NFL Week 2 Review – Chiefs at Bills

Well, week 2 went a hell of a lot better than Week 1 did for the Bills.  Facing a near must-win situation already in Week 2 the Bills came out swinging and dominated the Chiefs on both sides of the ball.  The Bills really fed off of the home crowd to get to 1-1 going into a relatively tough stretch that takes them on the road for 3 games next month.  Here are some thoughts on the Bills’ 1st win of the season:

  • Cordy Glenn got downfield to block for C.J. Spiller

    Let’s talk about the best unit of the day for the Bills.  No, it wasn’t C.J. Spiller but rather the big guys in front of him.  The offensive line for the Bills had an outstanding day.  Cordy Glenn looked like a beast out there, running down the field and blocking for Spiller.  Eric Wood looks healthy and the unit as a whole looks very strong.  Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been sacked in the 1st two games and Spiller leads the league in rushing.  I’d say that they are off to a pretty good start.

  • C.J. Spiller gets it.  I know it’s like beating a dead horse by now but C.J. Spiller looks like a totally different player in year 3 than he did in years 1 and 2.  He said this week that he has given up trying to hit a home run on every run rather than taking what he is given.  He has slowed the game down and letting his blockers make the plays before he finishes them off.  There’s concern about his workload or whether or not he is playing over his head right now.  Spiller will only have to carry the bulk for a few more weeks however until Fred Jackson returns.  The Bills will likely rely heavily on the run game, particularly with the strong offensive line, throughout the late winter months.
  • Fitzpatrick looked just alright.  He didn’t make mistakes but he missed Scott Chandler badly twice when he was open.  He will definitely benefit from a run-first mentality.  As mediocre as he’s been he leads the league in passing TDs.
  • Kyle Williams looked like his old beastly self on Sunday

    The defensive line finally showed up.  Mario Williams’ day was another modest one on the stat sheet although he did get a fumble recovery.  His presence, along with that of fellow DE Mark Anderson, was certainly felt though as they collapsed the pocket and made Matt Cassel step up and play in front of the pocket.  That resulted in 5 sacks up the middle, 2 by Kyle Williams, 1 by Marcell Dareus, 1 by Alex Carrington and 1 by MLB Kelvin Sheppard.  Kyle Williams looked like his old, pre-injury self by collapsing the pocket and beating his man all day.  When this line is on it will be very tough to block.

  • Cordy Glenn wasn’t the only rookie with a great day.  Stephon Gilmore shook off a tough start after a rough game against the Jets in week 1.  Gilmore was targeted early and often and held his own against Chiefs receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jon Baldwin.  While it was a good showing the rookie can’t rest because teams will likely still key on him in the passing game.
  • The old man can still play.  The Bills had some cornerback troubles early on in the season but Terrence McGee came off the bench on Sunday to contribute with a strong game in pass coverage.  McGee is a great guy for the young guys to lean on but I think he proved that he can still play with his performance last week.  Of course it is easier to cover receivers when the defensive linemen are in the quarterbacks grill right off of the snap.
  • Leodis McKelvin ran back into the good graces of the Bills mafia on Sunday

    Leodis can’t cover but he can still contribute.  Leodis McKelvin has been a disappointment ever since he was drafted in the first round by the Bills in 2008.  He has trouble locating the ball when it’s in the air and also has trouble making a play on it.  McKelvin was downgraded to 5th cornerback for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs but it didn’t get him down.  He returned a punt for a touchdown to put the game away in the 3rd quarter.  McKelvin may not see much of the field on defense but if he keeps his head in the game he could be a key contributor to the special teams unit.

The Bills embark on a tough 4 game stretch this weekend when they head to Cleveland to face the Browns.  This is a pretty important game for the Bills.  The Browns are a beatable opponent but the Bills have lost 9 of the last 10 road games.  If the Bills want to be in the conversation in December they will need to win at least 2 of the next 4 games.  This one might be the easiest of the bunch.  Regardless the Bills will likely try to take the “one game at a time” approach and try to take care of business in Cleveland and then start preparing for the Patriots a week later.

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NFL Week 1 Review – Bills at Jets

After an off-season of hope this one was a bitter pill for Bills fans to swallow.  The Bills were coming in with a wave of momentum and the Jets looked to be a mess on and off the field.  he Jets came to play and they shocked the Bills early, going up by 21 points in the 1st quarter en route to a 48-28 opening day win.  To many in Buffalo the bubble seems to have burst already.  Maybe they aren’t who we thought they were but the truth is that they have a heel of a lot of time to make up for it.  Here are some individual thoughts on the game:

  • Spiller ran past the Jets defense on the way to 169 yards on Sunday

    Regarding CJ Spiller, the lone bright spot for the Bills.  It looks as if CJ has finally figured out the tempo of the pro game.  If he continues to progress and improve as he has he could truly be an elite offensive weapon.  Earlier in his career Spiller was doing too much dancing and spending too much time finding the hole.  Spiller is shifty and quick.  Once he finds a hole he has to attack it.  That’s exactly what he’s started to do.  Between last week’s performance in relief of Fred Jackson and the last 5 games he started last year for the injured Jackson he is averaging just a hair under 7 yards a carry.  That’s a huge number for an NFL running back.  Spiller stills ahs some growing up to do but the Bills can win without Fred Jackson if they have to, provided other things go right.  Spiller will not be the problem.

  • Where is the new and improved defense?  Dave Wannstedt was hired to fix the Bills defense.  Clearly the Jets had an effective offensive game plan.  Use quick drops before the 4-man front can get to you and take advantage on the Bills young CBs who were playing 5-6 yards off of the receivers.  So where were the adjustments.  Despite Sanchez getting rid off the ball too quickly for the 4-man front to get to him the Bills brought extra guys only 4 times the entire game.  Stephon Gilmore has a reputation for being a physical corner yet he was giving the Jets receivers a cushion.  When you hire a coach with Super Bowl winning experience you except Super Bowl caliber coaching.  Wannstedt needs to bounce back this week against the Chiefs.
  • Sanchez excelled throwing the ball on Sunday

    Give credit where it’s due.  Mark Sanchez was ridiculed since the day the Jets acquired Tim Tebow.  He had a lot to prove.  The entire team did but Sanchez in particular.  And he put his money where his mouth is.  He shook off a very bad INT on the opening drive and played a great game.  He spread the ball around and threw the ball confidently.  For weeks we heard about a QB controversy leading up to week 1.  Entering week 2 there is no quarterback controversy.  This is Mark Sanchez’s team (for now).  The Jets locker room has become a happy place (for now).

  • Fitzpatrick was Jekyll on Sunday.  He still has the potential to be Hyde.  There is no way to mince words.  Ryan Fitzpatrick single-handedly put the Bills in a deep, early hole in the 1st quarter with two bad passes.  Then, while they still had a chance to come back in the 2nd half, Fitzpatrick gave up a pick-6 on the 1st drive.  He’s had bad days like this in the past.  Sometimes he’s bounced back, sometimes he hasn’t.  Losing David Nelson is a big blow but Donald Jones seems ready to step up and rookie T.J. Graham will get some important time early.  I said this last year but the Bills should really work tight end Scott Chandler more into the offensive game plan.  He’s a tremendous mismatch for most linebackers and safeties with his 6-7 frame.  And he catches pretty much everything.
  • The Bills offensive line is a good unit.  I know what that says about Fitzpatrick’s day but the truth is that Fitzpatrick’s mistakes weren’t because he had people in his face all game.  They opened up huge holes for C.J. Spiller.  The middle of the line is stout with center Eric Wood and guard Andy Levitre.  Rookie Cordy Glenn held his own at left tackle.
  • Football isn’t everything.  Marcell Dareus had a bad day on Saturday in the Meadowlands but it pales in comparison to what him and his family are dealing with now.  On Sunday Marcell’s brother Simeon Gilmore was shot and killed in his native Alabama.  Gilmore was 20.  Obviously football seems very small in light of the tragedy and while Marcell is a big part of the Bills team I hope that he takes all the time that he needs to deal with this tragedy.  Condolences to the family of Simeon Gilmore.

The Bills open the home docket of their schedule this Sunday in Buffalo against the Chiefs.

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It’s Go Time

There probably isn’t a better weekend in America year in and year out the NFL’s opening Sunday.  Every team goes into that first week tied for 1st place.  Then teams spend the next 16 weeks trying to make the playoffs for a shot at the Lombardi trophy.  What makes the NFL so unique and exciting is that every game is an event.  There is a week of build up to the game and then the game itself.  It’s the only sport like this and that’s what makes it so popular.

Ready for liftoff…

If you are a Buffalo Bills fan, which I have been since I was 7 years old, today is a more exciting opening day than we’ve had for the better part of a decade.  It’s not just about the prospect of having a better team.  It’s not just that the Bills went out and spent big money on Mario Williams.  My fellow Red Sox fans can now relate to having to root for that unlikable team.  Well Bills fans have been doing that for over a decade.  Even their last playoff team was marred by a quarterback controversy between two unlikable guys.  The previous opening day starters before the current one, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards were, for the lack of a better term, a couple of stiffs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard educated man who looks like a lumberjack, is an easy guy to root for.  Picked in the 7th round of the 2005 draft he played for 2 teams before settling in Buffalo as the starter.

Starting receiver Stevie Johnson was a 7th round pick.  The other two starting receivers, David Nelson and Donald Jones, went undrafted.  Running back Fred Jackson was undrafted out of Division III Coe College.  His other stops before finally making it to the NFL included the Arena League and NFL Europe.  These are the type of guys that you love to root for as a sports fan.  Even the high draft picks like Marcell Dareus, Eric Wood,  C.J. Spiller, and Aaron Williams are likable players.  Good ‘ole southern boy Chan Gailey is a likable coach.  This team is different from the team in years passed.  Maybe it’s because the team has finally invested in keeping it’s own players.  Maybe they just finally “get it” up in Western New York.

Of course the games still need to be played but something can be said for hope.  In years passed Bills fans were excited by opening day but it was more blind faith that drove them.  Now there is finally substance to the hope in early September.

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Buffalo Bills 3 year draft review

They say that you should wait to grade a draft class after they’ve played three seasons so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  We’ll take a look at the Bills’ 2009 draft and take a look at what Dick Jauron accomplished in his final draft with the team.  Remember that current GM Buddy Nix was brought on as an adviser for this draft after leaving San Diego.  Anyway, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Bills 2009 draft, starting with the ugly:

1st Round Pick, DE Aaron Maybin

1st Round Pick (11th Overall) – Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State – Ouch.  That about sums up the Bills taking Maybin with the #11 overall selection in the 2009 draft.  The Bills were desperate for pass rush after they struggled when Aaron Schobel went down with an injury in 2008.  Jauron was obsessed with smaller, faster players and Maybin’s measurables were off the charts.  The worst part about this pick is that Maybin only had one good year at Penn State, his red-shirt sophomore season.  Him and his agent apparently guessed that there would be a coach or GM who would jump on his potential and they guessed right.  Maybin was a colossal failure in Buffalo.  In two seasons he couldn’t manage a sack and recorded only 24 tackles.  He was cut during the 2011 preseason and signed with the Jets.  After being cut by the Jets before the season began he was re-signed when veteran LB Bryan Thomas was lost for the year.  He managed to get 6 sacks and 11 tackles for the Jets but disappeared in the last month when the Jets were fighting for a playoff spot.  The fact alone that Jauron and co. left Brian Cushing, Brian Orakpo, and Clay Matthews on the board at this pick means that this pick should get the lowest possible grade.  The fact that he produced with the Jets last year makes the pick even worse.  Grade: F-

2nd Round Pick, C Eric Wood

1st Round Pick (28th Overall) – Eric Wood, C, Louisville – The Bills acquired this pick when they traded Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles.  Wood started the first 10 games of his career at right guard but suffered an unfortunate injury in the 10th game of the year against Jacksonville when he broke his leg.  Wood came back into camp near 100% for the 2010 season and started 14 of the 16 games that year.  During the season he transitioned to the center position, which he played back in Louisville.  Wood’s production picked up as he recovered from his leg injury and as he eased into his transition from guard to center.  He was playing at an above average level by the end of the season.  He was penciled in as the starting center for the start of the 2011 season and his play went from above average to elite early on.  He was playing like one of the best centers in the league but unfortunately his season was cut short due to injury for the 2nd time in his 3 year career.  He suffered a torn ACL in the Week 10 game against the Cowboys when he attempted to make a tackle on an interception return.  He missed the last 7 games of the season.  Injuries are part of the game and Wood’s two injuries were fluky yet serious damage has been down to his legs already.  When healthy he looks to be an elite center for the Bills.  If he can come back strong from his second season ending injury in three years, a big if of course, then he will set the Bills up at center for years to come.  Grade: B+

2nd Round Pick, FS Jairus Byrd

2nd Round Pick (42nd Overall) – Jairus Byrd, FS, Oregon – Byrd was a hybrid cornerback/safety at Oregon and didn’t seem to be a huge need for the Bills where they drafted him.  Nevertheless Byrd was penciled in as the starter for the Bills at free safety from day 1 and turned in a rookie season that garnered him 2nd place in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.  He had 45 tackles along with 9 interceptions and 11 passes defensed.  He got a Pro Bowl spot for his success in his rookie year.  Byrd was back in 2010 and started all 16 games at free safety.  He did not fair nearly as well in his 2nd season however.  He was a liability in the run game and was disappointing in the pass game.  He finished the year with only 1 interception and 2 passes defensed to go along with his 89 tackles.  Byrd make a big leap forward in the 2011 season, returning to form in the passing game and becoming an even bigger presence in the run game.  He finished the season with 98 tackles, a sack, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed, and 3 forced fumbles.  Byrd was as productive a defensive player as you could be and would have received All Pro honors if it wasn’t for established guys like Eric Weddle and Ed Reed getting the votes.  Byrd looks to be a fixture in the Bills defensive backfield if the Bills can extend his contract by the end of next season when he becomes a free agent.  Grade: A-

2nd Round Pick, G Andy Levitre

2nd Round Pick (51st Overall) – Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State – The Bills traded a 3rd and 4th round pick to move back to the 2nd round to get Levitre and I’m sure that they are glad they did.  Levitre started at left guard from day one with the Bills and has literally not stopped since.  He has started all 48 games thus far in his pro career.  He started 16 games as a rookie and was probably the Bills most consistent offensive lineman in his rookie year.  He came back in 2010 and started 16 more games, including a few at left tackle when they grew thin there.  He again appeared to have a very good year yet head coach Chan Gailey apparently didn’t see the fire he wanted to in Levitre so he demoted him a few times during the 2011 preseason.  Despite that Levitre came in and once again started all 16 games for the Bills.  He started a few games at left tackle again and had to fill in at center for one game.  Levitre’s best work came at left guard.  He is one of the premiere pulling and screen blocking guards in the NFL already in only his third season.  He would have likely been a surefire Pro Bowler if he played for a winning team.  Again he is the anchor of the offensive line and could make a premiere trio with Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik if the Bills can secure Levitre with a long term contract.  Grade: A+

4th Round Pick, TE Shawn Nelson

4th Round Pick (121st Overall) – Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Mississippi – Nelson looked like a huge value pick at the time but he just couldn’t pan out for the Bills.  He was active for 12 games in his rookie season, catching 17 balls for 156 yards and a touchdown.  He didn’t come close to matching that in his sophomore effort (after being suspended for the first 4 games due to a failed drug test), catching only 3 balls for 25 yards in the 5 games that he was active in 2010.  He didn’t make it out of camp for the Bills in 2011 and like Maybin he caught on with the Jets for a few weeks but couldn’t last the season there either.  Grade: D+

5th Round Pick (147th Overall) – Nic Harris, LB, Oklahoma – Harris lasted just his rookie year before being cut by the Bills.  He was picked up by the Carolina Panthers for the 2010 season but was out of the league by the start of this season.  Not a good 5th round pick by any stretch.  Grade: F

6th Round Pick, CB Cary Harris

6th Round Pick (183rd Overall) – Cary Harris, CB, USC – Harris’ biggest claim to fame will probably be intercepting Peyton Manning twice on the last day of the Bills 2009 season.  He was converted to safety and saw sporadic action in his two seasons with the Bills, tallying 6 tackles and 2 passes defensed to go along with the 2 INTs.  He was cut by the Bills after 2010 and was signed by the Giants but was not active for any games this season.  Grade: C-

7th Round Pick (220nd Overall) – Ellis Lankster, CB, West Virginia – Lankster saw action in 10 games for the Bills in his rookie season.  He had 5 tackles and a pass defensed.  Lankster sat out the 2010 season and was brought back in 2011 by, you guessed it, the New York Jets and was active for 7 games and recorded 6 tackles.  Grade: D

All in all when you get past the Maybin disaster the Bills did well to secure three high end starters with the ensuing three picks.  Nelson looked like he had potential but could never put it together and it was disappointing that at least one of the last three defenders taken couldn’t stick around for at least three seasons.  Next year we will see how the 2010 draft class, Buddy Nix’ first as GM, matures as the Bills look to get into the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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My AFC East First Half All-Pro Offense

A lot of people like to do a list of their mid-season all-stars to feel self important and I am no exception.  This is my All-AFC East Team – 11 starters on offense, 11 starters in a 3-4 defense, and 4 special teamers.  Today will be the offense and kicker and tomorrow I will unveil the defense and punter.  Here is the AFC East First Half All-Pro Offense (1st team write up, second team in parenthesis)

Quarterbacks

  • 1st team – Tom Brady, New England Patriots (212 of 321, 2,703 yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.0 comp. %, 100.0% QBR) – It’s been another banner year for Pats QB Tom Brady.  He hasn’t been efficient as he has in years past, including last year when he had an unreal 36/4 TD/INT ratio.  But his stats for the first half of the year are as gaudy as anyone’s in the league and he’s leading a Patriots offense that is one of the best passing attacks in the league.  He’ll be in the MVP conversation at the end of the year again
  • 2nd team – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills (170 of 260, 1,930 yards, 15 TDs, 9 INTS, 65.4 comp. %, 92.3% QBR) – Fitzpatrick has emerged as the Bills’ long term answer at QB, a stature made official with a contract extension signed two weeks ago.  Fitzpatrick is once again on pace to put up numbers that only rival that of Jim Kelly and Drew Bledsoe in the past twenty years for this Bills franchise.

Running Backs

  • 1st team – Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (150 car. for 803 yards, 5.4 avg., 6 TDs, 1,194 total yards) – Jackson is far and away the best halfback in the AFC East.  He’s already got 1,194 total yards halfway through the season, which is on pace to eclipse O.J. Simpson’s single season Bills record.  He’s also on pace to crush his previous career high for rushing yards in a season.  He is the workhorse behind a potent Bills offense and like Brady will be a candidate for NFL MVP at the end of the year.
  • 2nd team – BenJarvus Green-Ellis (108 car. for 452 yards, 4.2 avg., 5 TDs, 501 total yards) – Green-Ellis narrowly beats out Reggie Bush because he’s been more in touches (and scores) and Shonn Greene because he is more consistent in average per carry.  Green-Ellis is the workhorse in a Patriots offense that uses many different pieces.

Fullbacks

  • 1st team – John Conner, New York Jets (7 car. for 26 yards, 3.7 avg., 1 TD, 35 total yards) – Conner is emerging as a top fullback in the league this year.  He’s been by far the most versatile fullback in the division this season, contributing in the rushing, passing, and blocking games.
  • 2nd team – Corey McIntyre, Buffalo Bills (No stats) – McIntyre hasn’t been utilized as a ball-handler in the Bills offense this year but he is a physical load.  He is a grinder who opens up huge holes for Fred Jackson in the short yardage and goal line situations and Brad Smith in the wildcat formation.

Wide Receivers

  • 1st team – Wes Welker, New England Patriots (66 cat. for 960 yards, 6 TDs, 42 1Ds) – Welker has been off the wall this season and is on pace for his best season to date.  He is one of Tom Brady’s security blankets and is virtually impossible to cover with Brady throwing him the ball.  Oh, and he’s a free agent at year’s end so don’t look for him to slow down any time soon.
  • 1st team – Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins (46 cat. for 644 yards, 2 TDs, 31 1Ds) – Marshall edges out Stevie Johnson for the second WR starting spot on my team.  He’s made headlines for what he’s said off the field so for this year but what he has done on the field has been nothing to sneeze at.
  • 2nd team – Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills (42 cat. for 523 yards, 4 TDs, 28 1Ds) – Johnson was edged out by Marshall for first team honors but makes a fine first receiver off the bench.  Johnson is one of the best route runners in the league.
  • 2nd team – David Nelson, Buffalo Bills (35 cat. for 402 yards, 3 TDs, 19 1Ds) – Nelson beats out Deion Branch for the last WR spot on the team with a bit more consistency.  Nelson has seen fewer targets but has more receptions.  Nelson’s hands are as sure as anyone’s in the league and as such a big target he gets to balls that other receivers can’t.

Tight Ends

  • 1st team – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (44 cat. for 596 yards, 6 TDs, 34 1Ds) – Gronkowski is a beast in the passing game, plain and simple.  He is versatile, he can block and catch, but he is most dangerous in the middle of the field where his big body and athleticism make him incredibly difficult to defend.
  • 2nd team – Dustin Keller, New York Jets (29 cat. for 436 yards, 2 TDs, 21 1Ds) – THE AFC East tight end pool is deep with Aaron Hernandez and Scott Chandler also getting consideration but Keller is just two big a part of the Jets offense to overlook.  He is their best receiver through the first half of the season.

Tackles

  • 1st team – Jake Long, Miami Dolphins – Long’s Dolphins might only have one win but Long is still among the best left tackles in the game in 2011.  Reggie Bush’s 4.9 yards per carry would help speak to that.
  • 1st team – Wayne Hunter, New York Jets – Hunter is probably not the best tackle on his team (see below) but he is the best right tackle in the division with Sebatian Vollmer splitting early time with rookie Nate Solder.
  • 2nd team – D’Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets – Ferguson is definitely not a high first round disappointment for the Jets, playing again at a extremely high level while guarding Mark Sanchez’s blind side.
  • 2nd team – Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots – Vollmer has been plagued by health problems and has dealt with the emergence of fellow right tackle Nate Solder but is consistent as ever when he’s in there.

Guards

  • 1st team – Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills – Levitre has been a monster this season for the Bills.  He’s done all that’s been asked of him, including kicking out to left tackle the past two games for the Bills’ injured tackles.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked just twice in those two games.
  • 1st team – Brian Waters, New England Patriots – Waters was a great veteran pickup by the Patriots just before the start of the regular season.  Waters has stabilized a line that was inconsistent at time for the Pats last season.
  • 2nd team – Logan Mankins, New England Patriots – Mankins is having another great season, just not one as good as Andy Levitre’s up in Buffalo.  Mankins is the anchor for the Pats offensive line.
  • 2nd team – Vernon Carey, Miami Dolphins – Carey has not skipped a beat moving inside from right tackle to right guard this year, playing at his usually high level and being a beast in the run game.

Centers

  • 1st team – Nick Mangold, New York Jets – Mangold missed a few games earlier this year due to a high ankle sprain but he is by far the best center in the NFL when healthy.  He is dominant virtually any time out there.  He was sorely missed during his injury, a huge blow to the Jets offense
  • 2nd team – Eric Wood, Buffalo Bills – Wood is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his first season back at his college position.  He would probably  a 1st teamer if he was in any other division, or Mangold wasn’t in his.  He might be the best pull center in the league.

Kickers

  • 1st team – Nick Folk, New York Jets (12-13 FGs, 23-23 XPs, 50 long) – Folk has been the most consistent kicker in the division, only missing once and being 2 out of 3 from over 50 yards out.
  • 2nd team – Rian Lindell, Buffalo Bills (13-15 FGs, 25-25 XPs, 49 long) – Lindell has had his usual consistent season with 13 makes, including a game winner against the Patriots.  Unfortunately he will miss the next 4-6 games for the Bills with a shoulder injury.

Defense tomorrow

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Eric Wood’s Canadian Tuxedo vrs. Stevie Johnson’s Halloween Costume – who ya got?

So Eric Wood paid tribute to Toronto as he headed up north to play in this season’s Toronto series game with his best Canadian tuxedo.  He was kind enough to post a pic on Twitter:

Meanwhile Stevie Johnson had a nice Halloween costume.  He dressed as his head coach Chan Gailey…not much of a resemblance and I don’t quite think that Gailey wears his hat like that but funny nonetheless:

So question is who ya got?  Which look is better?  Wood or Stevie?

Thoughts on Bills/Eagles

If someone told you at the beginning of the year that one of these teams would be 4-1 and one would be 1-4 by time they left Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday evening you wouldn’t be surprised.  But how about if they told you that the Eagles would be the 1-4 team and the Bills would be the 4-1 team?  Surprise.  The dream team is anything but and the Bills have shocked the NFL with their fast start in the AFC East.  Here are my not so quick thoughts on the game:

  • Anyone could have told you that the key to beat the Eagles would be to pound them with Freddie Jackson but that still doesn’t make actually watching it all the more impressive.  A team that can’t tackle going up against Fred Jackson and his offensive line (more on them later) is a recipe for disaster and trust me, disaster is a word being used often in Philly these days.
  • It’s not often that you can say that they fell for the oldest trick in the book but boy did the Eagles fall for the oldest trick in the book.
  • Donald Jones’ high ankle sprain really hurt the Bills offense as the game went on.  The Eagles defense stacked the box and played everything underneath because they didn’t respect the speed of the Bills receivers.  We’ll see if Gailey can adjust to the injury with a week of preparation.  Something tells me if they don’t look outside for some help in the passing game that C.J. Spiller’s role would increase.
  • Defensively the Bills brought more pressure than they have all season long and kept Michael Vick on his toes for the most part.  For the second straight week it seemed like they were getting a much better push in the first half than they were in the second half which is a bit troubling, especially when you look at the Bills time of possession stats for the year.  Still you can see some of the guys like Merriman, Dareus, Moats, etc. look like they are about ready to break out.  An immobile Eli Manning may be able to speed up that process.
  • The Bills might have the best safety tandem in the league with George Wilson and Jairus Byrd.  Byrd plays the run tough and has laid some absolute lumber in the past few weeks and Wilson has been a revelation in the pass defense.  He also plays the run pretty well near the line of scrimmage.
  • While we are on the subject, and I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but does anyone really miss Donte Whitner or Paul Posluzny, two high round draft picks, when they see George Wilson (undrafted as a Wide Receiver) and Nick Barnett (free agent after being cut by the Packers)?
  • It’s encouraging for the Bills to see young players like Kelvin Sheppard, Alex Carrington, and Chris Hairston contributing to a win like they did yesterday.
  • It was another good day for Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin however it was another messy day for the 3rd and 4th men on the depth chart.  You have to wonder how many yards this defense will actually give up with Terrence McGee back in the lineup and healthy.
  • And now just a few words about the offensive line of the Buffalo Bills.  First let’s take a look back in time, to the pre-season to be precise.  Part of the reason the Bills season so far is such a surprise is that so many people were convinced that this offensive line was so bad that their offense would be a train wreck.  I went back to some of the big NFL previews to say exactly what they said about the Bills coming into the year.  ESPN’s Matt Williamson called the Bills offensive line “very problematic.”  Pro Football Focus offered this analysis – “Put it this way, every single starter on the Bills offensive line who played at least 250 snaps had a negative grade last year. Factor in that they haven’t really made any moves to upgrade a unit that ranked 24th last year and they’re left counting on development to get them up to scratch. That’s always an iffy strategy that can sometimes come about as a result of not being able to get the guys (such as Tyson Clabo) they wanted to.”  RealFootball365 was almost embarrassed for the unit with this critique – “O-Line – the team’s Achilles Heel, the line has been inept for so long that it is embarrassing. Wood at center is solid as is Levitre at guard the rest of the line is up in the air. Pears, Bell, Rhinehart and Urbik strike fear in no one, they are average at best! Wang and Hairston are projects, for some reason Hang has fallen out of favor and the rest I won’t even mention. I’m sure Nix will be watching the waiver wire on Saturday.”
  • Now for the facts – Through five games Fred Jackson is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.  The team as a whole is averaging 4.9.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked three times in five games.  Three times.  In Five games.  Give Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey all the credit you want but results are results and those are damn fine results thus far.  Eric Wood and Andy Levitre in particular are Pro Bowl worthy.

No matter how you slice it the Bills are a 4-1 team and the Eagles are in the NFC East cellar at 1-4.  Who knows what the Bills will do going forward but they faced another tough test this week when they face the Giants at the Meadowlands.  The Eagles season is on the brink with a huge divisional game against the Redskins next week.  Until then I’m sure there will be plenty more talk taking us into Week 6.