The Buffalo Bills defensive line—minus injured pro bowler Kyle Williams—should have a much easier time on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars than it did last week against Cincinnati as the 1 and 5 Jags offensive line has given up 17 sacks so far this season.
The Bills might even win on Sunday as they are facing the kind of opposition that gives them a chance. Match them against a good team and there is little hope for success as we have seen this year. Against Jacksonville, a pitiful team that has given up 176 points in six games, most in the AFC, and scored only 113 points, fewer even than the Bills, Rex Ryan’s crew might be able to get a win.
Calling this game a showdown, as one betting site called it this week, is a little much. I don’t care where they are playing. Buffalo against Jacksonville is hardly showdown material. In fact, it probably won’t be much of a game as the Bills are missing several starters and are coming off another big game flop against the very good Bengals. And Jacksonville would probably have trouble against Ohio State.
The Bills are injury riddled, to be sure, but they are also undisciplined and racked with internal strife as the overhyped defensive line is blaming the coaching scheme for their inability to stop quality opponents. The simple truth is Rex Ryan sold the hometown fans some snake oil when he rode into town after his losing tenure with the New York Jets, and the Bills are a bad team on both sides of the ball.
Matched against a good team, the Bills are easy pickings, even at home. The sputtering offense, even when healthy, is not in the same league as the better teams in the NFL, and the defense is a no-show crowd that can’t stop a good quarterback. On offense, the Bills rank 29th in the league in passing yards per game (209.5), but maybe on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London, they will face a team in Jacksonville so bad that even with EJ Manuel at quarterback they might be able to top that number.
The Bills only had eight penalties against the Bengals last Sunday, a pretty good day considering Ryan’s crew has made a reputation as a team totally out of control and known more for talking trash and cheap shots than for playing good football. This Bills team is just not very good, and Doug Marrone must have known what was coming when he got out of town last year after going 9 and 7.
Even Rex Ryan, with all his bluster muted by his team’s poor play, is running out of hot air to deal with his over-sold team’s sagging fortunes. And you can’t blame it all on injuries as that’s part of the game. Look at Pittsburgh, which won last week with its third-string quarterback. I’m not even sure who that is on the Buffalo Bills who have been dismantled by the Patriots, Giants, and Bengals in front of their home town fans.
No matter how bad the Bills have looked against good teams, they should be able to beat Jacksonville on Sunday (9:30 a.m. start) and will certainly look good during the bye week. .Next comes Miami, possibly rejuvenated under a new coach, but still an opponent not out of reach even for the Bills. That means that Buffalo might possibly be 5 and 3 after the Dolphins game and still alive for a playoff wildcard. Can you believe that? But without a top quarterback—and even a healthy Tyrod Taylor doesn’t come close—it is hard to believe that the team we have seen so far this year is a playoff team. But hope springs eternal in Buffalo, even as the Buffalo Sabres sink to their familiar bottom rung in the NHL standings despite all the preseason hype.
After all these years, and all these years of losing sports teams, one is left to wonder if there’s something in the water around here that keeps our sports teams from going anywhere. The fans are terrific and brave cold weather, brutal car traffic, and long odds to support their teams. And maybe just having a local professional team is victory enough for many fans who would probably not know how to celebrate a Super Bowl or a Stanley Cup since both seem so remote.
I was at the Nifty Fifty sports bar in Niagara Falls last week for the Bills-Bengals game and saw the spirit of the crowd slowly dissipate as Andy Dalton and the Bengals carved up the Bills in what turned out to be a pretty easy win. I’ve seen it many times before and I’m sure I’ll see it again. But it would be nice to see the reverse and watch the Bills or the Sabres give local fans that big win they long for.
For now, like many local fans, I’m glad we have teams in the NFL and NHL even if they are not contenders. They give us something to talk about besides the weather and are a way to vent our frustrations during the cold winters we endure every year. But just once it would be nice to be in the run for the glory and actually bring home a championship to a community that would celebrate like no other. Unfortunately, this does not look like the year, and until the Bills can find another Tom Brady out there (and there are not many of them), it is unlikely the Lombardi Trophy is coming to Buffalo anytime soon. And that goes for the Sabres and the Stanley Cup who despite the off-season hype are nowhere to be seen in the standings.
Oh well, we can sip our coffee Sunday morning and get a little excited about the London game against a hapless Jacksonville team that the Bills might be able to beat. But of course, we know deep inside it won’t mean a thing.