Do Miami's Woes Make the Bills Better?

Given some of the feedback and fan and media comments on the catastrophes that have befallen the Dolphins of late, this is a good opportunity to discuss what the goals of the Bills should be this season and every season. Some fans and media seem to be thinking that Miami's woes improve the Bills. "Improvement" needs to thusly be defined.

Following the departure of Ricky Williams for "greener grasses", I stated that the Dolphins' offense may actually improve, albeit over time and if properly coached and altered from an offensive scheming vantage point. I also stated that the direct link to that occurring was the development of newly acquired wide receiver David Boston. Well, given the late season-ending injury to Boston, this is now nearly completely unlikely. This season's Dolphins will likely be worse off than last season's with Williams in which they were not competitive, offensively speaking, vs. playoff caliber competition.

Several national level columnists are already penciling in the Bills for second place in the AFC East as a result of these developments. But does that in and of itself mean much? As of now, Miami can be considered to be a .500 or perhaps even sub-.500 team. The Jets are no different other than that they now threaten to take two from Miami just as the Bills now do. What if the Bills finish 2nd in the division at 8-8 and again only beat teams that finish 9-7 or worse with no proven propensity to beat playoff caliber opponents?

Will the Bills' record improve as a result of the recent occurrences to the Dolphins? Likely they will add one, possibly two games to the W column for the Bills this season. But does that make the Bills a better team? Or does it simply ease up the schedule a bit?

As I have stated for quite some time now, the true measure of how good a team is, any team, the Bills in this case, is how well they play the toughest opponents on their schedule not the weakest ones. Teams are supposed to beat other teams that end up finishing with worse records than they do.

Bills fans that remember "the day" back in the early ‘90s have had enough of the team simply "making the playoffs." Miami, other than the past two seasons has "made the playoffs" for a while yet they were nowhere near seriously challenging for the title in the AFC let alone the NFL.

How does this help the Bills then? Well, it helps the Bills in easing up the schedule a bit, which may assist them in their preparation for the tougher opponents. The main problem still remains, which is Buffalo's offense vs. Miami's defense, which still remains in tact. But where Miami's defense has remained about the same, as well, on an aging squad, the Bills offense will surely have improved. So the edge towards the Bills' offense overcoming the Fins' defense rests with the Bills.

Once again however, Miami is likely now only a .500, or thereabouts and perhaps worse, team with a tenacious defense and arguably what will be one of the worst offenses in the league this season. It is difficult to imagine the Dolphins not being amongst the bottom 25% of the league's offenses this season at this point with the woes that have befallen them. Ergo, Miami is not one of the teams that the Bills should be measured against in beating. These developments have dropped Miami from the list of "toughies" on the Bills' schedule.

Those toughie teams will be last season's playoff teams, among which Miami was not. They were Baltimore, New England, St. Louis, and Seattle. Cincinnati and Jacksonville may also challenge for playoff spots this season and Oakland has done an outstanding job of converting an aging, past-their-prime squad with a sketchy defensive line into a much younger and up-and-coming offensive squad with what will almost assuredly be a top-10 defensive line featuring Ted Washington, Warren Sapp, and John Parrella. Both the Cincinnati and Oakland games are on the road to boot.

It is easy to understand the excitement on the part of many fans for the demise of the Dolphins. However, I have always considered it unfortunate when teams, including the Bills, back into standings or playoff spots not as a result of what they have done, but as a result of the incompetence, for one reason or another, of another team.

Anyone possessing a competitive spirit prefers to beat his or her opponent at full strength. A boxer who beats another boxer who is just coming down from the flu should not be particularly fulfilled and proud. A loss on the other hand should be humiliating. Someone who plays chess should not revel in a victory if their equally matched opponent has a migraine headache. Does anyone feel good after beating his or her neighborhood archnemesis in a game of one-on-one basketball if that nemesis has a sprained ankle. Does someone earning $60 K per annum feel better because their neighbor who was earning $80 K just got laid off and does that increase the $60 K that that person is earning.

The Bills are now on paper a better team than Miami and therefore should beat the Dolphins. However, this development has nothing to do with an inherent improvement in the Bills all other things being equal. The onus is on them. Prior to these developments I would have had the Bills at either 1-1 or even perhaps 0-2 vs. the Dolphins this season. Now I would alter that to a contrary 2-0 or 1-1.

Obviously much needs to be played out between now and September 12th when the Bills take the field for the first time. However, Miami's current season's demise does little to improve the Bills when viewed holistically. These revelations, again, all else being the same through the end of the season, may very well result in another game or two added to the Bills' win column, but this is not where fans should be looking for improvements, in the "worsening" of their opponents.

Miami was the only team with a winning record that Buffalo beat in 2002. Yet, they were only able to beat them with Ray Lucas in for an injured Jay Fiedler and with the two starting WRs out for the first time in game one. That game was only won on the defensive touchdown contribution by Nate Clements. In game two, with Fiedler still out, the Bills beat the Dolphins for the second time in a snowstorm. The Dolphins were 2-4 under Lucas and 7-3 with Fiedler in there. They only beat 7-9 Baltimore and 8-8 San Diego under Lucas with both games at home in Miami. The Bills beat them twice under Lucas. Ergo, the team that the Bills beat was not a winning team. Under Lucas the Dolphins were clearly a .500 or worse team which stands consistent with the other teams that the Bills beat in 2002.

Record has much to do with difficulty of schedule. Simply because the schedule just got easier does not increase the Bills chances for advancing in the post season if even guaranteeing that they make the post season. Not speaking for all fans, speaking for myself, simple "making of the playoffs" are no longer a thrill. If the Bills make the playoffs by beating solid teams then that is grounds for excitement heading into next season if not for the chances of advancement in the playoffs for this season.

Simply making the playoffs however with the inherent realization that better teams in the playoffs will shamefully crush the Bills just does not cut it these days. Am I suggesting that the Bills do not have the team to achieve this? Not in this piece although that is my position on this season. What I am suggesting however is that Bills fans, given that Buffalo considers the Miami rivalry to be the main rivalry for the Bills, the recent New England rivalry notwithstanding, should not use this as a gauge for determining how good the Bills are.

Will Miami's demise help the Bills? Almost assuredly it will although a loss to the Dolphins now certainly should be on the embarrassment side of the aisle. It will not define their season however, especially if they struggle again vs. all the teams that end up in double-digit win figures and those that make the playoffs.

The goal of the Bills should not simply be to "make the playoffs." It should be an ultimate Super Bowl victory. Many fans, myself included, have had their fill of simply making the playoffs with the stigma of being chokers hung around the organization's and fans' necks like an albatross. It is time to win one and to begin shaping this team in an effort to do so.


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