but don’t have much of a running attack and Eli Manning is prone to throwing interceptions. Considering the Bills are currently tied for 2nd in the league in interceptions with 9, this should work in the Bills favor, Bills 8-7. Which leaves this week’s match-up with the Ravens as a must win game.
The 12th man should be huge this week as there is not exactly a lot of love for Willis McGahee after the Bills ex-runningback openly trashed on the city of Buffalo after his departure last spring. McGahee even stooped so low as to complain about the quality of women and to suggest the team relocate to Toronto. While the Bills could benefit from some additional fan support from their Canadian neighbors, shipping the team over there is not the answer and certainly not a suggestion the people of Buffalo want to hear about. McGahee will be pumped up to prove to Buffalo that they shouldn’t have traded him. The problem for McGahee is that the Bills made the right move trading him and he will be hard pressed to prove otherwise. Like in past seasons with Buffalo, McGahee has started the season reasonably strong but has only found the end zone once and has one fumble. While he is currently ranked 4th, his team has not had a bye yet while many teams have so a better measure is his yards per game, which is 87.5, good enough for 9th. Marshawn Lynch is currently 14th for yards per game, but has 3 touchdowns and no fumbles. Lynch has also shown a “never-give-up” attitude on every play that McGahee has never shown. McGahee is happier in Baltimore where he fits in well with a team full of complacent and lazy thugs. Brian Billick actually said in a press conference that it will be difficult to keep his players focused this week in practice because they are looking forward to the Bye week. Talk about looking beyond an opponent. Most Ravens players and fans seem to think they already have a win against Buffalo. This is a dangerous attitude that will lead to an embarrassing defeat on Sunday. The Ravens are 4 and 2 but they have faced a lineup of terrible teams (Jets, Rams, 49ers, Cardinals, Browns and Bengals). In case you were wondering that’s a combined opponents’ record of 10-24. Oh yeah, and they were beaten by the Bengals and Browns. That’s right the Bengals ONLY win was against the Ravens. The Ravens are a mediocre team with their starting QB on the bench and they are having trouble focusing on the Bills. This will be a fun one for Bills fans. The Bills offense will look sharp after two weeks of work and the defense will play well bolstered by some players returning from injury. Special Teams will be typically excellent. Bills 31 Ravens 6.
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One reply on “Bills’ Playoff Hopes Far From Over”
Ben, this is great stuff! I’m totally with you. I really really HOPE we can make the playoffs. I still think we needed one of the two one point losses to make the playoffs, but you never know! Great comparison with the 2001 NE team! There are some very interesting similarities!
I, too, have predicted a 4-0 streak starting with this week’s game against an overrated Baltimore team!