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The T.O. Buzz Continues…

A few days after the Bills dropped the T.O. bomb on the NFL, it’s all anyone can talk about. We figured that at least the Bills would get that out of the deal, right? I’m still wondering if eventually the small market-ness of Buffalo will help the buzz to subside, but at the moment, ALL of the top stories on the front page of are about T.O. and/or the Bills. Fascinating.

Here are a few links to videos and articles worth checking out:

  • VIDEO Dolphins play-by-play guy talks about Evans/Owns and Moss/Welker in the same division. (
  • VIDEO NFL Network guys discuss the Bills signing of Terrell Owens. (
  • VIDEO interviews Trent Edwards re: the Bills signing of T.O. (
  • ARTICLE Jerry Sullivan’s take on the whole T.O. thing. (Buffalo News)
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…)

Greg's Weekly Picks NFL

Greg’s NFL Week 8 Picks

LAST WEEK: 10-4 :: OVERALL: 62-40

Well, last week I ended up picking three (not four) crazy upsets: Miami, St. Louis, and Oakland. I’m happy to report that I got two out of those three right, and the one I missed was good for the Bills so… it all worked out! St. Louis won even more easily than I imagined, and Oakland went to OT, but did defeat the highly overrated Jets.

Thanks to those picks and a few others, I went a respectable 10-4 (finally!) in week seven. Was counting on the Broncos to actually arrive in Foxboro for the game to push me over the 10-win mark, but … no such luck.

Week eight holds some interesting contests. Let’s have a look!

Buffalo (5-1) at Miami (2-4)

Our beloved Bills face their first divisional opponent this weekend, and on the road no less. The Dolphins are definitely improved over last year with Chad Pennington adding some consistency to the QB position, and their crazy Wildcat offense. But last week the Ravens seemed to have figured that out, and even though they had some great wins over San Diego and New England, I just don’t see them beating the Bills. They should make a game of it, but I think tin the end… WINNER: Buffalo.

St. Louis (2-4) at New England (4-2)

St. Louis is on a roll! They have defeated playoff teams from a year ago (and potentially this season as well) in the past two weeks and now head to New England for a third straight monumental challenge. The Patriots took advantage of some of the poorest football execution I have seen in a long time put forth by the Denver Broncos on Monday night to roll up their biggest victory of the year. They looked like the 16-0 team from 2007 in that game. Despite their resurgence and 2-0 record under new coach, Jim Haslett, and in spite of the Patriots apparent resurgence last week, I think the Rams just can’t do it three weeks in a row. Almost by default… WINNER: New England

San Diego (3-4) at New Orleans (3-4)

The second annual game in jolly old England features two teams that should have better records. For whatever reason, they do not, and New Orleans will NOT be featuring one of their main star players, Reggie Bush. New Orleans looked pretty bad last week against the Panthers, and the Chargers – even in a loss – looked pretty good against the Bills. Should actually be a really good game, and could go either way, but at the moment, the edge (and the game) go to… WINNER: San Diego

Kansas City (1-5) at NY Jets (3-3)

Oh man. Do we have to watch this one?? LJ is still getting himself in trouble, so who knows if he will play (or if he will play well). The Jets proved they are mostly a bad team still with an OT loss to the Raiders last weekend (predicted here, of course). But even though they are the NY Jest… they are better than the Chiefs this year. I would be shocked if the Jets DON’T win this game. WINNER: NY Jets

Atlanta (4-2) at Philadelphia (3-3)

This is an intriguing game. Atlanta is playing well. They are both coming off their bye week. Philly RB (and key offensive cog) Brian Westbrook will be coming back from an injury. It’s in Philadelphia… too much going against Atlanta, though should be a hard fought game. WINNER: Philadelphia

Washington (5-2) at Detroit (0-6)

Ha. Washington has lost to the Rams, and nearly gave up the game to the Browns in the past two weeks. They will want to make a statement. WINNER: Washington

Tampa Bay (5-2) at Dallas (4-3)

This one is actually really hard to pick. Last week I (correctly) predicted that the ‘Boys were in pretty bad shape, and due for a loss against a revitalized Rams team. This week, I also think they should lose to the currently much better Bucs. However, it’s hard to pick against a team “on the ropes” that is playing at home. The Cowboys certainly have talent, and could definitely just overpower the Bucs. But what I like about Tampa Bay this year is their balanced-ness. They have a solid offense, good running game, and a very solid (great) defense. As crazy as it sounds… I think Dallas loses this one at home, too. And they are in serious trouble. WINNER: Tampa Bay

Arizona (4-2) at Carolina (5-2)

This one should be a shoot out! And, whenever you think that going into a game, it usually isn’t. It will probably end up a big defensive battle! (Just look at last week’s huge defensive battle between Chicago and Minnesota! 48-41???) Arizona is coming off their bye week, but they are playing on the east coast against a team that just crushed their division foe, the Saints. Even as well as Arizona is playing, the situation will likely be too much to overcome. WINNER: Carolina

Oakland (2-4) at Baltimore (3-3)

Not really as bad a game as it might seem. Oakland is far better than the joke that they used to be – and the joke that their franchise (front office, owner, coaches) still is. They should actually be a challenge for Baltimore, but perhaps the Ravens found their offense last week against Miami? Baltimore already has the better defense… WINNER: Baltimore

Cincinnati (0-7) at Houston (2-4)

This one may seem obvious, but do you think the Bengals could actually go 0-16? To my knowledge, that has never been done. And I think it’s nearly impossible at the NFL level. They will beat someone. Palmer is still not going to play. The Texans are good, and better at home… not this week Cincy. WINNER: Houston

Cleveland (2-4) at Jacksonville (3-3)

Just when we thought the Browns of 2007 were back… they looked pretty pathetic against the Redskins (although, in the end they almost pulled out the victory!) Which team will we see in Jacksonville? For that matter… which Jags team will we see? Are they a dominant, defensive, run-oriented team? Or can they not run the ball at all… and give up too many yards and points to the potentially-potent Browns offense? Definitely hard to call, but mostly due to home field advantage, my pick is… WINNER: Jacksonville

Seattle (1-5) at San Francisco (2-5)

Mike Singletary’s first game as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers should be a success. Seattle is just way too injury-depleted and seem to have packed it in for the season. WINNER: San Francisco

NY Giants (5-1) at Pittsburgh (5-1)

This is a great matchup. Two great defenses. To pretty great offenses. Smash mouth football. Big passing game football. Should have a little of everything. Are the Giants able to go into Pittsburgh (perhaps the best team in the AFC right now) and deal the Steelers a loss, defending their World Champion title? Or are they the team we saw on the road at Cleveland? Last year they were they kings of the road… but… not this time. WINNER: Pittsburgh

Indianapolis (3-3) at Tennessee (6-0)

I still contend that Tennessee is the beneficiary of their schedule. Some say that about the Bills, so I could be wrong. And, although this should be a good test, I am not sure it will be. The Colts have been really pretty bad. I know it’s injuries, but… that can only account for so much. The Bills were 7-9 last season with an insane amount of injuries. Indy very well could be 1-5, if not for two great comebacks engineered by the great Peyton Manning. Can Peyton be great enough to beat their division foe the Titans on their home turf? They need to to stay in the playoff hunt. That makes me think they will… WINNER: Indianapolis


Week eight could see the fall of the last undefeated team, will see the first AFC East game for the Buffalo Bills, and should see a colossally good football game Sunday night between the Giants and Steelers. I’m sure a few more surprises and great games will be thrown in there as well!

Go Bills! Squish the Fish!

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Greg's Weekly Picks NFL

Greg’s NFL Week 5 Picks

LAST WEEK: 7-6 :: OVERALL: 35-25

Last week was probably not the best week to start tracking this here. 7-6 is not a great week of prognostication, to be sure. But I knew that’s how it would be! For some reason, when the picks are “obvious”, it never turns out that way.

That should bode well for this week.

Several interesting match-ups that could go any way this week. Let’s get right to ’em.

Chicago (2-2) at Detroit (0-3)

This game is not difficult to pick. Chicago has been playing really well. Could actually be 4-0, if not for two fourth quarter collapses this season. They hung in against Philadelphia and went to 2-2, instead of 1-3. And, even though the Lions fired Matt Millen, there will be no improvement with them… at all. I don’t plan on picking Detroit at all this season, actually. WINNER: Chicago.

San Diego (2-2) at Miami (1-3)

Miami is playing their first game after Ronnie Brown’s big 5 TD day against New England, which I’d imagine will give them some confidence. They are also the home team. I think that might be all they have going for them. On paper, this is an easy pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close. But, SD wins. WINNER: San Diego

Washington (3-1) at Philadelphia (2-2)

Another NFC East battle. So far they are definitely the toughest division. Washington went into Dallas and beat the apparent #1 team in the division. Now NY thinks they are the #1 team in the NFC East, but one of these teams might think otherwise. Washington is very balanced, and Philly looks a little vulnerable after failing to finish the comeback in Chicago. Philly is the home team, and so they are a smart choice, but I just have a feeling Washington is a bit better overall. WINNER: Washington

Seattle (1-2) at NY Giants (3-0)

The Seahawks and Giants are both coming off their bye, but Seattle is traveling across the country to play in New Jersey. The Giants are still undefeated, and after barely squeaking by Cincinnati, are probably looking to prove that they deserve to be one of the three undefeated teams in the NFL. Seattle played well in their last game, but it was against St. Louis who has not been much of a challenge on the scoreboard for any team they have played so far. Seattle may challenge NY, but the Giants will prevail. WINNER: NY Giants

Indianapolis (1-2) at Houston (0-3)

When you look at this game, 1-2 vs 0-3 doesn’t seem like a very good game at all. Indy has lost a step perhaps. Houston hasn’t managed a victory. But that will not be the case. Indy is still a good team, and they will be a tough opponent for the Texans, even playing in Houston. But Houston has lost to good teams (Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Jacksonville) and last week took the Jags to overtime. Due to being displaced by a hurricane, this will be Houston’s first home game of the season. I just have a feeling this will be Houston’s week. WINNER: Houston

Atlanta (2-2) at Green Bay (2-2)

Even though these teams have the same record, it’s safe to say they are perceived differently. Atlanta is still quite unknown, winning both of their games at home, but losing the road games by equal 24-9 scores. Green Bay’s young QB Aaron Rodgers was injured in last week’s game and may not play this week, and that spells trouble for GB. Look for Michael Turner, Matt Ryan and crew to put together a solid effort and get their first road win of the season. WINNER: Atlanta

Kansas City (1-3) at Carolina (3-1)

These teams have opposite records for a reason. Despite KC’s surprising performance against Denver, and LJ’s near 200-yard day, Carolina’s defense is much stiffer, and their offense may be equal to Denver’s… look for a fairly easy win for the Panthers at home. WINNER: Carolina

Tennessee (4-0) at Baltimore (2-1)

Tennessee and Buffalo are both 4-0 vs competition that is 3-12 and 4-11 respectively so far. That has led some to question Buffalo’s legitimacy as an undefeated team, but for some reason Tennessee’s 4 for 4 performance has received less scrutiny. At home the Titans are definitely tough, and they should be a solid favorite to win against the Ravens, playing on a short week after an OT loss to Pittsburgh on Monday. But the Ravens #1 defense is for real, and the Titans will rely on their top-rated defense to keep them in the game. Even on the road, give the slight edge to Tennessee’s offense over Baltimore’s anemic offense. WINNER: Tennessee

Tampa Bay (3-1) at Denver (3-1)

This game should be really interesting. It’s really hard to win in Denver. Really hard. And Denver is off to a great start on offense. But Tampa Bay is off to a great start of their own. They have some quality wins over two former NFC Central foes, Chicago and Green Bay. Their only loss was by four points, on the road, to New Orleans. They have weapons on offense and a good defense… a win in Denver would be a good sign that they are for real. And I think they get it. WINNER: Tampa Bay

New England (2-1) at San Francisco (2-2)

Can you believe that we are even giving San Fran a chance in this game? At 2-2, they have improved. Frank Gore is still a good running back. They have some players on defense. J.T. O’Sullivan is… a quarterback. And yet, for some reason (maybe a 38-13 drubbing at the hands of last year’s 1-15 team???) there is room for doubt in this game. The Patriots are making the cross-country journey. That’s never easy. But Belichik’s teams almost always win after the bye. Especially when they are mad. WINNER: New England

Cincinnati (0-4) at Dallas (3-1)

Now, this is not going to make a lot of sense. I know, Cincinnati is 0-4. I know, they could only score 12 points against the Browns, at home. But Carson Palmer says he’ll play. Dallas proved they are more than human. They will be mad, but so is Cincinnati. The Bengals don’t like to lose either, and I feel that if Palmer is healthy, he and the Cincinnati receivers will do some damage against Dallas’ defense. Still, the mismatch is too great. WINNER: Dallas (just closer than you might think.)

Buffalo (4-0) at Arizona (2-2)

The Bills look to extend their perfect record in the desert of Arizona. The Cards are coming off an embarrassing performance against the NY Bretts, and as is often said, they are a different team at home. They have multiple weapons on offense, but there is a good chance one (Anquan Boldin) will not play Sunday. There’s also a good chance that Buffalo’s Terrence McGee will not play either. Everything seems to say the Bills will continue their winning ways, but AZ is definitely a better team at home. They will hang with the Bills the whole time, but Buffalo plays their best, most consistent game of the season heading into their by week, and they head home 5-0. WINNER: Buffalo

Pittsburgh (3-1) at Jacksonville (2-2)

Both of these teams have had more than their share of injuries this season so far. Despite that, they have decent records, and my hunch is that (playing at home) the Jags will make sure they finish the day with equally good records. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew will dominate, Garrard will do enough, and the Jags defense will also do enough. WINNER: Jacksonville

Minnesota (1-3) at New Orleans (2-2)

Minnesota has a great run defense and a superior RB. New Orleans has a superior passing offense, and good running backs, and a capable defense – and they play well at home. Minnesota is a bit better than 1-3, but should end up on the short side, mostly due to the mismatch of New Orleans’ offense versus any other team’s defense. WINNER: New Orleans


A few games that could be surprising. Watch the underdogs: Seattle, Cincinnati, Miami. And I picked five underdogs to win outright: Houston, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Should be an interesting week of NFL football!

Go Bills!

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Hall of Fame NFL Players

Trent Edwards, Joe Montana: Many Similarities

Trent Edwards and Joe Montana
Most people don’t like to rush to equate young NFL players with Hall of Famers of legendary status. Obviously, earning the rank of “legend of the game” takes many years of consistent production, and can not be applied to any player in his first or second year in the league. I would not presume to equate any such novice with any aforementioned Legend.

But I am shocked by the similar starts to their careers.

As I said, Joe Montana is a legend. I can’t say it enough. Every time I say his name it is like the pure definition of the word quarterback. They are synonymous. When I first began watching football games some 20 years ago, I quickly learned that Joe Montana was the king of his craft. With him under center, the 49ers were never out of the game, and were usually going to win the game. Precision passing, a great knowledge and understanding of the game, quick decision making, and cool, calm and collected demeanor. That was Joe Montana.

And it sounds a lot like how we describe Trent Edwards. Let’s take a look at just how similar they are.

Bill Walsh
The first thing that comes to mind is Montana’s former coach, the late Bill Walsh, has often been cited as commending Marv Levy and crew following their selection of the QB in the third round of the 2007 draft. Walsh knew that Edwards was something special, and he called up Levy to tell him so. The Bills had Edwards rated very high in the draft and were thrilled when they picked him up in the third round. Hearing Walsh’s endorsement of him as “the real deal” (or something to that effect) only further confirmed their selection.

Passing Style
I mentioned some of this above, but it bears repeating. As I have watched Trent this season, I’ve heard comparisons to a young Tom Brady. Brady was an unknown mid-late round draft pick who has obviously excelled. But I never quite bought that. Brady has a very different style. He has a slightly stronger arm and excels at the deep ball. Edwards can throw the deep ball, but that is not his strength.

It finally hit me a couple weeks ago. The closest match is Joe Montana. Montana was a very poised, confident, cool and collected leader on the field. His team was never out of it, and they believed he could bring them back. We see that already from Trent and his teammates. Montana didn’t have the great physical talents of Elway (rocket arm), Marino (lightning-quick release), or Kelly (toughness, grit, and strong arm) of his day, but he always made the perfect throw to the perfect guy.

On top of his decision making, Edwards has been right on the money with his passes. He throws a perfect pass to the perfect place for his perfect receiver. He completed 80% of his passes in one of the games this year, and for the season is completing 65.5% of his passes. Montana was also an incredibly accurate passer. He was consistently between 65 and 70% for much of his career. A lot of this is attributed to being able to read the defense quickly and correctly, but of course also a testament to the skill of the passer, throwing an accurate ball.

The Draft
Trent Edwards was projected by some as a late first-round choice. The Bills were shocked that he was still on the board when they were making their third-round selection in the 2007 draft. They had to take him, even though they weren’t planning to take a QB till the later rounds. Edwards was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft at number 92 overall. Not too surprisingly, the Legend, Joe Montana was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1979 draft, pick #82 overall.

Comeback Kings
This is perhaps the greatest similarity – and what alerted me to how much Edwards is looking like Montana. Joe Montana is known for connecting with Jerry Rice – a lot – and for winning Super Bowls, and for the things I mentioned above. But perhaps above all, he is known for engineering fourth quarter comebacks. And really, what better stat is there? Elway was great at this. And Montana was a master. He engineered 31 come from behind victories in his 16 year career, 26 of them as a 49er.

Trent Edwards has only started 13 games. Less than one full season. Thanks to trailing by one point at the start of the fourth quarter in yesterday’s game against the Rams, Edwards is credited with another fourth quarter comeback in his fledgling career. Actually, that makes five. FIVE. Not only is Edwards a fairly impressive 9-4 as a starter, he also has five 4th quarter comebacks under his belt. Well on his way to 31? Perhaps…

First Year as a Starter
This is where I am getting into speculation a bit, but bear with me.

Joe Montana played a few games in 1979 and 1980. In fact, his first 4th quarter come from behind win was in December of 1980, subbing for the starter, Steve DeBerg. His play that season solidified him as the starter for the coming season. San Francisco had been 2-14 in ’79, and then 6-10 in ’80 – definitely not impressive. But 1981 was coach Bill Walsh’s third season. He had been building the team in his image (much like Dick Jauron – currently in his third season – has done with the Bills) and they were poised to succeed under their new field commander.

Montana led the 49ers to an impressive 13-3 record that season. But it didn’t stop there. That team, which Montana was officially commanding for the first time, hosted the NFC Championship game against Dallas. Dallas had a lead with under five minutes to go in the game. Montana got the ball at the 1 yard line and engineered an 89-yard drive that culminated with “The Catch.”

A come-from-behind victory, taking his team to the Super Bowl. In his first season as the starter, in his coach’s third season with the team. They even went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Montana had pretty average numbers, but as always, got the job done, and got the W.

Edwards’ team is off to a 4-0 start, with three fourth quarter comebacks engineered by the poised, cool and collected, confident, unflappable quarterback. Could we possibly be seeing history repeating itself?

Bills fans certainly hope so!

Montana not only took his team to the Super Bowl – and won – his first year as the starter, but that really ushered in an era of dominance by Montana and the 49ers. They won four Super Bowls during his time there, and were a perennial force in the NFC.

It’s obviously too early to call Edwards a legend. Or even a legend-in-the-making. But you have to admit… he bears a striking resemblance to The Legend. The Legend’s coach saw something in this kid, too.

If Edwards is even close, Bills fans can look forward to great football for many years to come.

Games Greg's Weekly Picks NFL

Greg’s NFL Week 4 Picks

I make weekly picks with the guys from Sports Talk Underground (site is currently down for some reason) and am currently in the middle of the pack, four games out of the lead. It’s fun to compete against other NFL fans, and actually does make the other (non-Bills) games a tad more interesting. At least, I am a bit more interested in the outcome of those.

Since I am doing that already, and making picks using the Pro Football Picks app at Facebook, I thought it would be fun to give a rundown of my weekly picks here, as well as a brief thought or two on each game, and why I picked who I picked.

Since it’s already 12:30 EST, I am just going to give my picks here below. Expect a more in-depth analysis next week. For now, here’s how I think Week 4 will go…

(my pick is bold)
Denver at Kansas City
Houston at Jacksonville
Cleveland at Cincinnati
Green Bay at Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Tennessee
San Francisco at New Orleans
Arizona at NY Jets
Atlanta at Carolina
Buffalo at St. Louis
San Diego at Oakland
Washington at Dallas
Philadelphia at Chicago
Baltimore at Pittsburgh

A few interesting games on the list there this week. I’ll be curious to see what happens in two very defensive games. Baltimore’s defense is doing great, but their offense is horrid. Pittsburgh got killed by Philly’s defense last week, but they should be able to beat a one-sided Baltimore team at home. Tennessee and Minnesota have to very, very solid defenses. The final score of this game could be 10-7! Should be a tough game for both.

Someone will have a victory (unless they tie!) in the state of Ohio after two 0-3 teams meet in Cincy. Washington at Dallas may be a tougher game than most think, being a division game, could be a hard-fought game.

And finally, will the Bills be able to blow out a team on the road?? Let’s hope so!

Go Bills!

AFC East News NFL Players


Brett Favre is now a JETWhen I first heard the possibility of Brett Favre being traded to the Jets, I actually thought that was a very good fit. The team is similar in a lot of ways to the Green Bay team he played with last season. Very young, unproven talent… good potential. Maybe now that he really has been traded to NY, he can take the Jets to the next level?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if all of a sudden, the up-and-coming Bills and the Favre-powered Jets were not only competing with the dominant division leader, New England, but actually ended up 1-2 in the standings at the end of 2008? If Favre can play like he did last year, I don’t think it’s that far fetched. The games against the Jets are just a bit harder for the Bills now.

Will be interesting to see how Brett does in another jersey. (Best headline, from New Jersey For Favre. Ha! … the “NY” Jets play in the state of New Jersey…) 🙂 It won’t feel right at first, but will definitely add to the competition in the AFC East. Jets face the Bills first in 2008 on Nov 2nd, in Buffalo. I’ve mentally circled the date.

Welcome to the AFC East, Brett!

Bills History News NFL Toronto

The Toronto Initiative

Toronto, CanadaEmotions are all over the map in Western New York these days. A few are excited by the five-year plan that will have the Buffalo Bills playing three pre-season and five regular season games in Toronto, Canada. More seem to be near paranoid that this signals the end of the nearly fifty years of Bills football in Western New York.

And who can blame them? The Buffalo Bills message boards are replete with frustrated fans following not only each move of the plan named the “Toronto Initiative”, but all of the comments made by the aging Bills’ owner, Ralph Wilson.

“I can’t speculate what’s going to happen in the future. But don’t worry. Don’t worry right now,” Wilson said at last week’s press conference in Toronto. This comment, among others, (including Wilson referring to this “Initiative” as a “trial basis”) has led many Bills fans and media pundits to speculate on the Bills future.

With the end of the current 15-year lease of Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY coinciding with the end of this “trial” in Toronto, there are many reasons to speculate that the team could well end up north of the Border by 2013. Or even sooner, if Wilson were to die before that time is up, as he has publicly stated that the team will be sold to the highest bidder following his death.

But a closer look at who is saying what reveals that there is much more to be hopeful about for Western New Yorkers. More positive than negative regarding this Toronto Initiative.

First there are comments from the Buffalo Bills themselves. Wilson has repeatedly said – including most of his comments from last week’s press conference – that his intention all along has been to keep this team in Buffalo. “We’ve always been on record saying we were going to try to regionalize our brand north of the border,” said Bills new Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon. “We think this is another step in keeping our franchise financially viable in the Buffalo marketplace.”

The Bills have already begun to regionalize the team by moving their annual training camp to St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. This has been a big success according to the team. Toronto is merely the “next step” as Brandon says.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (a native Western New Yorker) was asked about the Toronto Initiative in a press conference and responded by saying the Bills “very thoughtfully” put this plan together, and carried it out. He has said the NFL is not looking to expand right now, and said the Bills would play a “limited number of games” in Toronto over the next five years. Granted, five years is a long way off, but his words have to be reassuring to Bills fans. (And it can’t hurt that he is a native of the area, and so, a Bills fan!)

Add to these voices the somewhat public rumors that former Bills Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly has designs on buying the Bills when they become available. Kelly is rumored to be building a team of people – including perhaps former Buffalo Bills Thurman Thomas and Steve Tasker, among others – to purchase the Bills following Wilson’s passing.

Western New York billionaire, and current Buffalo Sabres’ owner, Tom Golisano is one potential investor in Jim Kelly’s plan. This past week Golisano was interviewed during a Sabres’ game and said, “If the situation arises, I would do what I can to try to keep the team in the area.” This again buoyed Buffalo fans hopes that this talk of losing the Buffalo Bills was just that. Talk.

In the end, Wilson is right, we can not know what will happen in the future. But it’s also true that worrying about the future doesn’t change anything either. Bills fans can worry that the team will move (I think that has been a fear of Bills fans since I moved to Buffalo back in 1986!) or listen to the voices of the people who really matter. Sports writers can say what they want, and fearful fans can say what they want, but the people who make the decisions are saying the Bills are staying in Western New York.

And, for now, that’s who I’m going to listen to.

Related Article: 10/25/07 (BBR)

NFL Playoffs Schedule

Playoffs? Oh, the Possibilities…

Yes folks, I am that crazy. Every year about this time, our Bills are somewhere near the .500 mark and visions of playoff dates dance in our heads. Well, in mine at least.

So I broke down the five contenders’ schedules today, and believe it or not, things are looking very promising for our Buffalo Bills!

First, let’s look at who is still in the race:

  1. New England: 12-0
  2. Indianapolis: 10-2
  3. Pittsburgh: 9-3
  4. Jacksonville: 8-4
  5. San Diego: 7-5
  6. Cleveland: 7-5
  7. Tennessee: 7-5
  8. Buffalo: 6-6
  9. Denver: 5-7
  10. Houston: 5-7

Wow! When you look at that list, what shot do the Bills have?? Assuming the Division winners are set (New England is, then Indy, Pittsburgh, and San Diego) that leaves the two wild card spots in contention for SIX teams! Ouch!

But let’s take a look at those six teams, and their schedules.

Denver & Houston
These two teams are at 5-7 and are going to need a LOT of help. Basically, I’m just being kind to their fans putting them on here. They would have to win out, and get some serious help from teams above them in order to make the playoffs. Let’s count them OUT.

That leaves four teams who are in the thick of the race. We’ll look at them one by one.

Let’s start from the top down.

Jacksonville (8-4)
Jacksonville beat the Bills so, they own the tie-breaker over us there. And, with a two-game lead, they are definitely in command for one of those two spots. Their remaining games include: Carolina, @ Pittsburgh, Oakland, and @ Houston. Three of those games could be tough, but I see the Jags winning three of those four. That would put them in the playoffs as the top wild card seed, finishing 11-5.

Cleveland (7-5)
With Cleveland losing to Arizona yesterday, the Bills are in a much better position against this team. Even if the Browns win all of their games except the game against Buffalo, both teams could end up 10-6, with the Bills owning the tie-breaker having defeated them. That makes the game on Dec. 16th pretty crucial for both teams’ playoff hunt. Cleveland plays @ NY Jets, Buffalo, @ Cincinnati, and finishes at home against San Francisco. I see them winning at least two, maybe three of those, finishing 9-7 or 10-6. OUT of the playoffs.

Tennessee (7-5)
Tennessee has been quietly efficient this year. Like everyone else, they have fought through injuries, suspensions, and other roster changes to be two games above .500. Vince Young can win a game at any time, and their defense plays tough, too. They have some pretty difficult games on their remaining schedule, however. They start this week at home against San Diego, then @ Kansas City, home vs. the NY Jets, then finish @ Indianapolis. It seems very likely that they will lose at least two of those, and I think they lose three. That makes then 8-8, and OUT of the playoffs.

Buffalo (6-6)
That leaves the Bills. Our injury-riddled Bills who have been starting rookies and first-year players who have no NFL experience, and are at the bottom of the league statistically on both offense and defense… and yet, they are 6-6. And surprisingly, they Bills are in a pretty good spot. Their remaining schedule includes: home vs. Miami, @ Cleveland, NY Giants, then they finish @ Philadelphia.

Here’s the key. If the Bills win out, they will make the playoffs. Because winning out puts us at 10-6, AND includes beating Cleveland (who could then finish no better than 10-6) the Bills really “control their own destiny” as the saying goes. (Of course, Tennessee could disrupt that with a surprisingly good finish.)

So with that look at the schedules and the standings, and assuming the Bills can play smart, efficient, productive football for four straight games, the Bills look to be in pretty good shape for ending their playoff-less drought!

Every game counts, and the biggest one will be two weeks from now in Cleveland.

Go Bills!!

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Thoughts From Week Seven: QBs, Willis, Toronto

I have been meaning to write many articles this week. A thorough recap of the game this past Sunday against Baltimore, highlighting some of the pretty amazing things I see in our rookie quarterback, Trent Edwards. Another article breaking down the stats on how the Bills truly did shut down Willis McGahee on his first visit to his old stomping grounds—on his birthday no less. And, I have wanted to weigh in on the whole Bills-games-in-Toronto issue.

But I haven’t. And, I won’t.

(Quite) Unfortunately, I do not get paid to write about the Bills, and my work load at the moment seems insurmountable. Tack on the fact that we leave for California in less than 24 hours, and yeah… I’m feeling the pressure!

For that reason, here are a few quick thoughts on all of the above topics.

Trent EdwardsQB Trent Edwards
It is now official. Trent Edwards is the starting QB for the Buffalo Bills. Not just for this week. For good. Dick Jauron said, “Hopefully we won’t have to make a change there,” in his press conference yesterday. The Bills like what they see in Edwards, and for good reason.

Not only does Trent have a good arm, is very accurate, and can put some zip on the ball, he’s also a very quick learner and very confident in the pocket. His abilities to handle the offensive schemes were showcased when the Bills ran the no-huddle offense for most of the game against Baltimore. The QB has to read the defense, and make the call from some pre-set plays in that situation. And he did a great job with it! His confidence and poise in the pocket are demonstrated by the number of sacks he has taken. Some of the credit goes to the offensive line, but much of it goes to Trent for knowing when to release the ball, and where to put it.

One of the more amazing things from Sunday’s game was the FIVE offsides penalties Edwards was able to pull the Ravens into! It could have been six, but the call went against the Bills when Michael Gaines jumped at the same time as the Ravens defender. His cadence was excellent, keeping the Baltimore defense either moving backward by penalty, or at least a little hesitant to jump at the snap.

Add to his very good play for a rookie the fact that the team is now 2-1 when he starts (and could, almost should be 3-0, barring the miracle finish by Dallas) and you have a no-brainer decision. Edwards gives the team the best chance to win now, and most likely in the future.

Good decision by the Bills.

Willis McGaheeWillis Held In Check
When Willis came out on the Ravens’ first drive of the second half and just started getting huge chunks of yards, I was definitely worried. I thought maybe he or the Ravens had figured out something, and it was going to be a long day. That was every Bills fan’s worst nightmare… Willis running wild on us, leaving with the win.

But he didn’t.

Really, the Bills did a great job stopping McGahee all day. An amazing job, actually. I knew what I saw, and what I saw was a great performance by the Bills defense, and a completely shut down performance by Willis. Well, almost completely.

So late that night I broke down the stats. I wanted to see if I had just imagined that we did shut him down. I did not.

On that one drive to open the third quarter, Willis had 4 carries for 72 yards, including the one TD run of 46 yards where the Bills only had ten guys on the field (but I don’t think the eleventh would have mattered). Willis finished the day with 19 carries for 114 yards. Take away 46 and he has 18 for 68 yards. That’s 3.7 yards/carry. Take away that drive (were the Bills still in the lockeroom or something?) and he has 14 carries for 42 yards! OUCH! That’s 3 YPC.

More stats? The Bills held Willis to 1 yard on 2 receptions (and he also dropped one, that was thrown behind him). The Bills also held him to zero or negative yards on 4 carries. 9 of his remaining 15 carries were for 4 yards or less. Mostly less.

The Bills came into the game having done very well against the Jets runningbacks and the Cowboys runningbacks. They wanted to do the same against Baltimore, who are a run-oriented team. And, they wanted to shut down Willis.

They did.

Toronto, CanadaThe Move To Toronto
First of all, the Bills are not moving to Toronto. They are merely playing a game or two in Toronto—where many Bills fans reside. All of this speculation is definitely premature, and completely unnecessary. In my opinion, of course.

Here’s what we know. The NFL decided that up to two regular season games per year would be played outside of the US through the 2011 season. Their hope is that each team would be able to participate in that. The Bills stated that they would like to be proactive in that experiment by suggesting that they play a game in very nearby Toronto, which is currently a major region that they draw from.

The Bills have played there before. In 1995 and 1997, the Bills played two preseason games in the Skydome. (They won both!) So they are no strangers to Toronto, and those games did not precipitate a move to Canada. They broaden the region that the Bills cover.

Seven years ago, the Bills made a similar move when they shifted their annual training camp to St. John Fisher College in Rochester. There are many Bills fans in the stadium on Sundays who make the drive from Rochester, and moving training camp to their city only made sense. It gave the Bills more of a presence in Rochester, and likely has won them some more fans.

That is precisely what the Bills are hoping would happen with a regular season game in Toronto each year.

This is not without NFL precedent, either. The Green Bay packers played several games a year in Madison, WI several years ago now. They are also a small-market, regional team, and wanted to have a more regional appeal. It worked just fine, as far as I know.

The Bills are not moving to Toronto. The NFL will not allow that. Ralph Wilson certainly won’t. And I would say, as much as they are able, NY State will not allow it either. But one game in Toronto, even annually, makes a lot of sense for expanding the reach of this small-market team. Bring in more fans, more corporate luxury box buyers… and the Bills remain in Western New York.

The Bills will likely play a pre-season game in 2008 in Toronto. It remains to be seen what the NFL will decide as far as regular season games there. The Bills have crossed a few hurdles, getting approval on the first stages of this plan. Next is the NFL.

Seems like a great plan to me, and I hope they can make it happen. I’d love for them to play a game over here in Rochester, closer to where I live, but we don’t have a facility like the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

So north of the border we go!

(But just for one game.) 🙂