The State of the Bills Fan: Context Matters

– Evan Sally

For Bills fan optimism turned into misery vs the Patriots once again. But what does it mean for the Bills season?

For Bills fans optimism turned into misery vs the Patriots once again. But what does it mean for the Bills season?

One of the things I love about being a Bills fan is our willingness to be optimistic about the team regardless of what has happened the past 15 years. So when the team adds a brash defensive genius of a coach, dangerous weapons at each of the offensive skill positions and an a athletic mystery of a QB to go with an elite defense, excitement ran high. And when that team beats Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 1, we will let our minds run wild. And last week we did exactly that, to epic proportions. Businesses trolled the Patriots with endless deflation and cheater jokes. Rex and the players were extremely vocal about their hatred of the Patriots to fire up the fan base even more. Even the most cynical of Bills fans thought this would be the year Tom Brady would leave Ralph Wilson Stadium with his tail between his legs.

“Their defense looks soft!”, we said.

“Brady won’t be able to handle the defense!”, we said.

Tyrod Taylor struggled against the Patriots pass rush (Getty Images)

Tyrod Taylor struggled against the Patriots pass rush (Getty Images)

And yet again, at the end of another Bills-Patriots game our dreams came crashing back to Earth. Brady looked dominant, he did anything he wanted. Instead of Brady leaving the Ralph with his tail between his legs, it was Rex and his defense with their tail between theirs. Tyrod and the offense, although they had their moments in the 4th quarter, spent most of the game sputtering. A game like that can leave you rattled as a fan, and during the game I’d certainly put myself in that category. After that awesome first drive that saw the Bills march to a touchdown more easily than I had seen any Bills team do it in years against the Patriots, the Bills proceeded to gain -1 net yards over their next 5 drives. Each 3 and out felt worse than the last. Combine that with Brady’s masterful performance and it’s enough to depress any Bills fan.

It was a humbling experience for not only the team but for us too. And the only thing we hate more than our team losing is feeling like our team embarrassed us. For many, the only way to respond to this feeling is to lash out.

“Tyrod doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback!”, we said.

“Put in EJ!”, we said.

“Fire Rex Ryan, he talks too much!”, the more extreme of us said.

For those who are pissed, for those who are questioning how good this team really might be, for those who are scared the 2015 Bills will follow in the footsteps of the Bills of the recent past that started well, got hyped, only to fall apart I have two words that I hope will soothe you.

Context matters.

There’s a term in statistical analysis called sample size. It’s very simple to understand, the larger your sample to draw data from the more accurate your reading will be. This applies to most things, and the NFL is no exception. Even in a short 16 game season, 2 games is nothing to draw accurate conclusions from.  Sure you can get an idea of some things but we have way more question marks than answers right now.  The Rams beat the Seahawks in Week 1 and lose to the Redskins the nest week. Are the Rams a NFC West contender or are they doomed to go 7-9 or 8-8 again? Jameis Winston and the Bucs looked incompetent against the Titans in their opener and then go into the SuperDome and take out the Saints. Are the Bucs a team that will surprise this year or are the Saints a tire fire? To bring it closer to home, some are questioning what the Bills win over the Colts means after the Jets dominated the Colts offense in Week 2. Are the Colts not very good, or is the Jets defense awesome? Or both? With only two games to draw from every good or bad performance gets magnified times 1000 as fans are desperate to find meaning.

Luckily the Bills don't have to face Brady, Gronk and the Pats every week. (Getty Images)

Luckily the Bills don’t have to face Brady, Gronk and the Pats every week. (Getty Images)

Here lies the Bills fan. The Bills smoke the Colts and then get lit up by the Patriots. What does it mean? From this fan’s perspective, I think we’re luckier than most other fan bases who have idea what to take from their first 2 games. Sure, exactly what a win over the Colts means will crystalize over the rest of the season. But that Patriots game? It’s already crystal clear to me. We got our doors blown off by last year’s Super Bowl champs, a team that features one of the most brilliant coaches in NFL history, a tight end who’s perhaps one of the hardest players to cover in NFL history and a Hall of Fame quarterback playing at his highest level in years. There’s no shame in that. This is no excuse for the Bills; they need to play better than they did last Sunday in all facets of the game. But this is a Patriots team that in it’s last 16 games, including playoffs and excluding Week 17 last year when Brady didn’t play the 2nd half, is 15 and 1 and the only loss is to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Look at some of the performances by the Patriots during their recent run of greatness:

Beat Cincinnati 43-17

Beat Denver 43-21

Beat Indianapolis 42-20

Beat Detroit by 34-9

Beat Indianapolis 45-7 in the AFC Championship

Those are not only dominant wins, those are dominant wins over playoff teams from last year. The fact remains that unless you have an elite quarterback of your own or Brady makes some uncharacteristic mistakes the Patriots remain near impossible to beat if they are healthy. And even then the Patriots are a tough dragon to slay. The Bills losing to them shouldn’t bring up more questions, it should only make more clear what you already knew, the Patriots are still better than the Bills as long as they have Tom Brady.

Shady McCoy and the Bills will get their confidence back vs. Miami and the rest of the league. (Getty Images)

Shady McCoy and the Bills will get their confidence back vs. Miami and the rest of the league. (Getty Images)

So where does that leave the Bills? There are still plenty of questions about this team that will be answered in due time. However there’s one thing I can say with as much certainty that’s possible only 2 games into a new season: the Bills still aren’t as good as the Patriots. Of course this is extremely disappointing. But that’s ok for right now, because the context matters. By no means should this loss be seen as a measuring stick for the Bills against the rest of the league. 13 of the 14 remaining opponents don’t have Tom Brady at quarterback or Rob Gronkowski at tight end.  Week 3 offers an opportunity, another big game against a division rival this time on the road, and an opportunity to grow from what happened in Week 2. I hope that the Bills and the fan base don’t let linger too long on what happened against the Patriots. Tyrod will get more experience and hopefully improve, Rex and the defense will correct what went wrong against New England, and the Bills will have another crack at Brady and the Pats later this year. As of right now, to quote the hated Belichick, it’s on to Miami.

evan– Evan Sally (@Evan_Sally)


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