This is the week we've all been waiting for. The chants of, "We Want Brady!" at the stadium on Sunday were only a confirmation of what we already knew.
Week 2 was always going to be the focus, as soon as the grand NFL Schedule Wizards dialed up an early Patriots-Bills showdown in Western New York. That was especially the case with Rex Ryan coming on board, the man who might get his kicks by following up a leisurely skydive with the dumping of gasoline on a raging inferno.
He essentially did the latter this week, raising the stakes by talking about the "hated Patriots." Which they are, of course. But nothing gets the national media worked up like a coach who doesn't reiterate the same tired platitudes about an opponent. "Oh, they're a good team," "It's going to be tough," and "We have a lot of respect," are the kinds of answers that most players and coaches are instructed to mindlessly utter to the press. The prevailing wisdom maintains that teams want to prevent the dreaded "bulletin board quotes."
Perhaps topping the heap with this kind of dreck is Bill Belichick, whose press conferences take on the tenor of eulogies at times. But because New England is "the model of success" (as some gush) for the last decade and a half, this becomes revered among reporters who would usually roast such an uninspired offering.
Rex isn't that way. His time with the New York Jets was rocky because of his mouth. But it was the results that ramped up the criticism of his style, slowly snowballing into his eventual firing in 2014.
Yet what kind of results can one expect when you share a division with a quarterback in the conversation for "greatest of all time?" That's aside from the consistent allegations of impropriety from New England. The deck has been stacked against their 3 AFC East rivals for an atypical period of time given the parity in the NFL. And though Ryan's Jets did enjoy a brief dalliance with knocking the Patriots off their perch, his brazenness was easy to mock.
The other end of the spectrum, namely the muttered timidness of Buffalo and Miami, did nothing to change the tide either. Miami found a season's worth of success under Tony Sparano (when Tom Brady was knocked out for the season, of course), but aside from that both teams have been whipped plenty by the Patriots.
Ryan has come to Buffalo with his swagger, building what he has called a "bully." He's made it clear that the Patriots are not only the best, but the team he wants to beat. His players have also ramped up some of the talk.
That's well and good, as long as they win. If you're going to play the respectful PR game, there are fewer arrows pointed at you after a loss. When you stick your neck out, sometimes you see the enemy early and prevail, other times your head gets cut off. As Jimmy Johnson once said, "If you talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk."
I think that's what a lot of Bills fans worry about. It's a lot of fun to jabber and poke fun at the "cheating Patriots," but it isn't nearly as enjoyable when your team goes out and lays an egg. Then you hear it back. We're all too used to Buffalo being a doormat unable to field a competitive team.
In 2015, the Bills are a team that should compete well against the Patriots. Aside from the QB position, the Bills ought to be as good (if not better) than the Patriots. It comes down to performance. If they conquer their most daunting enemy on Sunday, it might begin to turn the tide of this rivalry, and assert Buffalo as a team to be reckoned with this season. If they fail, it will hurt all the worse.