– Evan Sally
Typically when the Bills are on their bye week there’s a sense of disappointment in the air. No matter how bad the team is playing in a given season, you still miss seeing your squad play on Sunday. However, I felt like this bye week was desperately needed on two fronts: a football team that has been battered by injuries and desperately needs a week to recharge; and a fanbase that’s emotionally exhausted from Monday’s officiating debacle in Seattle. As a result I welcomed this week’s bye with open arms. But even with the Bills taking a break, football never stops. While many of you probably took this Sunday as an opportunity to spend time with family or catch up on tasks around the house, I got my weekly dose of pigskin like the football junkie I am. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Bills week off.
There was some great football played this week. While this Bills season has actually been pretty enjoyable compared to what we’re used to (The Bills have played really well 5 times this year already, stunning) it’s still nice to be able to focus on watching the best of the best. The thing that stood out for me this week is the story of the year in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys. But it wasn’t just Dak’s poise coming back from a deficit on the road late, once again proving there’s nothing this dude can’t handle. And it wasn’t even Ezekiel Elliott’s ridiculous mix of speed and strength combining with the Dallas mauling offensive line that turn their running game into a beautifully unstoppable symphony. What really stood out most to me as we watched the Cowboys take out the Steelers on the road in a must win game for Pittsburgh, in a place where Big Ben is so good, is the magical nature of their season. Put yourself in the mind of a Cowboys fan 3 months ago. Tony Romo gets hurt and as the previous season just taught you, no Romo usually means no winning. As intriguing Dak Prescott’s preseason was, the most optimistic Cowboys fan would’ve been thrilled to have 5 wins at this point of the season. And yet here they sit at 8-1 with the best record in the league, and Cowboys fans are left to wonder when they’ll ever wake up from this dream. See, it’s this feeling of disbelief every time you think about your team, that seed of doubt in the back of your mind that this house of cards is going to come down soon that gets extinguished as the wins continue to stack up, this is the purest feeling is sports. It reminds me so much of what it felt like it be a Sabres fan around here 10 years ago during their magical run. It also reminds me of how much I miss that feeling.
As a neutral fan, Kansas City’s comeback win against Carolina and Denver beating New Orleans in the most improbable way possible were pretty crazy to watch and deserve to go in the good column. For a Bills fan, those wins were very very bad. It’s going to be hard enough for the Bills to make up ground on Denver and Kansas City in the wild card race; but when they win games like that you get the feeling that it’s going to be near impossible. Kansas City is the most unimpressive 7-2 team you’ll ever see. They just won a game coming back from a 17 point deficit without scoring an offensive touchdown. Denver’s offense is sputtering as well, and Trevor Siemian doesn’t inspire the slightest amount of confidence. It’s a bit easier to see why Kansas City is winning despite an offense you can’t trust: a ridiculous turnover margin. The Chiefs have committed 1 turnover during their 5 game winning streak while forcing 12. With Denver it’s a bit more mysterious. Conventional wisdom says Denver has been dragged to their 7 wins by their defense, but that side of the ball is far off of their historic pace from last season. Denver is balanced, as one of the few teams in the league with an offense and defense that rank in the top half of the league, and when you combine that with a good coach, all the confidence in the world and a really mediocre NFL you get a team that’s 7-3. Looking at each team’s schedule they still have to play each other twice, which is bad news for the Bills. You hope for one team to sweep the other. In my opinion that team you want to root for is Kansas City. The Chiefs have won 17 out of 19 games and whatever dark magic Andy Reid has been fiddling with shouldn’t be doubted. As for Denver, they still have to play the Patriots and unlike KC they’ve been trending down: only going 3-3 since their 4-0 start. That being said any way you look at it, it’s going to be really hard for the Bills to overcome their 3 game deficit unless they run the table down the stretch.
There were an astounding amount of dumb decisions made and terrible football played this Sunday:
- Jay Cutler’s first 5 drives on Sunday at Tampa: Punt, Interception, Pick Six, Field Goal, Fumble (by Jay Cutler). Lost 36-10.
- Cam Newton’s drives after taking a 17 point lead over Kansas City: Punt (after a 20 play drive, astonishing), Interception, Punt, Punt, Fumble (by Kelvin Benjamin). Lost 20-17.
- Drew Brees lead an incredible drive at the end of their game against Denver to tie it at 23 before the PAT. Drew Brees then watched from the sideline as his team invented a new way to lose, getting the extra point blocked and returned for 2 points for Denver to take the lead. Extra ugly points for misery.
- The Texans beat the Jaguars but Brock Osweiler continued on his crusade to set back quarterback play 100 years. You would think going 19/42 for 184 yards would be bad enough a few weeks ago against Minnesota would be bad enough. Not so fast says Brock Osweiler as he would go for 131 yards and only complete 22 out of 41 throws, an incredible 3.2 yards per attempt a few weeks later against Denver. “But wait there’s more,” says Mr. Osweiler!.Sunday he completed his magnum opus, his Beethoven’s 9th symphony, his Mona Lisa. Try these numbers on for size: 27 passes, 14 completions. 99 yards. 99! And they won! I know they say you can’t complain if you win but damn dude you are pushing it.
- A shocking entry on the list, the New England Patriots. In particular their choice of play calling at the goal line in the final series of the game. After reach the 1 yard line and needing a touchdown to tie it, the Patriots tried 2 Tom Brady sneaks, fumbling on one, a hand off to LeGarrette Blount and a mistimed fade to Gronk on 4th down before turning the ball over on downs. Those plays in theory all make sense, however, when you have the best quarterback in the history of the game you’d think that perhaps it would be a good idea to give him an opportunity to drop read a defense and identify the open man, something he’s proven himself to be pretty good at over the years. But hey what the hell do I know?
– Evan Sally (Twitter)