Bills 4-0, But Undefeated How Much Longer?

I’ve been pleased but, after the first week, not entirely surprised that the Buffalo Bills have started 4-0 for the first time since 1992, when they had an excellent, if ultimately unrequited, stretch of success.  I say not entirely surprised not out of bravado but rather an examination of their early-season schedule, which saw them face two worthy, physical opponents in Seattle and Jacksonville, and two nags in Oakland and St. Louis.  I figured that, if they beat the first two, the next two wouldn’t be so difficult.  I was half right, for the Bills struggled against Oakland, giving up a couple big plays and getting stymied on offense for three quarters before another terrific comeback culminated by a last-second field goal to win it 24-23.  Last week in St. Louis, the Bills again started out slowly–a bad sign they need to rectify–before stomping the abysmal Rams 31-14.

Why are the Bills 4-0?  As I’ve implied, a fairly weak schedule has helped build up wins and surely some confidence.  But there are actually doing some things right on the field, such as minimizing penalties (only 18 in 4 games) and turnovers (5 in 4 games).  They’ve not hurt themselves much, and QB Trent Edwards has a lot to do with that.  He’s not a great deep-ball passer, but is good on intermediate routes and is accurate, with only 2 INTs thus far.  That the Bills have a pretty decent running game (only 18th in the NFL with 408 through 4 games and a subpar 3/5 average, but yet to get uncorked) has helped take the pressure off Edwards, as has a steady, improved, and massive O-line.  As a side note, who would have thought that Derrick Dockery (acquired from Washington) would have been the longer-lasting and much better OL player from Texas than first-round bust Mike Williams?  Not I.  When Roscoe Parrish returns from thumb surgery, he should infuse the offense and return game with excellent speed.  It was he, and not Devin Hester, who led the NFL in punt return average with a ridiculous 16.3 yards/return last year.

But if the Bills are to succeed in 2008, the defense must be stalwarts in every game to help support an improved but fairly unspectacular offense.  It’s currently 12th in the NFL, allowing 280 yards/game, and a very good 6th against the pass, allowing a meager 168.5 yards/game.  Ten sacks is a nice total, but their strength that is often overlooked is a good, tough secondary.  They cover well, have good speed, and are physical even if undersized.  Among the starting DBs, only masher SS Ko Simpson is over 6′, and the others compensate with lots of speed.  The defense has also gotten bigger and better in the middle, and I was high on Marcus Stroud’s acquisition this past off-season.  He’s good, physical and experienced, coming from a good Jacksonville defense to complement Kyle Williams to make a good, aggressive DT tandem.  Signing Kawkia Mitchell was a heck of a move as well and, with Paul Posluszny’s healthy return, the team has speed in all the right places–linebacker (with Keith Ellison), secondary, and good if undersized defensive ends in Schobel and Kelsay.

I feel good that the Bills are 4-0.  To not feel good about it would be short-sighted and dumb.  But I’ll feel more confident when they pass tougher tests. Arizona this week will be one–4th in the NFL in passing yards/game with an improved defense.  The Cards are no pushovers.  The Chargers loom after the bye week that follows the Cards and, though the Chargers have a poor defense, their offense is excellent.  I’m not at all convinced that the Chargers are a .500 team.  They got screwed against Denver, lost their 2 games by a total of 3 points, have won 2 straight, and Rivers, Tomlinson, and Gates will give the Bills fits unless they stop the run and pressure Rivers.  Arizona is a good test this week but, after a week’s rest, the Chargers will, to me, be the biggest test of the first half of the season.  After the Chargers, the much-improved AFC East looms.

Good to be talking about such things instead of watching the Bills play out the string, or hoping for impossible scenarios in order for them to make the playoffs.  This year has started out differently from the past several, but how it proceeds as the weather turns cold is what’s most important.

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Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 9:56 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s exciting to see them get out of the gate so well. If only the Yanks could do the same of these years. I think a lot of it has to do with the schedule. I’m cuirous how they’ll do when they face a real challenge. All signs point to that they’ll do quite well, but as we WNYers know, something will happen that ultimaely spells disappointment. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen.

    J-Boogie

    http://boogiedownbaseball.blogspot.com

  2. I agree about the Yankees’ need to start fast for a change, J-Boogie. I also agree that the Bills’ schedule did them a big favor. I was heading down the stairs in the house where we stayed in Galena last Sunday and thought to myself, Bills lose 28-24. I don’t know why, but with football I’ve always gotten strong gut feelings that are usually more accurate than what few gut feelings I get with the Yanks. But I never expected the Bills to struggle as badly as they did in Arizona, or certainly not for Edwards to get hurt. That really affected them, with Losman throwing well but losing fumbles. Yeah J-Boogie, you know as well as I about the Bills’ history and how it’s alternately exhilarated and humbled us WNYers.

    Give Cooper a big hug from The Heartland.


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