Sometimes the NFL’s landscape changes faster than we can adjust for those changes. This is one of those cases. Five weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills were 5-2 and in the chase for an AFC East crown. Five weeks and five losses later, their season is all but over. With their latest loss, coming at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, any hopes of a post-season run do seem to be lost.
Now is the time to begin to ask where it all went wrong. The Bills had the look of a team that was beginning to hit its stride five weeks ago. They had lost games to the Giants and the Bengals by 3 points each, and that was their only losses. They locked down Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier in the year, supposedly locking their franchise quarterback down for years to come. Fred Jackson was running all over every defense he faced.
It turns out that their problems had been there all along.
The Bills’ defense currently ranks 22nd in the NFL. It’s a unit that has a bad habit of giving up points very early in games, and that puts added pressure on the Bills’ offense. At the beginning of the season, their offensive unit was equal to the challenge, coming back from big deficits early and often, including a huge win over the Patriots. The offense hasn’t been able to keep pace with their defensive woes however. The offense has cooled to just 14th in the league, not nearly good enough to continue to buoy the team.
Now that the Bills are effectively out of the playoff race in 2011, they can begin to look towards 2012. Where are their woes? Certainly the offense has given the ball away far too often, but that may be a result of trying too hard to score points every time they touch the ball. I’d suggest that the Bills do not blow up what they have going for them. Continue to groom the offense, keep your coaches, and continue to build on defense.
Perhaps the Bills are pyrite, but there’s also the possibility that they’re simply scuffed gold. This is a team that experienced success early, but they weren’t able to continue that success late into the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven that he can sling the ball all over the yard, and Fred Jackson has shown that he should be considered one of the better running backs in the league. These guys need time.
It’s really this simple. The Bills have been a very mediocre team for a long time. Now, they have a lot of the right pieces in place on the offensive side of the ball and in their coaching staff. Chan Gailey has done a good job in his first 2 seasons as the Bills head coach, but losing games isn’t a good way to secure your job for the future in the NFL. The Bills are getting closer, but they have to resist the knee-jerk reaction of blowing it all up once again. That decision of what to do at the end of the year may determine if the Bills are unpolished gold or just a big heap of pyrite.