[Football Friday] Stranger Things Have Happened…


The big news this Football Friday is that the Buffalo Bills game in Orchard Park this Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengalswill be on TV!

There were over 7,000 tickets left at the start of this week, and with the current state of panic and fear—and the ever-present dread, hopelessness, and dismay—amongst Bills fans, there was little chance of this game selling out. (And of course, a sell-out is required for local television stations to be allowed to broadcast the game. “Local” being defined by the NFL as every city within about 200 miles of Ralph Wilson Stadium!)

Thanks to a last minute gift from Ralph Wilson, Jr. the nonagenarian owner of the Bills, local fans will be able to watch the game from their homes.

But, after losing to THE BROWNS last week on national TV—by thirteen points!!!—and losing their starting QB, why on God’s green earth would anyone want to see this game, anyway?

Read on, faithful fan!

All Hope Is Lost

ej-manuelLast week, we Bills fans had to endure the sight of our first-round, wonder kid, phenom rookie QB writhing on the sideline, clutching his knee. (As well as a Browns defender standing over him, pumping his fist in victory… despite the fact that EJ Manuel had just converted a third down with his run, setting up the Bills’ go-ahead touchdown mid-to-late third quarter… hmm…) Hearts sank, stomach knots twisted, throats felt nervous lumps rise… and basically all hope was lost. Throw the season in the toilet, flush, and prep for next year’s draft, fellas!

After watching then-backup quarterback, Jeff Tuel (another rookie QB) look quite pedestrian (and that’s being kind) most Bills fans could agree that there wasn’t much to be cheery about as a Bills fan.

But a more objective, rational review of the game in Cleveland would show the following:

  • Even with lots of injuries still, including losing Stevie Johnson somewhere in the second quarter, the Bills had managed to endure crazy-huge punt returns—one for a long TD—by the Browns, which gave them a 17-10 half-time lead, and take a third-quarter lead of their own, 24-17.
  • The Bills defense (still depleted by injuries) held the Browns’ running game in check, and really their offense, despite bad field position thanks to those punt returns.
  • Even the NFL Network announcers were pretty much handing the game to the Bills by the third quarter, with Mike Mayock commenting repeatedly that the Bills were just, “tightening the noose” with each successive first down.

Credit the Browns with taking advantage of Aaron Williams at cornerback—and a great catch by Josh Gordon on the game-tying score, bobbling, and then pulling it in while managing to get both feet down in the end zone.

EJ going down (for two to eight weeks, say his doctors) the Bills had to find more QB help. There was talk of recently-released Josh Freeman, but he chose Minnesota. There was more talk of Pat White (really??) and a few other cast-offs. But the Bills chose to bring Thaddeus Lewis off the practice squad and place him at the front of the bus, starting the game this week against Cincinnati!

What is happening around here?!

With the large list of injured (important) players, now larger and bearing the name E. J. Manuel, on top of the more important 2-3 overall record that they now hold, and a practice squad QB as our starter (and Jeff Tuel as his backup!) … it sure did seem as though all hope was lost.

All Hope is NOT Lost!

BUT… (a very important but!)

The Bills are getting nearly EVERYONE back. Jairus Byrd will finally be on the field, practicing fully this week. Even Stephon Gilmore is likely to get some playing time this weekend. Ron Brooks, Marquise Goodwin, and Doug Legursky are all scheduled to return this week. Also, don’t forget that a Thursday game means ten days off. Ten days means healthier players, including CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, and maybe even Stevie Johnson. (Johnson may miss this game due to a death in his family this week, as well as a back injury that has not fully healed.)

So really, other than players on injured reserve, the only player who is definitely out this weekend is EJ Manuel. The rest of that large list that the Bills have sported each week so far in 2013 … might be completely eliminated! Everyone playing!

This is really good news for us Bills fans. (And, um… the Bills!)

A Welcome Sight
moorman-qbMaybe the BEST news this week for the Bills was the release of 2nd year punter, Shawn Powell, and the re-signing of free agent punter, BRIAN MOORMAN!!! Many Bills fans are ecstatic to see the return of #8. (And yes, Jeff Tuel relinquished his number to the player most Bills fans know as #8, taking #7 for his own jersey number.)

With all the trouble at QB, maybe Brian Moorman will step in if there’s an injury. He’s always exciting, that’s for sure. And usually pretty fired up! Should get a big, friendly welcome from the crowd at The Ralph this Sunday when he comes out on the field. The Bills might do well to introduce the special teams starters before the game, just to pump up the crowd a bit more!

Welcome back, Mr. Moorman!


I’m kinda worried about making this prediction. I’m 0-3 so far. I predicted a loss, and they won. I predicted two wins, and they lost. Yikes!

Well… as I see it… the Bengals offense is not very good. They only got SIX points against the Cleveland Browns! We posted 24, and likely would have scored more. They do have AJ Green (a GREAT wide receiver) but we are getting all of our corners back (hopefully) and we apparently have a pretty decent D-coordinator in Mike Pettine!

The Bengals defense is a different story. They are good. But the Bills will have home field advantage, which should actually help a bit, and so far this year, the Bills have done well, even against pretty decent defenses (maybe especially Baltimore, but really every team they have played has a better-than-average defense! The Jets, Panthers, and Browns are #2, #3, and #4 after five weeks! Oh my!) The Bengals currently rank eighth overall, and tenth overall against the run—probably the Bills offensive strength.

The thing is, Thad Lewis is not bad. He’s not great, and is appropriately a backup QB, but he most likely won’t lose the game for the Bills. So, with a nearly-100% healthy defense, a slightly-healthier offense, a home game against an opponent that doesn’t do that well offensively (usually) …

Final score: 21-16, Buffalo.

I know I’m probably guaranteeing a loss with that prediction, but… well, that’s what I think will happen! Plenty of takeaways (Kiko Alonso! Jairus Byrd?), good defense, and an offense that moves the ball well enough to win.

(Did you know that the Bills are averaging 22.4 points per game so far this year, with scores of 21, 24, 20, 23, 24 in their five games? Not bad.)

So … go Bills! Enjoy your football weekend!

UPDATE: Right after this published, the Bills announced that Ron Brooks will not play this weekend. (He is listed as “Out”, along with EJ Manuel.) Stevie Johnson and Stephon Gilmore are “Questionable” and being called “game-time decisions”.

[Football Friday] Wait… What Day Is It?

Today is actually Thursday, but since the Buffalo Bills play their weekend game tonight, my Football Friday post—a preview of the next game—will publish on a Thursday!

It’s very confusing…

Hopefully the BILLS will not be as confused! Though, as I heard pointed out this week, the Thursday Night Games so far this season have been very sloppy, hard-to-watch football games. The short week of practice, and less time to recover from any injuries are probably two of the main factors contributing to a lesser version of NFL football.

Perhaps tonight the two young, up-and-coming franchises will break from that pattern?

And… perhaps not.

The Good Stuff

There is actually a bunch to like from both of these teams coming off their last games. (OK, not the Bills game in New Jersey against the Jets. There’s hardly anything to like about that one!) But other than that game, the Browns have won two in a row after their quarterback change. Brian Hoyer is 2-0 as the starter, and even though their season starter, Brandon Weeden is healthy again, Hoyer will play in this next game against the Bills, too.


The Bills are fresh off their win at home against last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens. Impressive! And more than just because of their title. The Ravens were #4 in the league in run defense, and the Bills ran for over 200 yards against them! The Bills defense had four sacks and five INTs on Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. Very impressive!

And don’t forget their two games prior to the NY Jets debacle were a comeback win against a pretty good Carolina Panthers team (they beat the Giants 38-0 the week after losing to Buffalo) and leading the New England Patriots until the very last minute, when they took the lead on a late field goal.

Other than the game against the Jets, EJ Manuel has looked at least reliable, and even exciting. I’d say especially the game against Carolina—the long, comeback, last-minute drive for the go-ahead touchdown—but he also hit some throws last week for scores, including one that didn’t count (but should have!) near the end of the game. Also, Manuel has greatly limited any mistakes, and the Bills’ future does look promising with him at the helm!

Bills FS Jairus Byrddead to many Bills fans, thanks to his non-chalant, flippant attitude in most (all?) interviews since signing with the team in the pre-season—fully participated in practice earlier this week. That’s a really good sign that he might indeed return … even as early as this week! Other Bills are greatly on the mend as well, including super-speedy rookie WR Marquise Goodwin, who will probably be back for the Bills’ next game, Sunday Oct. 13th, at home against the Bengals.

The Scary Stuff

Let’s not forget what I highlighted last week: INJURIES ABOUND!

That hasn’t really changed, outside of the update directly above. But now, players like CJ Spiller can be added to the not-likely-to-be-seen-on-the-field-in-any-meaningful-way list. (If there isn’t such a list, there should be!) Fred Jackson is also hurt, but nearly guarantees he’ll be out there. Thirteen players are officially listed on the Week 5 injury report at BuffaloBills.com, and four of those are definitely out.

Last week the Bills were able to overcome a top-notch run defense. Well, way more than “overcome”. They put up over 200 yards. So how about this week? Tonight, the Bills take on the #1 rush defense in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. Can the Bills—perhaps minus their top two running backs, due to injuries—work similar magic this week? Not likely. The Browns defense is younger, faster, and crazier (in my opinion).

One strength the Browns possess that the Ravens do not necessarily is their “shut down” corner, Joe Hayden. He should effectively remove whichever receiver they put him on. (He shut down a pretty great receiver, AJ Green of the Bengals, last week.) The good news for the Bills is, they have many more than just one receiver!

Speaking of receivers, the Browns have a TE (Jordan Cameron) who has been somewhat dominant through the first quarter of the 2013 season. I believe he has five touchdown receptions now, including a game where he posted three? Those are Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Tony Gonzalez numbers. The Bills are faster this year, and prepared to cover guys (or attempt to) like Gronk … Cameron will be a good test of that.


So far, in my illustrious, two-part, Football Friday predictions I am an astounding… 0 for 2. 🙂 The game I thought the Bills would win, they lost. When I thought they were just too injury-depleted to compete, they won, and it seemed rather “easily”.

So… I’m a little afraid to proceed here, as a Bills fan, but …

With a defense that leads the NFL in interceptions, going up against a relative no-name QB in Brian Hoyer, a “vintage” RB, former Bill, Willis McGahee, and… who? at receiver? (Other than their TE, Cameron) …

AND, with an offense that, even injured, has a multiplicity of potent targets …

BUT, it is a road game, on national television…

Still, I must stick with my gut and say that, in a defensive struggle, the Bills will pull out the (much-needed) road victory:

Final score: 19-12, Buffalo.

(Yes, lots of field goals. Excited now?) 🙂

The Bills will benefit greatly by beating a team that is similarly (but lesser) talented than they are, on the road, and picking up a conference win, against a team that their division rival, Miami, has already beaten. (Record against common opponents is a tie-breaker later on, should one be needed…)

We’ll see tonight if this team of youngsters is up to the task!

Go Bills!

[Football Friday] Mounting Injuries, Mounting Losses?

Bills DE Alex Carrington injured against the NY Jets

NFL football is rough. (That’s probably obvious.)

And somehow, it’s always rougher to the Buffalo Bills!

I remember just a few years ago when there were seventeen (or more?) players on the season-ending Injured Reserve (IR) list! That’s a third of an NFL roster! Yikes!

This year is starting off no better. Look at this injury report from Thursday afternoon:

CB Ron Brooks – foot
*CB Stephon Gilmore – wrist
*K Dustin Hopkins – groin
WR Marquise Goodwin – hand
(DE Alex Carrington – placed on IR this week)

*S Jairus Byrd – foot
*CB Leodis McKelvin – hamstring

*DL Marcell Dareus – ankle
*DL Mario Williams – ankle
*DL Kyle Williams – Achilles
*WR Stevie Johnson – hamstring
G/C Doug Legursky – knee
*RB C.J. Spiller – thigh
*OL Kraig Urbik – knee


I put an asterisk next to each of the guys who are starters. And the other guys are players who would be in there for many snaps.

Again… Yikes!!!

Clash WITH the Titans

Buffalo Bills Schedule - Weeks 4-9As if the injuries weren’t enough by themselves… have you seen the Bills’ schedule?

Currently they are at 1-2 (which could easily be 0-3!) and they are about to take on six teams in a row whose combined record is an astounding 15-3… and that’s because Cleveland is in there! (And they beat a reasonably-tough Minnesota Vikings team last weekend, after nearly defeating Baltimore the week prior!)

There are two 2-1 teams (Baltimore, Cincinnati), and THREE teams with perfect, 3-0 records! (Miami, New Orleans, and Kansas City—the first two are road games!) Holy. Moly.

The next two games after that are at Pittsburgh (no easy task, even if they do have a losing record this year) and home again to face the New York Jets. That did not go so well the first time …

Even with all of those players on the injury list above, those games would be tough. But without them?

Buckle up, Bills fans. This could get bumpy!

Oh No! Our QB is on FIRE!

ejOne week, you’re the savior of the world, next week… not so much.

EJ Manuel has fallen from grace with many Bills fans, rightly wearied by thirteen seasons of quarterbacking woes. (OK, not really. There was still a little Flutie in there (ha! “little”) and Bledsoe had that one good year…

Last week EJ was sacked EIGHT times, and for some strange reason he kept throwing balls 5 or 6 yards out of bounds? (EJ, that’s a good way to avoid INTs, but you also avoid the completions.) He looked skittish, scared, scurried, and all things of that sort. To be fair, the offensive line and the run game sort of set him up to feel (and act) that way. The blame can not all be placed on the quarterback.

That said, last Sunday, it was pretty obvious that he is a rookie.

He’s looked good at The Ralph. That’s where they play this Sunday. Against the Super Bowl Champion, Baltimore Ravens. Who still have a good defense. (Minus Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and … somebody else.)

Will EJ Manuel still look like he’s on fire in week four? OR, will be be “on fire”, besting his yards, touchdowns, and any other marks he’s set so far in his fledgling career?


Well, I missed last week’s prediction. Pretty badly, actually. Greatly underestimating the somewhat no-name Jets’ defense, my 27-13 Buffalo win turned out to be a 27-20 LOSS. Stinky.

This week, I shall be more conservative. And honestly, I hope that I am wrong two weeks in a row.

But I won’t be.

The Ravens are also coming into Orchard Park injured, but they still have their highly-paid quarterback. I have a hard time believing that our fourth-string and on down the depth chart cornerbacks (and backup safety, I might add) will be able to stop Joe Flacco and whomever he chooses to throw to.

Toss in the (incredibly) porous Bills run defense facing the likely return of Ray Rice, and…

Baltimore should win this one somewhat easily.

Final score: 30-20, Baltimore.

I think one thing we will find out this week in Buffalo is the skill, talent, and ability of the rookie coaches (as well as the rookie quarterback). Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett will need to free up CJ Spiller and EJ Manuel somehow, while Mike Pettine will have to figure out a way to run his crazy (and good) defensive scheme with fourth-stringers! I do hope they can get it done. We’re about to find out!

Go Bills!

Enjoy your football weekend!

[Football Friday] On The Road


It’s Friday, and that means another weekend of football is here! A week ago, Alex and I attended a high school football game here in our town. First time ever, actually! It was fun… except for the constant rain, on a cold night, and the college-ready, MJD-bodied running back on the other team… Still, it really was quite fun! We look forward to doing it again soon.

But, as you are likely well aware, this is a Buffalo Bills household. High school football is fun—I enjoyed playing for my high school several decades ago—and every once in a while we’ll tune in a Michigan State football game (and on rare occasions, a different college game) … BUT…

It’s pretty much Buffalo Bills, and NFL football around here.

(Oh, and for the next couple weeks, our football weekends culminate with our own Monday Night (flag) Football games! Those are great fun, too!)

On The Road

So this week, the very promising, young Bills get to play their first game away from The Ralph.

In two games at home, they have performed admirable, and at times, messily. Penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, missed passes, and in Week One, a CJ Spiller who forgot he was good. That has led to a 1-1 record, thanks to EJ Manuel and company pulling it together on the final drive. And also, thanks to a defense that looks… impressive. Even missing two of its best players: CB Stephon Gilmore and FS Jairus Byrd.

Will that continue on the road? How much does the raucous crowd in Orchard Park aid this team? Can this young team with a rookie QB, and a rookie Head Coach, have the same—or better—success on the road???

We’re about to find out!

The Opponent: New York Jets

The Jets are favored by 2.5 points. That actually means that Vegas thinks the Bills will win the game. (Home teams are given at least three points, just for hosting the game.) The line makes sense, based on their records through the first two weeks: both teams at 1-1, both wins being last minute, come from behind wins. (The Bills loss to the Patriots was much closer than the Jets loss to the same team, though, as the Jets were never really in that game, despite the appearance on the score board.)

Such a tough game to figure out. It would seem that the Bills have the edge in talent, and they have performed overall much better than their division counterparts. But both teams are young. The Jets have an established, veteran (mostly respected) head coach… but the Bills have the Jets’ former Defensive Coordinator! Ha!

Really, should be an interesting matchup. Can’t wait to see it!


Buffalo Bills QB, E.J. ManuelI really think the Bills defense is improved. Six sacks last week. The backup corner backs are playing MUCH better than anticipated. Rookie LB Kiko Alonso was overshadowed last week by fellow rookie, EJ Manuel’s last minute drive to win the game. (And Stevie Johnson FINALLY catching the big pass!) Alonso is pretty great so far, actually. He ended the game by sacking Cam Newton, when they still had a (very small) chance to win that game. He also had an interception early in the game.

Look for Mike Pettine’s defense to continue improving, and confuse Jets QB Geno Smith, and shut down whomever else they have on their offense. (Who do they have?)

And on offense … with a steady young, unflappable QB, a really talented group of wide receivers, and um… CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson? If they don’t hurt themselves with penalties and turnovers, this should be a comfortable win for the Buffalo Bills.

Final score: 27-13 Buffalo.

Hooray! 🙂

The Bills, if they really are improved, and “heading the the right direction”—as most Bills fans think they are—really need to win this game. It’s against a division opponent, that has befuddled and annoyed them for years.

This Sunday we could start to see that turning around.

Go Bills!

Enjoy your football weekend!

Winning Is All That Matters!

Wins and Losses

Are you a sports fan? Do you enjoy participating in competition, or just watching other compete? There is often tension, drama, emotional highs and lows, and plenty of excitement. And in the end, there is a winner, and a loser. (Unless a draw is an option for the final outcome in the particular sport of choice.)

The outcome is usually the way we judge a game. Did you win? You were the best team out there! Did you lose? Tough break. They were better. If it’s a league, where you’re tracking your wins and losses, chalk one up in the loser column for you and your team.

I’ve always thought this was such a strange way to judge effort, ability, and even the result of a particular contest. First, there are so many things that go into a win or a loss, and often a couple bounces or calls that were a hair’s breadth from going the opposite way may have determined that final outcome. So did the better team win? Or, were they just lucky?

Honestly, it’s often a toss up—and can even be well argued that the better team ended with fewer points.

And yet, we even champion the phrase, “Winning is all that matters!”

Bottom line is, that’s true. The way we have set things up is based on wins and losses. The ultimate champion in any sports league—the best team—is the one who outlasts all the others by winning. It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, if the other team was better, or if they win by dominating their opponent—just win.

You don’t even have to win all of your games! The NY Giants won the Super Bowl a few years ago, after “sneaking” into the playoffs. In what might have been considered a sub-par season (9-7 overall, they were 7-7 after week 15!) they beat the New England Patriots (whom many considered a far superior team, for many reasons) … and THEY are the Champions.

Just because they won the right games, at the right times.

It’s funny to me, actually; how much emphasis we place on the final outcome. I don’t have an alternative, though. What else could you base it on? Everything else is simply subjective, based on opinion more than a measurable actuality. But still, there’s so much “luck” involved, and we base so much value, or “worth” on these ‘W’s and ‘L’s.

I think I may be more understanding of this as a fan of the Buffalo Bills. Did you know that this NFL franchise has not collected enough wins in any of the past thirteen seasons to advance to the post season playoffs? Thirteen! They have a record of 82-126 over that span of years. A win percentage of thirty-nine percent. That’s really incredible. I’ve watched most of those individual contests, and while it’s not really fair to say they “should” have won any of those games that they lost, there certainly were dozens that could have been flipped to wins by just one or two timely plays going the other way (and those plays being just a bad bounce, or a fraction of an inch from doing just that!)

And so, our team and its fans continue to be the butt of many a football joke. Just because of a few plays.

Overall, this usually is a good measurement. Those teams were not very good. But they weren’t maybe as bad as the W/L record would suggest. Nor are the winners necessarily as “good” as their record suggested. And yet, they are lauded as the best.

This is not a sour grapes post. 🙂 Yesterday my Bills won on a last second touchdown, in a hard-fought, back-and-forth game where either team could have won—and maybe the Carolina Panthers “deserved” the win even more. (Or at least, as much as the Bills.)

But the Bills won. They are 1-1. They feel better about themselves. Just because they finished with one more point. (Thanks to a penalty, and a few other beneficial moments.)

In the previous week, the Bills may have actually been the “better” team, but they lost. There were dropped passes, bad calls, penalties (which were correctly called) and in the end, the Bills lost on a last minute field goal.

I still say, wins and losses are a funny way to gauge the overall worth or ability of a team.

I guess that’s just a strange part of “sport”. In the end, winning is probably not all that matters. At least, not to me. Playing hard, good sportsmanship (whether winning or losing), competition, dealing with adversity, and just the enjoyment of physical activity and exertion… leaving everything on the field, as they say—all of these are great parts of sport, win or lose.

A famous quote, attributed to Thomas Edison, reminds us that winning and losing may not be the best measurement of any particular outcome:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.1

So I contend that whether your final result is a win or a loss, the ‘W’ or ‘L’ does not determine the worth of you, or your team, or even your effort on that occasion. People say there are “moral victories” (meaning you can take something good from a loss) and then others strongly object, saying there are NO moral victories. Wins are all that matters. That’s just silly … it’s a GAME! So many things go into it, and the final result can go either way. That’s what makes it fun!

Enjoy the competition. Play hard, win or lose. And even enjoy watching and cheering for your team, win or lose.

We Bills fans certainly know how to do the latter! 🙂

  1. Note: This quote is interesting. I found several versions of it, usually differing on the number of failures (700, 1,000, and 10,000 being most common). But also the subject of the failure differed at times (battery storage vs. the carbon filament for light bulbs) and also there was some stated doubt regarding the attribution to Edison at all! Interesting.

The 2013 Buffalo Bills Season: A Prediction

I am in Bills mode today, and so, I’ve decided to publish my VERY EARLY predictions for the Buffalo Bills 2013 season. Take it for what it’s worth, from a person who follows the daily goings on of this franchise very closely, and also (1) has a Twitter account under the name GregTheBillsFan, and (2) is also an admitted optimist.

(Obviously this is all based on few-to-no major injuries, too.)

Buffalo Bills 2013

Buffalo Bills 2013 Season:
Week by Week Predictions

New England – W (1-0)

Week one. I can’t wait for week one! Brady looks insanely great, still, again… always! It doesn’t matter who he’s throwing to. BUT, they’ve lost Welker (a Bills killer) and won’t have Gronk, nor obviously Hernandez. Brady makes up for just about anything else lacking on offense, but the true strength of the 2013 Bills is actually looking more and more like it will be the Mike Pettine defense. That may sound strange as the Bills’ defense was beyond porous last year. They were awful! However, if our D can pressure Brady enough that our 80-plays-per-game offense can score ~24-30 points… there’s a chance this one goes our way. Certainly the Bills are putting a LOT of effort into getting this particular win, at home, to start the season. We’ll see if they can do it.

Carolina – W (2-0)

Mostly guessing here. (Even more than the rest of these guesses!) I think the Bills gain confidence from the BIG week one win over the hated Patriots, and (I think) they are better than Carolina, and at home… Bills win. EJ Manuel impresses, looking better than Cam Newton.

@ NY Jets – W (3-0)

Ha! The Jest! Um… do I need to explain why the Bills will win this one, AND the Nov 17 game at The Ralph? No. I do not.

Baltimore – L (3-1)

The entire region is super-energized by this completely different Bills team. Aggressive, hard-hitting defense. Explosive, point-scoring, high-paced offense. THREE and OH?!? And then reality settles in as the Super Bowl champs come to town and methodically earn themselves a relatively easy win. (By a TD or so.)

@ Cleveland – W (4-1)

Thankfully, the Bills head to Cleveland after the sobering reminder that a perfect season is nowhere within their reach. Though Cleveland has some interesting young talent, the Bills had no problem there last year, and should have even less of a problem this year.

Cincinnati – W (5-1)

This is a tough one. In the recent past, the Bills have always seemed to be able to beat Cincinnati. The exception being the last time they played, losing 23-20 in a game that they truly should have won. (Typical Fitzpatrick/Old Bills blundering.) Before that, the Bills had won ten consecutive meetings between the clubs. (The Bengals last beating them in November 1988! On their way to the Super Bowl.) SO… history would suggest that the Bills, at home, stand a good chance of winning this one. It should be a VERY interesting defensive game, actually. Both teams should have better-than-average defenses … AJ Green vs Gilmore and Byrd. CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson vs the Bengals D… IF they are the team they seem to be shaping up to be, the Bills eke out a win at home.

@ Miami – L (5-2)

Time for more reality setting in. Traveling to Miami … big game for the also-revamped Dolphins since their visiting division rival has a nice jump on the season at 5-1. Bills either out-matched (only defensively) or overconfident, lose in a game they wish they could forget.

@ New Orleans – L (5-3)

NO! NOT AGAIN!!! The Bills head to New Orleans (Coach Marrone‘s old stomping grounds) to face Sean Payton‘s Saints, and though they score 30 points or more, they can’t keep up with New Orleans’ offense at home. Two losses in a row, and now three out of four… the city of Buffalo is in a panic!!!!

Kansas City – W (6-3)

Thankfully… the Bills come back to the comfy confines of The Ralph, and get to play a game against the Chiefs! Another opponent the 2012 team had no trouble with. The 2013 team will, again, have less trouble. Easy, confidence-rebuilding win.

@ Pittsburgh – L (6-4)

How not nice of the NFL schedulers. They keep throwing these really tough-to-beat teams in, JUST when the Bills regain their confidence!! Manuel has been compared (by GM Doug Whaley, formerly of the Steelers organization) to one Ben Roethlisberger. But the real Big Ben will likely wear down this much-improved Bills D… and Polamalu and company will remind Manuel that, well, he’s still just a rookie. Bills lose. Again.

NY Jets – W (7-4)

The schedulers are not completely heartless, however. Just before a bye week, their pride again wounded by their current 3-4, up-and-down skid, the Bills wear large grins as the incompetent NY J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets! come to town for another thrashing. Bills get their biggest win of the season as Mike Pettine completely confounds poor little Marky Sanchez and his offensive offense.


No loss here! Good news! Good news!!!!
(You have to say that like Roscoe P. Coletrain…)

Atlanta – L (7-5)

Atlanta is good. Really good. The Bills are enjoying their crazy, much-improved, way-over-500 record after their week off… glad to be hosting a really good team. Home game, in December—but this one is the Toronto game. Played in Canada. In a dome. Still, the place is rockin’. Already a 4pm, nationally shown game, might even get flexed? (Moved to Sunday or Monday night?) BUT… Atlanta is too good for this team of youngsters. Plus, they are coming off a ten-day break, too, having last played the previous Thursday (Thanksgiving Night). Falcons find a way to win, in a really exciting game. Bills drop another, to go 7-5.

@ Tampa Bay – L (7-6)

Buffalo travels south again, and has a similar result. The Bucs are hard to predict, but have enough talent to hold off this Bills team in their own stadium. Rian Lindell kicks the game-winning FG, but feels bad about it, because he’s such a nice guy. Bills lose again… their hopes are beginning to crumble. 🙁

@ Jacksonville – W (8-6)

BUT THEN … they get to play the JAGUARS!!! Another confidence-boosting game. (It’s nice to have the last-place schedule sometimes!) Bills defeat former teammate Paul Posluzsnzy and friends. Fairly easily.

Miami – W (9-6)

Having already lost to Miami in their previous meeting, the Bills know that Miami, in Buffalo, in December… they can’t lose this game. The RBs put up 250 yards on this really good Miami D, and the Bills win by 10 points or more, convincing some that the playoff drought may indeed end THIS year! Especially with New England faltering, if ever so slightly.

@ New England – L (9-7)

And in an appropriate ending to this upstart season, for a reenergized franchise … the Bills travel to Foxboro to face their arch-rival, the Patriots. The Bills have never (I said NEVER) won in Foxboro. Never. Ever! They have come so close. Many times. But have never won there. To make the playoffs, they will almost certainly need to win this game. But, unless Tom Brady is injured… I think the Patriots remind the Bills that they’re not quite done just yet. The MUCH-more-fun-to-watch (and much better?) Buffalo Bills are sent home after a hard-fought, exciting last game of the year… losing to the New England Patriots, finishing with a 9-7 record.

Of course, all of this is clearly just speculation. First, as I said at the top, the Bills need to not have any major injuries—certainly no season-ending injuries to key players—which has actually been one of their problems over this 13-year playoff drought.

And, obviously, I can’t even know this team… so what about all the others? Just guessing as to how they are going to play. (Except for the Jets. We know for certain that they will be horrible.) 😉

But, for now, in August … that’s my prediction for the 2013 Buffalo Bills season.

Guess they don’t even have to play the games now!

Go Bills!

The Very Intriguing Buffalo Bills

Bills QB EJ ManuelThis year’s Buffalo Bills are very intriguing.

Really. They are. You may not believe me, but they are.

I do realize this is much like the boy who cried wolf, pretending over and over again that he had big news, only to find no one would believe him when it was finally imperative that they did.

Only in that story, the boy knew he was fibbing. Most Bills fans have been quite honestly and innocently duped by their own foolhardy, undying, overly-optimistic loyalty to the Buffalo Bills franchise, and a healthy dose of marketing by the well-oiled machine that spews forth powerful propaganda from the offices at One Bills Drive.

Why do I believe this? What could possibly cause me to utter such utter nonsense?

The Coaches

Bills Head Coach, Doug Marrone

You may have read here before that the Bills are nearly completely different from the very top (Russ Brandon is now in charge of the Bills world) on down. All of the coaching staff is different, so many players retired or were let go—different, new players filling their voids—and probably most noticeable, as well as most notable—the Bills spent the sixteenth overall pick on their “quarterback of the future”. This from a franchise who had never in its fifty-plus years selected a quarterback with their first pick of the draft!

There are regular reasons to be excited about this football team (good players) but I’d say the most intriguing aspect of the 2013 Buffalo Bills is the coaching staff.

The previous staff was completely obliterated, and not too long after they were “dismissed”, Doug Marrone was hired. Please refer to my article from last January to review some of the thoughts that were swirling about inside the collective head of the Buffalo Bills fans after this hire, but needless to say, there was more unknown than dissatisfaction.

Then he hired a few coaches, including Nathaniel Hackett as his Offensive Coordinator. Hackett previously worked for the Bills organization as Offensive Quality Control, or something like that. Basically, he played a very minor role. Not long after Marrone brought in the Syracuse University coaches that he wanted, he and Russ Brandon wooed the New York Jets defensive Coordinator for that same role on the Buffalo Bills coaching staff. He accepted.

Now things were beginning to get interesting.

Mike Pettine and Nathaniel Hackett

Hackett brings a very up-tempo, no-huddle, score-lots-of-points approach. Every report calls him innovative, and without a doubt he is energetic. It might be a more accurate portrayal to say he is pure energy! This is a drastic change from the previous coaching staff (and several before that) who were very established, grizzly NFL veterans. (Read: old and haggard.)

Mike Pettine, the new D-Coordinator, is not as vivacious as the young coach Hackett, but he’s on the younger side of the NFL coaching scale, and he’s equally innovative. He’s also had great success everywhere he’s coached. Previously the Jets’ Defensive Coordinator, he also coached the Baltimore Ravens defense with Rex Ryan before that. Again, wherever he’s been, his defense has seen great success.

The scheme fundamentally aims to fool the offense as much as possible—look like you’re coming with a blitz, from multiple positions, and then don’t. Or do. They’ll never know!—and apply MUCH pressure. Oh, and hit hard. Really hard.

So far through training camp and two preseason games, that’s exactly what we’ve seen.

Offensively, the Bills are running around 80 plays per game (that’s a good clip!) and they are getting yards and points.

This really is intriguing!

The QB Competition

Bills QB EJ Manuel

Probably the first thing about the 2013 Bills that fans and outside observers would all label ‘intriguing’ is the quarterback competition. After drafting EJ Manuel number sixteen overall, him being the first QB taken by any team in the draft, many eyes are on that position battle. And why not? The Bills really haven’t had a great QB since Jim Kelly, over twenty years ago! There were flashes of fun with one year of Drew Bledsoe, and another of Doug Flutie … but then we’ve had the insufferable stretch featuring the likes of JP Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards and even the lovable Ryan Fitzpatrick.

(He was especially lovable with that cute, orange furry face!)

The expectations bar is of course set quite low for whomever might assume the role of primary signal caller, but beyond the obvious, this really is an intriguing time.

Injuries have thrown an interesting wrench into the whole process. First, the veteran Kevin Kolb missed time because of a freak, off-field slip that hurt his knee (as well as some personal, family issues that he needed to tend to) and then news emerged after the second preseason game that EJ Manuel was having surgery on one of his knees following an injury sustained in that game.

Prior to the injury, Manuel had been separating himself a bit from the other two QBs in camp practices as well as game play. His poise, decision making, and obvious athletic ability have been consistently better than Kolb.

My theory is that EJ was only barely injured, and the coaches decided to (1) make sure he was better than OK before having him play anymore, and (2) since he was a clear front runner, they needed to see the other guys more anyway!

“Wait…” you say, “Why do you keep saying ‘other two guys’? It’s just two total, right? Kolb and Manuel? There is no third, right?”

Or so the media would have you believe.


Bills fans, on the other hand, are going gaga for Jeff Tuel. “Tuel Time” mania is sweeping the Bills Nation!

Jeff Tuel? Who? Indeed. The undrafted free agent has won the QB-starved hearts of Bills fans everywhere with his nearly flawless completion percentage, his strong, confident throws, and yes… touchdowns! We love touchdowns!

At this point in the history of this franchise, we don’t care where you came from, your pedigree, or any expectations the NFL experts may have of you … if you get us TDs, you’re IN!

Here’s the transcript of a recent exchange between a reporter and coach Marrone regarding the plausibility of Mr. Tuel assuming the role of starting quarterback:

Reporter: Where does Jeff Tuel stand in this QB competition. Is Jeff an option to play in week 1?

DM: I think … it was interesting… when you draft… a lot of what we’ve seen publicly is a lot of the emphasis is on EJ & Kevin. Whether I miscommunicated that, or whether that’s what we wanted to see. But I think if you go back and you look in the beginning, I said, ‘Hey, you know, I really like this kid we took from Washington State, who’s really done a good job,’ and really everyone was like, ‘Eh… what is he talking about?’ And I think we’ve seen that he’s gone in there and he’s really done a nice job. So at the end of the day … yes, I want him to compete to be a starting quarterback. Then we’ll evaluate whether that’s good enough for us to win with.

I had noticed before hearing this that there has been a strange, unanimous rejection by the media of any notion that Tuel had any part whatsoever in this QB competition. And, to be fair, the rest of that Marrone sound byte was basically “coach speak” about wanting every player to compete as though they had a chance to be the starter. This should signal that the media are correct in their presumptions. BUT…

You can’t argue with the young guy’s success!

Is it really possible that the Bills would field TWO rookie QBs in 2013? It’s possible. The Redskins had two rookies as their numbers one and two last year. The Bills may follow their lead with Manuel and Tuel being their one/two in 2013.

More intrigue!

Team Speed: FAST!

flash-goodwinOne thing that might be overlooked by some about these Bills is their speed. CJ Spiller is already one of the fastest men in the NFL at any position. Brad Smith is faster than most people realize. And CB Leodis McKelvin led the league in punt return average last season thanks largely to being fleet of foot.

This year, the Bills have added even more straightaway speed by drafting WR Marquise Goodwin, who was also an olympic track athlete. He joins TJ Graham, drafted in 2012, who also has track speed in his dossier, being a track runner himself. (Even Graham’s mother was a track star!) He has only improved on his sub-4.3/40 speed in 2013, as well as improved his game as a receiver. Many reports from offseason workouts were saying that Graham has been the player to watch.

So there is offensive team speed. Ridiculous team speed. I heard an interview with the Madden 25 player ratings guy, and he said there are four receivers for the Bills with 90+ speed ratings. “You’re going to like your receivers,” he told the Buffalo-based interviewer.

But the defense is just as fast. Quick to the ball. Running all over the place. Watch out for the linebackers this year. Rookie LB Kiko Alonzo looks to be the starter at the middle line-backer position, and he’s so far done really well. Guys like Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, and a few others are flying to the ball so far in training camp and preseason.

The speed of this group is very intriguing!

The Star Power (Yes! There is some!)

CJ Spiller

It would stand to reason that a team who has failed to make the playoffs for thirteen consecutive seasons might begin to accumulate very talented players. The system is set up to reward the worst teams with the best upcoming talent. So it’s not completely unbelievable to say that there are some very talented players on the Buffalo Bills roster.

But then, we also have the history of the past thirteen years. We know what the Buffalo Bills do with that talent. Generally, they squander it.

And sadly, players like Eric Moulds, Lee Evans, Aaron Schobel, and a healthy amount of other players have toiled in relative NFL obscurity because of their team’s lack of success. One could ply the chicken-or-the-egg argument here, of course. Couldn’t lack of team success be a result of a lack of talent? (And thus, that deserved obscurity.) Perhaps.

But I’m going to say that many players who’ve donned the Red, White and Buffalo Blue have been unfairly forgotten by much of the NFL universe because of the black hole that this franchise has been for so long.

Now, despite this reputation—which again, is quite well-earned—the Buffalo Bills roster boasts some true NFL stars. CJ Spiller became a well-known name last year as he continually ripped off really long, electrifying runs—true highlight reel material.

Stevie Johnson is the only Buffalo Bills receiver to post consecutive, thousand-yard seasons. Only. Ever. On a list that includes all-time favorite Andre Reed, Hall of Famer James Lofton, and the aforementioned Eric Moulds. And Stevie’s done it THREE consecutive seasons. WITH Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards. Guys. There’s something … a LOT… to that. He’s really good!

FS Jairus Byrd, Buffalo BillsOn defense, the backfield boasts two relatively young NFL stars: Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore. Who? Again, the obscurity of ineptitude. Jairus (who just signed his Franchise Tag Tender contract while I was finishing up this article!) is a Pro Bowl safety, who led the league in interceptions in his rookie season. He continues to be the “ball hawk” type, aided by his fellow backfield mate, Stephon Gilmore. Only entering his second year in the league, Gilmore has already been labeled a “shut down corner”, which just means he’s really good.

Don’t forget $100M Mario Williams is on this team, and, DT Kyle Williams, whom many feel is the best player on the Bills defense—maybe the team!

And, while you can’t call rookies “stars” just yet, don’t forget that EJ Manuel brings some level of “star power”, as do Kiko Alonzo, an aggressive and talented MLB, and super-speedy WRs Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin (who already has a 107-yard kick return TD on his NFL stat sheet!). This whole team looks really, blazingly fast!

In addition to the draft, the Bills actually seem to have done pretty well in other offseason moves with the line-backer pair, Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson creating consistent pressure (havoc!) in training camp and the first two preseason games.

These players will not be the “face of the franchise” yet, other than Manuel, but they may be someday soon.


Cool Heads Prevail

All I am trying to say is, this year’s version of the Buffalo Bills will almost certainly be intriguing.

They are a completely different team. Wholly. The only parts that remain from any years past (including only one season ago) are what most would consider the best parts (Spiller, Jackson, Johnson, Byrd, Williams, Gilmore, etc.) They even released K Rian Lindell this week. He’d been the Bills kicker for 10 seasons, leaving the franchise as the most accurate kicker in its history, and only 38 points away from being its highest all-time scorer, too.

From players to coaches, to general manager, to the man calling the organizational shots: these are not the same Buffalo Bills.

And honestly, that is what is intriguing. I have no idea if they will win. I think they can? But I have no idea. I have no reason to think that they won’t, simply because these people who are wearing the Bills’ colors are nearly all NOT the people who have been for the past 10-15 years of complete incompetence. That seems like a good thing!

The season starts in just a few weeks, and you can bet that we long-time Bills fans will be clad in red-white-and-blue at 1pm on September 8th, anxious to see what this rendition of our Bills can do.

We’ll find out soon!

Go Bills!