Bills living the best-case scenario

The defense is dominant; opponents' kickers... not so much

Mike Schopp
October 08, 2019 - 10:19 am

Photo: Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY Sports


So far, so perfect.

Well, I guess not quite perfect because the Buffalo Bills do have one loss, a tense 16-10 defeat to the New England Patriots in Week 4. Otherwise, it's four wins in four tries for Buffalo, heading into a bye week and then home games against the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.

If this is not the first Bills team to win in the double digits since 1999, God help us.

Even the Patriots loss told the right story for Bills fans, that the defense could contain -- even control -- Tom Brady's offense, and it can be said that the difference in the game was one special teams play, New England's blocked punt-touchdown. In that game, the Patriots managed a meager 11 first downs.

The Bills have jumped to 4-1 despite committing certain football crimes that can undermine a team as limited offensively as this one, but that hasn't happened. Four turnovers in the opener against the New York Jets didn't get the Bills beat. Their 11 turnovers, so far, rank 28th in the league. Their turnover differential -- it's not a ratio by the way -- is minus-3. The Bills have committed more penalties than their opponents have too, but that's not at all the predictive stat turnovers is. Buffalo's net yards per-pass attempt (NY/A) is 6.0 through five games, 22nd in the league. It's not much of a concern, however, given that their defense has so limited the other teams that the Bills haven't really needed to open things up.

The weak schedule, to use a pretty meaningless cliche, is what it is. You go 17 years without a playoff appearance -- 24 without a postseason win, a streak that's, of course, still active -- you don't have to apologize for anything. In fact, being in New England's division is a condition that 28 other teams don't live with, and there'd be dozens of playoff appearances around the league over the years that wouldn't have happened had those teams to play New England twice those seasons and perhaps have to beat the Patriots out for a spot. In short, the Bills owe nobody nothin'.

Josh Allen got concussed (maybe? probably?) and recovered in time to play the next week. Rookie running back Devin Singletary went down in Week 2 with a hamstring injury, but the Bills have been fine in his absence; Frank Gore's 333 yards through five games ranks 13th in the league. Dawson Knox gave the Bills a huge catch-and-run late in their Week 3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, a game like those against the Jets and Tennessee Titans that easily could have gone the other way. Offensively, the Bills have avoided important obstacles, and they've done just enough.

Incredibly, three times already this season after Bills games their opponents have moved on from their kickers. The Jets and Titans fired theirs, pretty much, immediately after their guys combined to miss five field goals and a point-after attempt against Buffalo. New England put theirs, Stephen Gostkowski, on injured reserve; he too missed an extra point against the Bills. In fact, Kaare Vedvik landed with the Jets in the first place after the Minnesota Vikings let him go after a shaky preseason. Even that culminated against the Bills. (psssst, someone tell Sean McDermott that these kicks have been missed without the Bills having to "ice the kicker" with a timeout.)

Last point: Let's say the season proceeds in kind, with the Bills beating these doormats and being a tough enough team to win their share of the rest of them. We'd be looking at, probably, a 10-6 or 11-5 season. It probably still won't be good enough for the division title, which is the only way to play a playoff game at home (sigh). 

In this case, they'd probably be a five-seed, going on the road in "Week 18" to face the division winner with the weakest record (Baltimore Ravens, maybe?).

If the Bills cruise through a season where it looks for most of it like they'll be a playoff team, expectations for that playoff game, unlike two years ago, will be high. League talk all season will be whether or not this Bills team is #actuallygood, good enough to win in the playoffs and not just get there. Expectations around here will be interesting to track.

It reminds me a little of where we were after a quarter of the Sabres' season last year. They were much the same, a team with a great record but also with questions. We know what happened. The truth came out.

The schedule factor is one thing that makes this Bills season different.

Let's hope it actually is.

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