What Week 10 feels like

Schopp & Bulldog | Weekdays 3p-7p
November 15, 2016 - 4:52 am
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The Bills thing to say right now is how it never changes. The 2016 season is so much like all the others in the playoff drought. "In the hunt", "run the table", etc., etc., etc.

How true is it?

I looked back through the drought to see just where the Bills stood after 10 weeks. Their best record after 10 weeks of a season since 2000 is 5-4, which they've had seven times. They've been 4-5 three times, so in 10 of the last 16 seasons the Bills were within one game of .500 through 10 weeks.

In that sense this season so far is very familiar.

(The Bills have also been 3-6 four times, 3-7 once, and 1-8 twice.)

I often point out that it's not just missing the playoffs that's demoralizing, it's also rarely feeling about midway through a season that you had any chance to make it.

Here are the seasons where, I think, we had the most reason for optimism after 10 weeks, culminating with a look at this season:

2000: There was no drought in 2000. The Bills had made the playoffs 10 of the prior 12 years. Fans didn't expect the worst (until the playoffs, that is). The 2000 Bills beat New England in Week 10 and were 5-4 with a decent offense and a better defense. They got it to 7-4 before falling apart. After 10 weeks of the 2000 season, the playoffs probably seemed pretty likely. But who can remember?

2007: This idea of optimism is relative. The '07 Bills started 0-3 and in Week 5 came that excruciating Dallas loss on Monday Night Football. But then, four straight wins. The Bills were flexed to Sunday Night Football in Week 11 for a game with the 10-0 Patriots. Al Michaels and John Madden rolled into town. They weren't New England but maybe the Bills could squeeze out a wild-card berth. The Bills lost, 56-10, and finished 7-9. Turns out they would have needed 10 wins to make it.

2008: These Bills started 4-0 and got a season off from injured Tom Brady. They went to Foxboro in Week 10, lost 20-10 and were outgained 370-168 by Matt Cassel and the Pats. Making the playoffs can be hard; New England went 11-5 and didn't make it either.

2010: An 0-8 start made the whole season about what the Bills would do in the 2011 draft. The good news? The 2011 draft was awesome. The bad? They won in Week 10, finished 4-4, played their way out of the top pick, and instead of Cam Newton drafted Marcell Dareus. Dareus has been a good player but this year it's all been about dedication and injury with him, and even this draft -- Newton, Von Miller, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson were the rest of the top 5 -- feels like a miss. Julio Jones went sixth. J.J. Watt went 11th. Richard Sherman went 154th.

2015: Hey, that Thursday night win over the Jets last year felt pretty good. The Bills had a winning record and faced a playable schedule. As you know it didn't happen though; the Bills lost four of five after the Jets game to fall to 6-8.

Now they're around .500 yet again, and there are three teams in the AFC West with at least seven wins. The AFC East's front door to the playoffs is almost always bolted shut to the Bills, Dolphins and Jets. I'd say this Bills team is better than almost every other drought team, but the playoff odds are long. It's 6-1 probably just to have a shot.

Notice that 2004 didn't make the list. That team was 3-6 after 10 weeks and coming an embarrassing 29-6 prime-time loss to the Pats. There was NO talk of playoffs.

And of course 2004 was the year the Bills came closest to making it, winning six straight and being only a win over the Pittsburgh backups away.

This year bears a resemblance to '04: The bad start (the '04 Bills started 0-4), some turmoil, and at midseason some flashes but mostly an erratic team with too big a hill to climb. And, the '04 Bills had a very friendly late-season schedule; this year's version isn't as kind but it's also not at all scary.

Travis Yost, TSN hockey analyst, frequent guest of our show and Bills fan, tweeted a few minutes ago that this is the year the Bills go 6-1 down the stretch and make it.

My response: "I'll be here."






 
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