AFC East Report Editor Mark Weiler is this week's guest on 10 questions.
10: What is the mindset for more Bills fans? Do they think there's much hope that the team can turn it around this year or not?
A: Questions of this nature vary depending upon the fans. The homers I'm sure believe that the Bills will turn it around but even they are having to face reality. I would say that interest in the Bills in the region has cooled off significantly since the beginning of the season with sports fans having turned to the Sabers for a positive sports experience. Fans have simply been bitten too many times in recent seasons and realize that they've once again been sold a bill-of-goods. In my opinion fan interest is at lows not seen since the early '80s.
9: Have you been surprised by the team's 2-4 start, or was this something that was expected?
A: I'm not at all surprised. In fact, had the Dolphins been anything but awful I had thought that the Bills would be 1-6 heading into their bye week. I've posted all of my season expectations online. The Bills are a poor team fundamentally. By other fans however, along with much of the media, and the expectations were higher ranging to the Bills being expected to actually compete on the low end for the playoffs.
8: How has J.P. Losman looked in the games he's played (other than the Patriots game). Was it a wise decision to go with Losman over Holcomb?
A: That depends upon whom you ask what their expectations were. Mine were simply to allow him to log some time on a team that wasn't going anywhere, figure out where he is by season's end, and then use that information to formulate your QB picture going forward. Again, my expectations for him are online at the link above. He's had his moments and his struggles as essentially a first-time starter. But many fans don't seem to want to cut him the slack of a "year of learning." I have no problem with it.
He's looked good enough to warrant further looks and to suggest that if he had a decent line, a productive rushing game, some tight ends worth a damp one, along with an offensive coordinator with a decent track record, then I believe he'd be all that is necessary. He's had unreasonable expectations foisted upon him by default given that nothing else has worked offensively as a matter of routine. The rushing game was supposed to have helped him but has fallen flat. McGahee has averaged 71 yards-per-game on 3.4 yards-per-carry in games other than the Jets game.
His biggest obstacle to have overcome was his touch on short passes and he already seems to have made enormous strides there. As we all know, as Pats fans know, the short passing game is by far the more relevant one when contrasted with the deep game.
7: What's the impact of Troy Vincent's departure from Buffalo?
A: There is/was no impact. From a performance perspective Vincent was grossly overrated and incredibly overcompensated by a former management and coaching regime that predicated everything on media play. Ko Simpson will pick up Vincent's slack in a very short period of time if he hasn't already.
6: How do you see Anthony Hargrove fitting in with the Bills defense? What does he bring to the team that it may not have had before?
A: He brings/adds absolutely nothing significant. He's a smallish/undersized DE and the Bills quite frankly didn't need another DE in that mold. We have them coming out of our ears. What we need is a defensive lineman that can hold up at the point of attack on runs. The Bills don't have one on the roster presently and Hargrove didn't add that. They already have Schobel and Denney who start, and Ryan Denney to backup. Then again the 5th they traded to acquire him probably wouldn't have amounted to much given the track record of the Bills' current front office and scouting crew. Either way, he's slated in as a backup behind Schobel, so why all the fuss over yet another backup caliber player by many is beyond me. The Bills have a roster full of backup types. They need above average starters, not more depth and role players.
5: Many media outlets bashed the Bills for losing to a previously winless team in the Detroit Lions last week. Was the criticism justified?
A: Yes and no. Yes in that on the surface level the Lions were a bad team having been 0-5. I've said all along that the Lions were a stronger team than their record last season and certainly better than 0-5 this year. They did not lose at home last season to one team with a losing record. I didn't think much of their D, but I knew that their O has potential. Either way the Bills were expected to be better than the Lions. The criticism is also justified in that the Lions' O did far more than they should have vs. what sas supposedly a decent D. Alas, I think that it's beginning to become much clearer that our D isn't anywhere near as good as many seem to think it's been. As well, our O did nothing but put up a few big plays off of broken plays vs. the Lions and given that the Lions' D simply isn't that good, any criticism in this way is fully justified.
The criticism is not justified in that the Lions are simply a better team. They came into the game with more key injuries however and line injuries to boot including Damian Woody, one of the better guards in the league. Our lines were healthy yet we took a beating mano-a-mano in the trenches to the tune of embarrassment.
4: Is Dick Jauron a good fit for Buffalo, and do you think he has any chance to turn things around?
A: No, he is not a "good fit." A "good fit" for any team is a coach that fully understands the fundamentals. There is not a team that has won a Super Bowl that has had poor fundamentals and most if not all Super Bowl winners have had excellent if not superlative fundamentals. In fact I have a piece ready to go up on exactly this.
Fundamentals are the lines. Jauron, and Levy, clearly do not have a clue regarding fundamentals which is ironic for Levy given that his Super Bowl teams had fantastic lines. Yet, he's only proven clueless on that since he's "rearrived" in Buffalo as the GM. Levy hired Jauron. In fact, what they have done for the lines has regressed this team, but also that perhaps what they do think is more likely a hindrance and makes their team worse. There's a lot of evidence to support such a notion, sadly.
I penned a piece during the offseason entitled Coaches Do What They Know Best back in June, a three-part series explaining this in a more general way. The analysis applies to all coaches and all teams across the league.
Jauron believes in and knows secondaries. That's what he played and that's the coaching ranks he came up through. So it makes sense that he's going to lean in the direction of where his strength lies. But alas, there's a large degree of The Peter Principle at work here as well. Jauron has never been particularly great at coaching at any level. His team's statistics in his realm of responsibility have been below average on the whole and pretty bad often.
So to answer the second part of the question, if he doesn't understand the fundamentals, or perhaps simply isn't effective at formulating and implementing solutions to improve them, he can't possibly turn the team around. All that he and Levy have done from last season to this one is prod the team even further along towards being one of the worst teams in the NFL.
The NFL is not a "reinvent the wheel" kind of business. Build two solid lines and predicate everything on that and you'll have success in one form or another. Don't and you won't. It is that simple.
3: Tell us the most overrated / underrated units on the team
A: The linebackers are the most overrated unit. Spikes has clearly not "come back" to anything approaching full strength following his Achilles heel injury. If history serves as a guide here he never will and the fact that he turns 30 later this season doesn't help matters there. Fletcher's easily on the "down side" too. After them we have average players and no playmakers.
Expectations were low for the secondary given the two rookies Whitner and Simpson. The DL we were told would provide speedy, disruptive play but it has also come up more than empty proving to be nothing more than token resistance making it overrated as well. Not one of our DTs has logged even a half-sack on the season.
Offensively McGahee is a notch above useless in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations making him overrated as well given the perception that due to his yards he's somehow good. Peerless Price is already one of the reasons defining Levy and Jauron's early failure at teambuilding along with Larry Tripplett and trade-up draftee John McCargo. (IR) TE Robert Royal adds to the list there as well. That's well over $40 million worth of players and a lot of signing bonuses doing virtually nothing.
The Bills really do not have any underrated units. They simply don't have much talent making being underrated a virtual impossibility.
2: Lee Evans talked to the New England Media this week about the decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 against the Patriots in week one. He felt that the Bills would have won the game had they converted. But they didn't make it, and they didn't win. What was your take on that decision?
A: My take on that decision is that the Bills need those types of things to win games since they cannot execute to solid fundamentals. The Bills' have only seven TDs in six games on drives where they got into the red zone. That's not good.
Evans can say whatever he wants to, but if we couldn't beat the Patriots with Brady having played perhaps the worst half of football in his life for a half, and couldn't generate much offense otherwise, then it's like saying that the titanic sank because there was a defect in the steel in a hull that was ripped open for 300'. The game this weekend won't be as favorable for the Bills, even at home.
The Bills have been a big play team for even the paltry offensive totals that they've "achieved" over the past several seasons. Special teams has carried this team with uncanny field positions that the team simply isn't getting this season. As I've always said, live by the big play, die by the big play. The Bills rely far too heavily on big plays, often off of broken plays, to make them anything but poor offensively. For the first time in several seasons the Bills are having to deal with injuries as well although still not to the tune of "average" in that way, yet more than in the past.
1: The Bills lost by 2 points last time. Do you see this game being as close a contest, or do you expect a much different style of game?
A: The Bills scored 16. Of that, seven was on the game's opening play whereby Spikes ran in completely untouched to sack Brady and force a fumble that Fletcher returned a short distance for a TD. I do not expect that to happen again. The Bills this season have typically scored and played so as to score between 7 and 17 points. I will assume that they do so again, say 13. I cannot imagine a scenario whereby the Patriots do not put up at least 24 in this game. Brady won't be nearly as bad as he was in the first game, Maroney and Dillon will be ready, and the Bills have no one to stop Watson. The Pats' WRs will look much better than they actually are on Sunday too.
The Patriot RBs put up 180 yards rushing fairly consistently in that first game. I expect them to do the same thing again but with Brady not playing horridly for a half. That should mean regular scoring for them. The Bills simply cannot match that. Expect big offensive output from the Pats on Sunday.
Prediction for the Game:
A: 31-13 Patriots; huge day for Maroney, Dillon, & Watson. Lots of ball control for the Pats and Brady picking our secondary apart with a second-rate group of WRs.
Q: Prediction for the rest of the season:
A: My prediction for prior to the bye week was 1-6 plus or minus a game. Had I known that Miami would be as bad as they are I would have upped that by a game to 2-5 +/- a game. The Bills will be 2-5 hitting that prediction spot on either way.
After the bye week which is after this game, my prediction online was 2-7 +/- a game. I will alter that to 3-6 +/- a game due to Miami's horrid status. So figure a loss this week and 3-6 after the bye putting the Bills at the same 5-11 that they were last season with only victories over similarly struggling teams.
Losses to Jax and San Diego at home and to the Jets, Indy, and Baltimore on the road. Chances for wins vs. Green Bay, Tennessee, and Miami all at home and vs. Houston on the road. There is no such thing as a "gimme" game for the Bills this season.
Q: Top three teams in the AFC:
A: San Diego, Denver, New England
All have excellent D, solid rushing, and good lines (fundamentals)