It's Monday, and even though the Buffalo Bills are a full three days removed from their most recent loss - in this case, a 19-13 loss to the New York Jets in Toronto - Monday means it's film session day.
You know the drill. We've added a few thoughts about teams and games outside of this (dreary) matchup, so that's slightly different, but you know what to expect. As always, feel free to add your own thoughts and observations to those presented here in the comments section.
Rex Ryan has Buffalo's number. Buffalo put up 29 points in two games against the Jets this season. They ran the ball well in (extremely occasional) spots, and were able to hit the (extremely occasional) big play. But New York's offense was also very kind to Buffalo, giving them plenty of opportunities to put both games away, and the Bills were only able to do so once. Just how thoroughly is Rex Ryan's defense owning Buffalo's offense? Take a quick look at Ryan Fitzpatrick's stat line in the two games: 39.6% completions (19 of 48), 214 yards (4.46 yards per attempt), 1 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks and a quarterback rating of 43.2. Fitzpatrick's quarterback rating of 43.2 is only slightly higher than the number of yards per quarter Thomas Jones picked up against the Bills this season (39.9).
Ryan's defense didn't do a ton, but given Buffalo's massive upheaval along the offensive line, it did the only thing it needed to do: run a bunch of exotic blitzes and confuse the hell out of Buffalo's blockers. Just like in Week 6, the Bills had opportunities to make plays down the field in this one - Lee Evans was open on intermediate routes several times, for example - but overload blitzes and stunts got pass protection out of whack, and Fitzpatrick was forced to either throw an inaccurate pass or eat the ball nearly every time.
I feel bad for Ron From NM. Not because of anything he's done or anything that's in his control. I just feel bad that most of the excellent, hard work he puts into analyzing Buffalo's offensive line on an annual basis will be largely meaningless this season. Demetrius Bell hasn't played enough to be evaluated fairly. Grades on Jonathan Scott, Kendall Simmons, Kirk Chambers and Jamon Meredith will be largely meaningless, because none of those players figure to be in Buffalo's long-term plans.
If I were Ron - and if I were him, he'd be me, and he'd probably use my body to do his usual analysis anyway - I'd just focus on three guys in my ultimate end-of-season analysis. Those three guys would be Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner and Eric Wood. They're the only guys who've played enough to fairly evaluate, and considering that fact alone, it's not hard to understand why Buffalo's offense is so ridiculously awful.
Given everything that's happened up front this season, as well as the fact that the Jets threw exotic looks at the Bills again, I came away impressed with Levitre. I think it's pretty safe to say that he has been the Bills' best lineman this season, his first in the league. He's played in every game, he's acquitted himself nicely when asked to play positions beyond his skill level (left tackle), and while he's had his ups and downs, his technique and consistency have come a long way since September 14 in New England. He's going to be a good player in this league for a while.
We've already talked about the abysmal run defense. Read that article if you missed it, but if you're looking for the Cliff's Notes version: backside contain and gap discipline are lacking, the linebackers stink, and the secondary is hit-and-miss in run support across the board.
That's it. I don't think I can talk about the rest of the team, because the game was so dreadfully boring and repetitive that we won't learn anything new by re-hashing what we've been talking about for three months. Blech. This team is awful to root for sometimes.
Mark Sanchez has the stuff to be the real deal. When I'm looking at a young quarterback, I don't care as much about the throws and the production as I do about what he looks like in the pocket. Sanchez has a little bit of a Tony Romo flair to him - he's quite mobile, can throw from different arm angles, and can create throwing lanes with his movement. He's terrific with ball fakes, and he has the arm to eventually make "all the throws," as they say in the biz. Yes, he's struggled in two games against the Bills this year, but I beg you to understand that that is not likely to continue. Sanchez is gonna be pretty good.
The AFC East stinks. Is there a more overrated division in the NFL? Our division leader is 7-5. Buffalo has beaten each of the two teams currently a game behind New England - who also barely beat us in the season opener. New England split with New York and Miami, two highly, highly average teams. I mean, they lost to the Bills, for crying out loud.
Going into the season, fans fretted about the "difficulty" of the two divisions the AFC East would be playing in 2009 - the AFC South and the NFC South. Granted, those two divisions sport the only two undefeated teams in football, but beyond those two teams, there aren't any others that strike fear into its opponents, with the possible exception of the Tennessee Titans of the last six games. This division is 7-5 against the NFC South - although, to be fair, they're 7-1 against teams not playing in New Orleans - and, more pertinently to the overrated argument, they're 3-6 against the AFC South.
There aren't any elite divisions in the NFL this season - mostly because there aren't many elite teams - but the AFC East race, at least in my personal opinion, is one of the least exciting out there. Which is, of course, a bummer.