What does one think about the Bills these days? They are 2-2, which is good, … right?
Perhaps, but when looked at in more detail plenty of concerns still remain. Last season the Bills finished the season at 36.8% 3rd-down conversion percentage. That was considered poor. This season to date they are at 30.0%. Last season the Bills finished the season 37.5% in 4th-down conversion percentage; this season, 20.0%. Last season the Bills finished with 120 penalties for 897 yards. This season they are on pace for 128 for 920 yards. Last season the Bills’ offense averaged just below 16 points-per-game and that was considered poor. This season to date they are averaging the same.
Last season McGahee had 5 rushing TDs, this season he is on pace for 4 in spite of being on pace for 71 more carries than last season. Last season the Bills had 30 takeaways, this year they are on pace for 20. Last season they had 13 fumble recoveries, this season they are on pace for only 4. They are tracking for the same number of INTs as last season, 17, and have 4 to date.
The team averaged 3.8 yards-per-carry rushing last season and are averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry this season to date largely on the merits of an explosive rushing game vs. the Jets, 3.4 otherwise. Expect that to take a major downturn this weekend however.
The Bills have won two games to date by holding opponents to 6 and 12 points respectively while managing to score only 16 and 17 respectively themselves. The Bills have put up more than 17 offensive points only once and then with the assistance of a Jet prevent D. While it has been nice that they have held teams to few points, the Wysman believes that this has come about as a result of circumstances as much as it has via solid play defensively. Either way, if the magic formula for these Bills is 16 or 17 points offensively while holding opponents below 13 is the "recipe" for wins, it probably isn’t wise to expect a cordon bleu creation by season’s end.
There are some positives as well, chiefly being Losman and his play which has been a pleasant surprise given his wherewithal and poise under center and on the field. Make no mistake however, as Losman continues to develop he will take some lumps. He is presently on pace for only 4 INTs on the season and history suggests that he will not finish with INT totals that low. He is still on the learning curve.
The rushing defense also seems to be playing slightly better statistically. Then again that has been vs. RB types such as Cedric Houston, Leon Washington, and vs. Chester Taylor on 10 carries and Ronnie Brown on 15 in a pair of games whereby their offensive coordinators did not appear to know what a run is. Meanwhile, the aged Dillon and Maroney in his first game tore the Bills a new one.
No matter how it is sliced however, the Bills defensive 3rd-down-percentage performance has improved dramatically from a league last 46.5% allowed down to currently 9th at 32.1%. In the passing game yards-per-attempt have risen by nearly a full yard from 6.21 to 7.12 and to a level of respectability even if only mediocrity. Yards-per-completion have also risen by 2/3 of a yard to date.
What this all means may not be apparent until later in the season. The Wysman however is still not comfortable budging on his team season prognostications. While the Bills are indeed 2-2, it has been a surreal season to date. The Bills may win another game or two than originally supposed, but that will likely be the result of an easier schedule than anticipated in hindsight, not likely due to increased performance.
Overall and by-and-large performance indicators for this team lag last season’s, yet, they are .500 after a quarter. The things that the Bills did right last season just aren’t being done this year for the most part either. Special teams play has been far from poor, but it certainly has not dominated games in that way as it has in past seasons.
Willis McGahee vs. the Bear D: Last season McGahee’s yard-per-carry averages by quarter were 3.6, 4.2, 3.8, 3.8 from 1st thru 4th. This season Willis is averaging 5.5, 4.8, 3.0, and 2.3 seemingly weakening substantially as the game goes on. He is averaging a mere 1.1 yards-per-carry on runs inside the opponents’ 10-yard line which is the same as last season rendering him all but useless there. The reasons why should be obvious by now. Yet, McGahee’s mouth seems to continue to attempt to do his bidding costing both him and the team in ways. The Bears however are allowing a below-average 4.0 yards-per-carry making this matchup an interesting one. History shows that McGahee runs well vs. teams ranked 20th or worse against the run. Alas, the Bears are just outside of that in yards-per-carry but 7th overall in yards-per-game allowed. So it would appear to be yet another outta-luck game for the motormouth RB. Willis can do his own bidding however in this game.
DT Tommie Harris vs. Duke Preston: Last week, Preston with no experience, needed quite a bit of help from Jason Peters to simply be effective. How this works itself out vs. Harris this week could be interesting. The Bills are one offensive line injury away from abject disaster there.
Grossman v. the Bills pass D: Count me in the camp of those that think that the rest of Grossman’s season won’t look anything like his play during the early going. Losman will have the home crowd noise to contend with along with a significantly worse line. So the edge may go to Grossman regardless.
Lee Evans and the Bills’ WRs vs. very good CBs: Last week was the first week that the WRs played a great game as a collective and with some synergy as such. Can they build on that vs. what figures to be better play defensively from the corners?
Bills’ coaching vs. itself: Every week there are significant issues in one form or another regarding coaching that cost this team. Bad decisions in the New England game may have cost them that game. Late poor decisions and team performance downturns nearly lost the Vikes game last week and gave the Dolphins hope when there should have been none. Vs. the Jets coaching mistakes coupled with Jet outexecution on the lines at the most pivotal moments resulted in a loss there. What will it be this week? How many games can the Bills score a paltry number of points hoping for opponent offensive ineptness while keeping them in the game until late when the games should be over much earlier, and keep on pulling Ws out? Methinks it’s not for very long or very many games.
No one is expecting the Bills to win on the road at Chicago this weekend given the Bears’ early status as the team to beat. They may suffer from a post-SNF letdown, but even if they did, it would have to be a near collapse in order for the Bills to be able to capitalize on it.
The vaunted Bills D has a golden opportunity to shut down a very overrated Bear O this Sunday. Jones and Benson are barely averaging over three yards-per-carry and Grossman, well Grossman is Grossman and until proven differently over the course of 16 games, the Wysman is not jumping into the boat that has redefined Grossman as something other than he is and on pace for 32 TDs to only 12 INTs when his career prior to this season has produced nothing indicative of the ability to sustain such success. I will pencil Grossman in for 24 TDs and 14 INTs by season’s end meaning that he averages 1.3 TDs and 1 INT per game the rest of the way. Throw in the fact that the primary impetus for that success has come at the hands of the Lion D, well, it simply supports my arguments. Bidding well for Grossman is a relatively easy schedule defensively speaking.
This is "rubber meets the road" time for the Bills. The Bears are an overrated team. The question is how overrated. The Bills are an overrated team as well however. The dirty little secret is that the Bears do not run the ball very well in spite of having had a good game vs. the Seahawks on Sunday. Thus far this season they have averaged a mere 3.2 yards-per-carry using Benson and Jones. This also hasn’t exactly been vs. the league’s elite defenses either including the Packers, Lions, and Vikes. Who knows what happened last week vs. an Alexander-less Seahawks squad.
The Bears are at home however. Given the Bills mishaps, namely 5 false starts and 4 holdings at home last week, they may be in for a long day at Soldier Field on Sunday. The Pack, Lions, and Vikes all ranged in the 250-300 net yard range for offense. So the Bills should be able to post at least 250 net yards, … assuming that they have better or comparable offenses to those teams. If a hundred of that comes in the 4th quarter vs. a prevent D however then it would not be a good sign looking forward.
If the Bills can generate pass pressure in this game I suppose they have a shot at keeping the game close with perhaps even a shot at a win if they can muster defensive or special teams scores or set-ups. Otherwise it is extremely difficult to see how the Bills leave Chicago without a good many things to contemplate going forward. This may be the "come to grips with reality" game that is imminent prior to a Bills’ "market correction" on the season.
For fans not caring how the Bills win or against whom or what those opponents bring during games in which they play the Bills, seemingly a team that many opponents are likely to "look past," this season is a good one. If it extrapolates out as such, the Bills would finish an even 8-8. For fans believing that, here’s a tip, keep your money in your wallet on that.
For fans more concerned about the future direction of this team along with fundamentals and excellence there, there is plenty to be concerned about. (See intro) How many games can a team win on a season whereby they squeak by opponents that are not playing fundamentally well themselves and on horrid play calling or QB implosions altogether while making what would otherwise be terminal coaching mistakes and experiencing massive letdowns and changes of momentum themselves. Last season it was four with the fifth win coming against the hapless Texans. This season the tally stands at two to date.
As stated numerous times previously, this team has not improved fundamentally. If they had, then this team would be able to dominate games via the run thereby taking the pressure off of a young, learning QB, not putting the pressure on him to control and win games. It would be able to halt an opponent’s run not due to the opponent’s OC abandoning it, but rather by dominating on the defensive line, particularly between the Ts. It would be able to log some sacks on a team other than one that is in hindsight among the worst in the league offensively with a QB playing horribly on a Mularkey "blind leading the blind" team, while barely being able to log any significant numbers of sacks otherwise.
Yet, based on shortsighted and superficial analyses, which is typical, many have overrated these Bills and their talents and capabilities. Levy and Jauron are getting credit for house-of-cards type of "improvements" largely based on faulty perceptions.
In fact, the Bills three biggest free agent acquisitions contract wise were DT Larry Tripplett, WR Peerless Price, and TE Robert Royal. To date not one has contributed to a level that could not have been gotten with a veteran minimum (or very close to it) type of player. Frankly, that is all that Royal and Price are regardless with Tripplett not being far above that in spite of Levy and Jauron’s assessments in bringing them here and as fully detailed and outlined in preseason pieces. Let’s be real here, would the team really be much different performance wise if the three players were simply not on the team? I don’t see how.
Draft wise, the Bills two biggest acquisitions and only two selections in round 1 and 2 were Donte Whitner and John McCargo. Whitner has shown some early season/career indications of future success although his coverage skills still need massive improvement. That is important for a DB as the Wysman sees it for reasons laid out ad tedium this year. McCargo has been all but invisible prompting questions of whether or not he even played following games.
This simply should not be and why a GM gets credit for that is inexplicable. The Wysman fully believes that this season will bear itself out in this way. Why, because that is what I want? Hardly! Once again, and to drive home the point again, I would enjoy nothing more than bona fide success
Bills 6, Bears 23
Who knows what happened to the Seahawks on Sunday night. Otherwise, the Bears put up a good chunk of their points vs. two of the weakest defenses in the game today in Green Bay and Detroit. The Bills, in spite some odd indicators, also do not possess one of the better Ds in the league fundamentally. Many of their stats have been "padded" as a result of their single game vs. the Dolphins now considered among the bottom three teams in the league by many.
My point prediction was going to be 13, a touchdown more than the 6 above, however 13 is perhaps way generous for a struggling offense that can’t break the 20 point mark vs. teams playing mediocre or poor defense. Otherwise, this team appears to struggle to simply put up 13 or 14 vs. much weaker Ds, so any such prediction would have been baseless.
While my assessment has the Bears being significantly overrated, it is still a reach to suggest that the Bills are in their class regarding competitiveness. The Bills must still prove that they can score more than 13-17 offensive points without some sort of assistance from opponents. That’s not likely to happen in front of what figures to be a raucous crowd this weekend. In fact, if the Bills false start (5) and holding (4) woes continue this weekend on the road in Chicago from last week at home vs. a weaker team, then the Bills will be fortunate to see the end zone or even a FG at all perhaps eyeing down a shutout.
The Bear D has not allowed an offensive touchdown in the last 9 quarters and they have only allowed one on the season to date. Are the Bills the team to alter that? Methinks not.
While the Bear O is clearly overrated, they are presently 4th in the league in points-per-game at 29 as a team. While the Bills may be able to reduce that, they won’t have the success that they had vs. the Fins or Vikes in shutting down the Bears O. Expect the Bears to go up by enough, although perhaps not more than 10 or 13 in the second half, to force the Bills to abandon their rushing game and put the ball into the hands of Losman who nearly single-handedly drove last week’s O. Losman will likely take some lumps on the learning curve this weekend, particularly if the Bills cannot generate much run support for the young, learning QB.