Cleat Geeks

Sean McDermott’s Head Coaching Tenure Is Becoming Worrisome

Having coaches and personnel in charge of the Buffalo Bills that make troublesome decisions is nothing new for Bills fans. As a matter of fact, since the days of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Marv Levy have ended, there has been nothing but a clown car filled with inept coaches and management types who have driven the Bills from perennial AFC contenders to perennial AFC laughing stocks.

So it felt a little bit refreshing when Sean McDermott was hired as the head coach prior to the 2017-18 season. He seemed like a no-crap kind of coach. He stressed trusting the process, a phrase that Bills fans would recite both ironically and un-ironically throughout the course of the season. But ultimately, we felt like he repaid our loyalty when he helped lead the Bills to a 9-7 record, second place in the AFC East (forever behind the New England Patriots) and their first playoff berth in nearly 20 years. Sure, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars is a largely ugly AFC Wild Card Game, but this was the playoffs! It just felt good to be involved again.

Credit: SB Nation

And then things started tumbling downhill.

The decision to draft Josh Allen — as polarizing as it was — doesn’t fall on McDermott, but the rest of the quarterback controversy certainly does. A.J. McCarron, brought in via trade, flamed out so spectacularly that he was shipped out before the regular season even started. And Nathan Peterman. Good lord, Almighty, Nathan Peterman. It was something close to stunning that Peterman was brought back after the debacle against the Chargers last season — four interceptions in the first half — but could at least be somewhat understood because Peterman is still young and sometimes young quarterbacks struggle.

But the second the first half in Baltimore ended in week 1, with Peterman looking totally inept on his way to a pair of interceptions, that should have been his last day in the NFL. It was painfully clear that he just doesn’t have the ability to play in this league. But he was kept around. As Allen’s backup, it was fine. Hopefully, we’d never have a need to see him again. That lasted all of five weeks, thanks to a late hit that left Allen with an elbow injury during last week’s tilt in Houston.

Enter Peterman.

credit: ESPN.com

In perhaps the most expected moment in the history of everything, Peterman demolished a sterling effort by the Bills defense with the most comically ugly pick-six of all-time. We all knew it was coming. Hell, Peterman probably knew it was coming. And the interception on the final drive was just the poop icing on the turd cake.

So you would think that, in the wake of that soul-crushing defeat thanks to Peterman’s ineptitude, surely that would be the last time we’d see Peterman, right? But McDermott announced that he wasn’t certain who would start in week 7 against Indianapolis, saying that he “had to review the film”. Maybe he’s just protecting Peterman and not throwing him directly under the bus, but the fact that Peterman is even on the roster after that is amazing.

The move to newcomer Derek Anderson for the Colts game isn’t great — he’s thrown eight passes since the beginning of last season — but as long as it’s not Peterman, it pacifies the Bills faithful. But the fact that McDermott even came out and defended the embattled quarterback felt telling enough.

Going forward, McDermott will have the scrutiny ratcheted up with every decision. That comes with the territory when you handle the Peterman situation as it has been handled. Hopefully, going forward, he can get something north of atrocious until Allen comes back and won’t waste outstanding efforts from his defense.

But the heat might already be on Sean McDermott.

The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Situation Continues to Devolve

There’s really no point in recapping the Bills’ 20-13 loss on Sunday to the Houston Texans. It was unbelievably frustrating and I don’t need to waste 500+ words to tell you what we all know: the defense is really good and the offense is really bad.

Instead, there’s much more to cover with the developing (or devolving, however you choose to look at it) quarterback situation that’s going on in Western New York. Let’s rewind a bit, shall we? Entering this season, the situation looked to have direction to it. The Bills had acquired AJ McCarron to be the starting quarterback. Nathan Peterman, and all the ugliness of his four-interception debut against the Chargers last season, would be the backup. And 2018 seventh overall pick Josh Allen would ride the pine and learn until such a time when he would be ready to step into the role of starter.

Credit: Reddit.com

But none of that went according to plan. McCarron was bad in the preseason, got hurt and then was traded before the regular season ever started. The Bills went with Peterman for the opener in Baltimore against the Ravens. He would complete 27.7% of his passes and throw two more interceptions before being yanked for the definitely-not-ready Allen. The job has been Allen’s ever since. Allen has looked like a rookie: he shows incredible potential, fitting the ball into tight windows while avoiding the constant rush he faces, even hurdling defenders while showing a surprising ability to scramble. But he’s had his missed reads, overthrows and interceptions, too.

Things got muddied even further on Sunday against the Texans. Allen got hit on his throwing elbow Sunday, forcing him to leave the game. Peterman stepped in and looked like he might be ready to prove all the haters and losers wrong, throwing a pretty touchdown pass to Zay Jones to give the Bills the lead. But following a game-tying field goal by the Texans late, Peterman managed to Peterman himself so hard, throwing a hideous pick-six that cost the Bills a hard-fought victory. To make matters even worse, he managed to throw a second interception to close out the crushing defeat.

credit: ESPN.com

Word is that Allen’s injury is now worse than first expected. He’s suffered an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament, better known as the ligament that baseball pitchers usually need repaired via Tommy John surgery.  Undergoing treatment on the sideline, Allen looked to be in a huge amount of pain and his return is hugely in question, though it seems very likely that he will not be in the lineup against the Colts on Sunday.

With the recent addition of veteran Derek Anderson to the mix, coupled with Peterman’s wretched performance, it seems pretty cut and dry that head coach Sean McDermott would go with literally anyone but Peterman, right? HOLY GOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW WRONG THAT LAST STATEMENT IS. McDermott actually made the statement that he’d have to review the tape before deciding who would start week 7 against Indianapolis.

McDermott has to look at the tape to decide if he should start a guy known for crippling interceptions. McDermott has to look at the tape to decide if he should start a guy with 10 interceptions in 82 career attempts (that’s an absolutely staggering 11.4 percent interception rate for you numbers guys). Understandably, rumors have started to make the rounds that McDermott might lose the locker room and that his job could be in danger if he sticks with Peterman. Gee, I wonder why that narrative would exist?

I get things from McDermott’s perspective. He doesn’t want a losing record on his resume after leading the team to its first playoff appearance in two decades. It’s especially hard to call this season a wash in the face of the performance the defense has been putting out of late. But this offense is an abomination. Allen never stood a chance of having an outstanding season because there is no talent at wide receiver, LeSean McCoy’s production has fallen off a cliff into the Mariana Trench, and the offensive line couldn’t stop a pass rush consisting of angry grandmothers. They are not going to make the playoffs. Hell, they probably won’t win five games. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

What’s even more infuriating is what Peterman had to say after picking his team up like friggin’ Bane and snapping their collective spirit over his knee. Here’s what he had to say after the loss Sunday:

At the end of the day I know where my true identity lies: in Christ. …Being a child of God, basically. Not finding my identity in football. Just trying to find it in who I really am. I love this game and put everything I have into this game, but can’t let it define me”

Let me start by saying that it’s great for him that he has such conviction in his faith. What I take umbrage with is the fact that he just kind of blows this off with something that is one thousand percent not related to the fact that he is a garbage football player. Just come out and say something to the effect of “it sucks, I hate letting my team down, I need to be better” yada, yada, yada. Don’t drop a quote like that because it literally does not matter.

So that’s what we’re facing heading into the match up with the Colts on Sunday. We have arguably the worst quarterback in the history of the Bills (if not the league) or a 35-year-old who has only thrown eight regular-season passes since the beginning of last year. And somehow, one of these is an absolute slam dunk compared to the other. Glad to see the life of a Bills fan goes right back into the toilet after only a year reprieve.

Whoever starts week 7 (and god help us all if it’s Peterman), I just want to preemptively say that I feel bad for the defense. They’ve come to play the last four weeks and have been met with interceptions and ineptitude for support more often than not.

But hey, at least the Sabres are fun to watch sometimes, right?

Buffalo Bills Blitz: Week 6

If you’ve been a Bills fan for even a fraction of the amount of time I’ve been (going on 30 years now), then you’re used to disappointment. So when anything good happens, it’s house money because you figured it wouldn’t happen. That’s pretty much the sentiment about the week 5 win over the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but at 3-1 they were proving to be a tough team. The Bills didn’t exactly repeat their week 3 performance against the Titans, but the defense was solid yet again and they managed to come out on the better end of a field goal battle. At 2-3, the Bills are exceeding expectations, especially after the complete and utter train wrecks that their three losses have been.

So heading into a week 6 visit to Houston to face the Texans, I wouldn’t say there is optimism, exactly, but the world isn’t on fire anymore. At least not fully engulfed, anyway. I do feel like I need to reiterate something (as I have several times this season): STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT JOSH ALLEN. He is a rookie. This offense is absolutely pathetic, especially now that LeSean McCoy seems to be a shell of himself from a production standpoint. They have no actual receivers. The line might get him literally killed before the season is over. He’s doing fine all things considered and HE’S A ROOKIE. Just stop.

The Texans, meanwhile, are showing signs of life. After dropping their first three games, they’ve managed back-to-back overtime wins and the offense looks like it’s starting to show positive growth on all that potential we thought they had at the beginning of the season. They aren’t the contenders everyone expected, but they aren’t dead like we all thought after week 3, either.

What can Allen do against this defense?

Here’s the thing: the Texans defense isn’t a world-beater like many of us thought they’d be. They have a ton of talent, sure, but they’re surrendering more points per game (24.8) than the Bills defense (23.6) that got shredded by the Ravens and Chargers to the tune of 88 points. But with Jadaveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the defensive line, they always have the ability to get to opposing quarterbacks and we all know the state of this offensive line.

Allen will have to have his head on a swivel on Sunday, because there will be pressure. But how much of it can he avoid and if he extends those plays, can he find open receivers? He’s shown a penchant for zipping passes into tight windows, but he’s also a rookie working on his accuracy. There will be missed opportunities. But Allen has shown the ability to find the deep ball and to make plays with his feet, not to mention he isn’t exactly lacking confidence.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, center, takes the field with teammates to workout prior to an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

If Allen can stretch the field vertically, he might have a chance to develop a groove underneath. But he has to stay upright.

Which Deshaun Watson will show up?

Watson and the Texans as a whole struggled to start the season, but since the calendar changed to October, Watson and the offense have come alive. Watson sits 7th in the NFL in yards with 1,621 and is in the top 15 in passer rating at 94.6. He presents match up difficulties because of his ability to extend plays and create plays with his feet. He also has a pair of quality receivers, with DeAndre Hopkins being a superstar and Will Fuller V appearing to be a breakout performer.

On the ground, Lamar Miller has been okay this season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but it’s obvious the strength of the Texans offense is their passing attack. The Bills defense has come alive in recent weeks and have shown the ability to not only get to the quarterback, but to create turnovers. If they can get into Watson’s face and fluster him, making him get rid of the ball quicker than he’d like, they have a chance to stifle a streaky offense.

Can the Bills establish a run game?

Through five weeks, the answer is a resounding “no”. McCoy leads the team with 170 yards on a 3.8 yard average. Considering the kind of production we’re used to

seeing out of him in years past, this is a shocking stat. The running game simply hasn’t been there, aside from brief flashes where Josh Allen breaks out a scramble and ends up hurdling fools. This is a huge reason the passing game has been a struggle and why Allen seems so streaky (aside from the aforementioned reason that he’s a rookie).

The Texans are a top-10 outfit against the run this season, allowing 95 yards per game on the ground. This means trouble for the Bills. They’ve not been able to get off the ground against anyone this year, though they’ve played a pair of top-10 outfits in Baltimore (5th) and the Chargers (10th) as well as the Vikings (13th) and Packers (15th). Simply put: the ground game has been bad, but part of that can be attributed to facing stellar run defenses.

That won’t change this week against the Texans and that will mean a lot of trouble if the Bills can’t get some production out of their backs.

So what’s the damage?

I’m almost tempted to predict a loss in every game for two reasons: 1.) the Bills are not good and 2.) they have defied me twice already with wins against the Vikings and Titans. I don’t think the reverse jinx will work much more often because this team is as one-dimensional as it gets and that will cost them a lot of games.

On the other side of the coin, no one is sure if the Texans are actually good. They have talent. They have a strong defense. But they’ve struggled to put it together through 5 weeks, though their last couple of outings have looked far better than the beginning of the season.

Prediction: Texans 20, Bills 9

Buffalo Bills Come Out On Top In Field Goal Fest

It wasn’t pretty. But let’s be fair: other than Josh Allen’s leap heard ’round the world, nothing about the 2018 season has been pretty for the Buffalo Bills. But a win is a win and we will all definitely take it over the alternative.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, center, takes the field with teammates to workout prior to an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Neither team did much offensively. Allen threw for just 82 yards and an interception, though he did somewhat make up for it with a highlight-reel touchdown run. Somehow, LeSean McCoy putting up 85 yards on an average of 3.5 yards per carry was seen as a positive. But when that total matches what you’ve done all year, I suppose that is something of a positive. But when your leading receiver has just 23 yards on the day (also McCoy), it’s hard to say much else good about the offensive performance of the day.

credit: pro football focus

Thankfully, the Bills defense came to play and the Titans didn’t look much better. Turnovers made the day for the Bills, coming away with an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries to give the Bills enough to hold on for the 13-12 win. Marcus Mariota has been decidedly average for the Titans this season and continued to look the same on Sunday, completing slightly better than 50% of his passes for 129 yards and an interception.

The Bills are a terribly transparent and one-dimensional team: when the defense shows up, they’ll be at least within shouting distance and can occasionally walk away with a win as they’ve done against Tennessee and Minnesota. This defense is good and will likely only get better in the offseason in a defense-heavy draft that could see them make a huge impact addition on the defensive line. A look ahead at their schedule shows that only two meetings with the Patriots as obvious games where the defense will likely get burned. The rest they should be able to keep the team in the game for a while.

As for the offense, it’s the same old story: patience. Allen was only sacked once and continues to show the ability to avoid pressure and extend the play. Still, the lack of talent at wide receiver is glaring. Zay Jones might be the best receiver on the team right now and, with no disrespect to him, that should speak volumes about the current state of the receiving corps. Allen continues to have his ups and downs, as a rookie quarterback in an offense this bad will, but he continues to show promise and that’s encouraging.

The early preview is somewhat favorable for the Bills for week 6. They certainly won’t be favorites, but facing a Texans team that has struggled mightily this season is just what is needed to continue building on the momentum of Sunday’s win. If they can even gain the moral victory with a close game, it will be a good building block before things get burnt to cinders with back-to-back games against the Patriots and Bears.

It was ugly as hell, but take the little bit of good that comes, Bills fans.

Buffalo Bills Too Early NFL Draft Look Ahead

I know, I know. We’re only through week 4, how can anyone possibly be looking towards the draft? Try being a Buffalo Bills fan for one week and you’ll understand pretty well.

After back-to-back beat downs at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers , the Bills showed life with an impressive win in Minnesota in week 3 before regressing into nothingness against the Packers. Josh Allen has shown flashes of brilliance, but it’s way too early to know if the Bills have finally found their guy at quarterback. The defense showed signs of life, too. Past that, there isn’t much. So let’s look ahead to April where the Bills will almost certainly have a pick in the top three of the NFL Draft.

What do the Bills need going in? Try just about everything. They have immediate glaring issues on the offensive line, at wide receiver, tight end and running back. They have coming issues on the defensive line with Kyle Williams near retirement and Star Lotulelei isn’t much more than a stopgap. So what are the options for the Bills?

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Right now, Oliver is the consensus top pick. He’s been highly productive for the Cougars and would be able to step right in on the defensive line and provide an impact. In a draft top-heavy on interior defensive linemen, Oliver is probably the safest bet should the Bills land the top pick (and at the rate their going, they’ll likely not have any real challengers for it).

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

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With great size at 6-5, 316, Brown has the biggest potential among the defensive linemen. He can be a real disruption in the middle of the line, though he still lacks in the consistency department. Like Oliver, he has the potential to step in and provide an instant impact.

I could continue on listing the top prospects and list probably 4-6 more defensive linemen. It’s a stacked class as far as that position goes. But what if the Bills don’t land the first pick or have their hearts set on a particular player at the top of everyone’s board? A trade down could become possible with the Bills looking elsewhere. Unfortunately, most mock drafts project defensive linemen as eight of the top ten picks. So unless the Bills stun everyone and take Oregon quarterback Justin Hebert (and that would be an epic stunner given Josh Allen’s presence), the Bills would have to drop to around 10th overall to get value on a non-lineman.

So here are the other potential players they could possible trade up for later in the first round as it seems unlikely they’ll drop from first or second all the way to tenth:

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

It’s no secret that the Bills have a dearth of talent at receiver, so moving up to grab the smaller, faster Brown would make sense. It would give Allen someone with the speed to run under the tremendous deep balls he can throw. Size will always be a question for receivers under six feet, but Brown has big-time potential when he gets near the football.

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Much like the receiving corps, the offensive line is in shambles outside of Dion Dawkins (and possibly Vladimir Ducasse, though it’s still early). Moving up to grab Williams would give the Bills a pair of quality bookends to keep Allen upright going forward.

Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky

Because screw it, give us all your Josh Allens.

Buffalo Bills Blitz: Week 5 Preview

Aside from the massive anomaly that was the week 3 win in Minnesota against the Vikings, the Buffalo Bills have looked nothing short of pathetic. The week 1 thumping at the hands of the Ravens, being so bad in week 2 against the Chargers that Vontae Davis quit at halftime, and the complete no-show by the offense in week 4 have made every Bills fan wish it were April already.

Honestly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise (and it doesn’t). The team was hot garbage on paper and, stunner, they’re playing like hot garbage so far. Josh Allen has shown flashes of being the franchise quarterback we all hoped the Bills had finally found back in this year’s draft and the defense has shown that they can be a viable defense for extended stretches. But the offensive line is a tire fire. The wide receivers might not actually exist. And LeSean McCoy has disappeared almost entirely.

Yours truly conservatively predicted that this team could “surprise” and finish 6-10. Uh, about that. Realistically, the Bills can win 2 more games AT BEST. It’s just a hope that they can even be competitive in the rest of their games and hope that the Patriots don’t completely embarrass them.

Alright, we’ve talked pretty positively so let’s ride that momentum into our week 5 conversation as the Bills take on the Tennessee Titans.

What can the Bills do against this defense?

credit: pro football focus

No one is talking about it, but the Titans quietly have one of the better defenses in the league right now. They are just outside the top 10 in yards per game allowed, but they are 6th in points against per game at 18.2 and are a huge reason the Titans are 3-1, with wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and co-AFC-South leaders the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The defense is opportunistic, having forced 5 fumbles and intercepting 3 passes through 4 games so far. They don’t jump out at you as a dominant unit, but they’ve quietly been very solid to date. Against this Bills offense, they could look flat out dominant. The biggest key will be the pass protection. If they can keep Allen upright, they might do some damage, but without much of a running game, that is likely asking a lot of this line and a rookie quarterback.

Can the defense steal a game?

This looks like one of those match ups that the Bills defense can drastically sway in their favor. The Titans statistically aren’t much better than the Bills offensively, currently ranking 26th in both yards per game and points. Marcus Mariota has had a middling performance so far this year when he’s been healthy, throwing for just 547 yards, a pair of touchdowns and 3 interceptions. They do, however, have a balanced rushing attack with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis sharing the load while Mariota chips in with his legs as well. Receiver Corey Davis has seemingly emerged as the biggest weapon on the offense, amassing 22 receptions for 312 yards and a touchdown so far, with 5 catches of over 20 yards. He is clearly their big play threat.

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If the Bills can shut down the run game and make the Titans rely on Mariota’s arm, there’s a chance for real success. The pass rush has seemingly come alive for the Bills in the last two games and as a unit have shown the ability to swing games (the Vikings) or keep the Bills in it when they have no business doing so (Packers). The pass rush will be the wild card here, as getting to the quarterback seems to be the catalyst for success for the defense.

Will the Bills be competitive?

Other than the Vikings game that continues to defy all logic, the Bills haven’t even been competitive this season, being outscored 100-23 in their other 3 outings (and 97-3 if you don’t count the second half of the Chargers game, which is staggering to write even as someone who has watched this dumpster fire). To say that they haven’t been good would be a massive understatement.

The Titans haven’t blown the doors off at any point this year, though they have had tougher opponents like the Eagles and Jaguars. But there is absolutely no reason to have faith in the Bills after what we’ve seen so far. They are clearly a team that will net a top-3 pick and they’ve shown that even if they take a step forward, they’ll take a couple backwards.

So what’s the damage?

This really feels like an odd match up on paper. The Titans aren’t great at anything, their offense clearly isn’t good, and yet they’re 3-1 with wins over two very good teams. The Bills are a mess, but they have a defense that can swing things heavily in their favor as we saw in week 3 against Minnesota. This looks like a game the Bills can be at least competitive in, but any Bills fan should be reticent to say that this team will have a chance.

This won’t be the typical blow out we are used to seeing, but it just can’t add up to a Bills win because the Bills are unfathomably bad.

Prediction: Titans 17, Bills 13

The Buffalo Bills Were Who We Thought They Were

Well that didn’t take long to plummet back to Earth, now did it?

To be fair, if you have a semblance of sense about you, there’s no way in hell it could have been expected that the Bills would repeat their week 3 performance when they visited the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. And, to kind of gloss things over, they absolutely did not come close to that.

Credit: Democrat and Chronicle

A quick recap because honestly, there wasn’t a ton that happened: the defense played fairly well, the offense didn’t bother to show up and it was never really close. This will become a recurring theme throughout the season and tabling your expectations now is the only way to remain sane.

Now, to get a little deeper with it. First, the good. The defense had a pretty good performance on the whole. Giving up 22 points to an Aaron Rodgers-led offense is nothing to bat an eye at and with an NFL offense it’s enough to come within range of a win on a good day. With this offense, it isn’t. It’s just that simple. The pass rush has woken up the last few weeks, with a dominating performance in week 3 and a solid effort on Sunday. Sacking Rodgers is a very difficult thing to do because he’s smart and shifty and can avoid pressure well, not to mention he gets the ball out quickly. So a pair of sacks and 4 quarterback pressures is a good effort. Rodgers finished 22-of-40 for 298 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That’s not bad but it isn’t Rodgers numbers. The defense should feel good about their performance,

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having only given up a pair of touchdowns on the day in addition to 3 field goals.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: any time the Bills come close to winning a game, it will be undoubtedly because of this defense. There’s talent there and they’ve started to wake up after a pair of ass-kickings in the first two weeks. If they struggle, it’ll be game over. There are no arguments here.

As for the offense, there’s not much you can say other than “Josh Allen is a rookie and will do rookie things”. I should add “and this team is very bad”, but that kind of goes without saying right now. While I don’t entirely blame him for the lack of production, LeSean McCoy has fallen off a cliff. He had just 8 touches on the day and does not seem the same anymore. I don’t know if it’s injuries or age, but the one consistent part of the offense has evaporated.

Allen looked like a rookie. He finished 16-of-31 for 151 yards and a pair of interceptions. He made some very questionable decisions, but honestly, look at the defensive stats on the day. The Packers sacked him 7 times, hit him 11 more times. What quarterback is going to have a successful day facing that? The offensive line is a major detriment and any positives to come out of Allen’s performances going forward will be with that hanging around his neck. This offense cannot succeed with offensive line play like that.

Some will say this next line is incredible pessimistic, but I challenge anyone who’s watched the first 4 games to say otherwise with a straight face: the season is over. To be fair, the hopes weren’t real high, but this team will be lucky to squeeze out 5 wins at this point. The defense is not all-world and that’s the only way they’ll come close to winning games so long as the offensive line can’t protect Allen or open up holes for the running backs.

Take any signs of progress out of Allen as a huge plus and hope that the team can fix the line in the offseason. And there’s still a dozen games left, folks. Peace be with you.

Buffalo Bills Blitz: Week 4

Last week, the Buffalo Bills shocked the football world by not only walking into Wisconsin Minnesota and beating the Vikings, they walked into Minnesota and dominated the Vikings. It flabberghasted Bills fans as much as it did Vikings fans, only with way less sadness and frustration involved.

Josh Allen looked like a demigod, accounting for three touchdowns (two rushing) and straight up hurdling fools in the process. And aside from a late garbage drive, the Bills defense completely shut down Kirk Cousins and a pretty good Vikings pass attack by constantly getting in Cousins’ face and even forcing a few turnovers. It was a complete 180-degree turn from the first two weeks, which were so embarrassing that I’m certain I wasn’t the only Bills fan wondering if we could forfeit the rest of the season.

But that’s what this team is: capable of playing fantastic defense, taking the ball away, and setting up a very mediocre-both-on-paper-and-off, offense in the best position to do damage as possible. I have no reasonable explanation as to why the defense was so awful the first two games (part of it was the ineptitude of the offense), but it almost felt like the defense of last year was dead and long gone. Allen is going to be what he’s going to be — he’s a rookie with a lot of potential, but he’s still a rookie in an offense that has had gargantuan struggles — and the defense is going to need to make up ground.

So what are some things to look out for this week? What match-ups are important? Here we go.

Will Aaron Rodgers go full Aaron Rodgers?

Aaron Rodgers has been good so far — he’s 14th in the NFL in passing yards with 832, he’s tied for 12th in touchdowns with 6 (with no interceptions) and he’s 8th in rating at 104.5 — but he hasn’t been Aaron Rodgers. He’s had struggles with nagging injuries already this season. He and the offense have been wildly inconsistent, a virtual no-show at times and then picking apart defenses others. But he is still the guy that can shred you at a moment’s notice.

credit: WKPW

The defense, no matter how well they play, will likely fall victim to at least a handful of plays where Rodgers just does something ridiculous. He’s the rare type of player where, when he’s on, he can swing a game in the Packers’ favor in an instant almost regardless of how the rest of the team is performing. It’s almost impossible to stop him, but if the Bills can limit him and force him into making mistakes, that will be the best they can manage.

Can the defense have a repeat performance?

As mentioned above, the Bills were lights out in Minnesota last Sunday. They applied constant pressure on Cousins, forcing a few fumbles and generally making it impossible for Cousins to find any level of comfort when dropping back to throw. This was the defense Bills fans had expected this season; not the complete train wreck that we saw in the first two games. The million dollar question remains: can they build on that or will they regress?

The keys will be the exact same: get in Rodgers’ face. Make him scramble to keep plays alive. Make him extra aware of the rush each time he drops back to throw. The rushing attack in Green Bay has never been the best and it’s already seen struggles so far in 2018. So if the Bills can keep the Packers from establishing the running game, they’ll be in a position to tee off on Rodgers and get in his face. Really, that is the only way to survive Rodgers at this point.

Can either running game get on track?

As middling as the Packers run game has been — they currently sit 24th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 89.0 and Jamaal Williams leads the way with just 135 yards — the Bills running game has seen its own struggles. Chris Ivory came alive a bit in week 3 and the Bills are 19th in the NFL at 98.0 yards rushing per game, but Josh Allen leads the team with 97 yards through three weeks. That…that isn’t good.

Both teams will likely try to establish the ground game for slightly different reasons. The Packers need to not be so one-dimensional to take a little of the pressure off of Rodgers, making defenses account for the run so that they can’t pin back their ears and rush the passer. The Bills need to get the run game on track to mitigate Allen’s mistakes and to allow him a chance to work at his own pace against a defense that isn’t coming for him every play.

credit: Forbes.com

The run game is much more important for the Bills. The Packers always have Rodgers and the dynamic passing game to fall back on; the Bills don’t. They need the run game to keep the defense off the field and to give Allen the ability to work in some play-action to help him in his development. Getting the run game in order is a must for the Bills.

Can the receivers get their act together?

Everyone knew coming into the season that the Bills’ receiving corps were not good. This isn’t a secret by any means. But no one really understood just how bad they were because they have easily been the worst set of receivers in the league. Kelvin Benjamin, who was supposed to be the clear top receiving of the group, can’t seem to catch a cold at this point. Zay Jones somehow leads the team in yards with 106 and is tied with Benjamin for the team-lead in receptions with 6.

This is not good. Not even close to good. Jones has potential, but Benjamin has been a massive disappointment and there just isn’t anything viable past he and Jones. This group absolutely has to step up their game, not only for the success of the team, but for the development of Josh Allen. He’s getting them the ball on a consistent basis, they just need to do a much better job of hauling it in.

This will never be a great receiving unit, but they cannot be as bad as they’ve been through the first 3 weeks of the season.

So what’s the damage?

As a Bills fan, I’ve learned to never trust good performances. Never ever, ever, not ever. I’m glad they won in Minnesota, but I’m also not foolish and Kirk Cousins is no Aaron Rodgers. The defense looked better in week 3 and will likely not look as bad as they did in the first 2 games, but they can’t be on the verge of a shutout every week. Rodgers will do his damage because that’s just how good he is.

Allen will have his growing pains and likely won’t have many outings like he did in Minnesota. That’s okay. He’s young and he’s developing, but the offense will likely struggle under him more often than not while the Packers’ offense is handled by the absolute best.

Prediction: Packers 31, Bills 16

Bills Deliver Stunner in Minnesota

Let me speak for everyone when I say: where the hell did that come from?

Back-to-back beat downs at the hands of the Ravens and the Chargers, which saw the Bills outscored 78-23 (and 75-9 before the second half of the Chargers game), had given everyone pause as to whether or not the Bills might win a single game this season. The foreboding schedule — trips to Minnesota and Green Bay on the immediate horizon — led most everyone to the conclusion that things were going to get far uglier sooner rather than later.

Credit: SB Nation

But that trip to Minnesota (not Wisconsin, as the Bills twitter would have you believe) ended not with another painful defeat, but instead a stunning series of events that seem too improbable to have actually happened, even two days later.

The Bills not only came to play against the Vikings, who were favored by a whopping 16.5 points, but they rode a completely dominating first half all the way to a win. They were up 17 points by the end of the first quarter. The defense completely stifled Kirk Cousins and shut down the Vikings run game to the tune of 14 yards rushing before they abandoned it in the second half. Josh Allen was out here hurdling fools on the way to a 15-of-22, 196 yard, one touchdown, two rushing touchdowns kind of day.

It still feels pretty difficult to say exactly what happened. Maybe the Vikings got caught looking ahead. Maybe the defense got their wake up call in the second half of the Chargers game and used it to finally come to life against the Vikings. Maybe Allen really is the second coming (all hail) and we are seeing his ascent towards becoming the next great NFL quarterback.

Whatever it was, a few things are clear from Sunday’s win:

Credit: relatednews.net

1.) The defense can be very, very good. It’s hard to tell because of the first two games, but there is still a lot of talent on this defense and they can be absolutely disruptive when things are going well. They kept constant pressure on Cousins Sunday afternoon, forcing a pair of fumbles and an interception while ringing up a quartet of sacks. Those short fields put Allen in a position to succeed in short order. The rumors were that head coach Sean McDermott had taken over the play-calling, but coordinator Leslie Frazier got the game ball on Sunday. Perhaps McDermott taking over play-calling duties in the second half of the Chargers game was meant more as a wake-up call than anything else?

2.) The Bills appear to have their quarterback. No, I’m not saying that based entirely on Sunday, though Allen did look absolutely majestic and his completion percentage would have been higher if Kelvin Benjamin actually knew how to catch. This statement is based on the second half against Baltimore and the game against the Chargers as well. Even when the team was completely outclassed, Allen looked poised and confident, never allowing constant pressure to visually rattle him. He slides around oncoming rushers and zips balls into windows that a Buffalo quarterback hasn’t been able to hit since the days of Jim Kelly. There will surely be more downs than ups this season, but Allen has a presence about him that a Bills quarterback hasn’t had in a long, long time.

3.) This team will live and die with the defense. Aside from the opening drive (which was aided by a very stupid penalty that extended the drive), the Bills offense succeeded with a short field before falling off in the second half. Allen, good as he’s looked at times so far, does not have the weapons other rookie quarterbacks have. LeSean McCoy missed the Vikings game and has been a non-factor so far this season. Benjamin, who on paper was the Bills best receiver, has been completely awful and there are no proven options after him. And the line has been spotty at best, non-existent at worst. The defense was dominant on Sunday and that is the biggest reason they stunned the Vikings.

Bills fans everywhere will take that performance and cherish it for the next few weeks. This team is still bad both on paper and in practice. Even if the defense shows the ability to consistently perform, the offense will have its struggles along the way as Allen learns and grows in the offense. This will be a learning experience, though hopefully not as painful as the first two weeks were.

So let’s enjoy it for now, Bills fans. After all, Aaron Rodgers looms ahead this Sunday.

The Roar: Sunday Night Football in Motown

Game Information:

The New England Patriots (1-1) visit the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions (0-2) on Sunday Night Football @ Ford Field.

You can catch the action on NBC and/or on WJR-AM 760 in Detroit.

Kickoff is set for 8:20 PM ET.

Briefing:

Image result for matt patricia detroit lionsLions’ Head Coach Matt Patricia knows Tom Brady and Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick from time spent in New England, but they also know him.

Regardless, nobody on either sideline is happy coming into this game as both teams lost last Sunday.

New England dropped a 31-20 decision to the Jaguars in Jacksonville while the Lions dropped to the 49ers in San Francisco, 30-27.

Brady and his offense put up 302 total yards, 82 of them on the ground while the other 220 went through the air.

23-year-old rookie Sony Michel led the running attack for the Patriots with 10 carries for 34 yards. James White was the leading receiver with seven grabs for 73 yards.

Defensively, the Patriots allowed 480 total yards. 104 of those were rushing yards and 376 passing yards.

27 first downs were yielded, 10 came on third down.

Matthew Stafford and company made a late push on the West Coast, but to no avail.

No. 9’s offense collected 427 total yards, 98 on the ground and 329 through the air.

The presences of Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay loomed large as they collectively snatched 13 passes for 198 yards. 21-year-old rookie Kerryon Johnson rumbled for 43 yards on eight carries. LeGarrette Blount, prior to his ejection, ran for 38 yards on eight attempts.

Detroit’s defense allowed 346 total yards, an astounding 190 went on the ground as 156 of them were passing yards.

Injury Report:

Image result for ziggy ansah detroit lionsOL Marcus Cannon (calf), newcomer WR Josh Gordon (hamstring), DB Keion Crossen (hamstring), DB Nate Ebner (hip) and DB Eric Rowe (groin) are questionable for New England.

S Patrick Chung and DE Trey Flowers are doubtful with concussions.

TE Jacob Hollister is out with a chest injury.

DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), CB Darius Slay (concussion), LB Eli Harold (hip), G T.J. Lang (back), WR Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle) and TE Michael Roberts (knee) are all listed as questionable for the matchup.

Ansah and Lang were out last week, but lightly practiced this week.

Prediction:

An offensive shootout ends in favor of New England, 42-35.

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