So far this year has been kind of weird for me. During the off season I felt like I defended the Bills saying they weren't as bad as people made them out to be. Now they are sitting at 4-1 and I feel like the Bills aren't as good as they are made out to be. I guess that's parity in the NFL and just goes to show you that the cliche "Any Given Sunday" exists for a reason. I actually like a lot of things that the Bills have done so far this year, i'm close to buying into this team but i'm skeptical for a few reasons that i'll list below. One things for sure, the Bills have the opportunities to make me a Billeiver over the next few weeks.
1) Win on the road: The Chan Gailey led Bills are 3-7 on the road. Not very good is it? When you go into another teams stadium you have to overcome the emotion from the fans. One thing that goes unnoticed though is that you don't have the energy that your home stadium creates when you're away from the Ralph. The Bills need really start winning on the road and show that they don't have to rely on the energy of the fans to win ball games. I honestly feel that the 12th man played a part of some of our victories. Time to show we're a good football team and start winning consistently on the road because 4 of the next 6 games are on the road.
2) Win without winning the turnover battle: There's nothing wrong with winning the turnover battle. It's a great thing to have on your side and it shows that your defense is making plays. Too many times over the past few years we've been on the wrong end of the turnover battle and we've suffered because of it. However, I think the fact that we picked off Brady 4 times and won by 3 points; picked off Vick 4 times and only won by 7 makes me nervous. You cannot count on turnovers because they won't always be there.
I know that if we're playing from behind and/or specific game situations dictate that you play differently but it gives me great pause to know that we've really handily won the turnover battle yet have only barely beat these teams. Certainly the Eagles and Patriots are good football teams (yes, the Eagles are good) but it's just concerning to me and I don't think you can consistently count on turnovers, especially in the volume that we've gotten them.
3) The deep ball: The deep ball isn't a prerequisite to victory, even Chan said there are different ways to stretch a defense (both vertically and horizontally). However, last week Fitz only attempted 2 passes over 10 yards and both were incomplete. That could have been the game plan because of the Eagles great DBs but fact remains that we don't have a single deep threat and we don't attempt those passes enough. I know protection, scheme and game planning all play a part of that but we need to take shots.
Fitz has been good with throws inside 20 yards - he's:
he’s completed 109 of 149 passes (73%), for 1100 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Primarily taking three step drops and working out of the shotgun, Fitzpatrick has only been pressured on 19.7% of drop backs (35 of 178) good for second best in the league.
But you still need the deep ball and if the Bills don't start hitting a few of them, especially early in games, then you're going to see DBs really jump routes and get picks.
4) TE Play: Chandler has been a revelation of sorts in the red-zone but he hasn't done much inside the 20's. That needs to change.
5) Defensive yardage: So the Bills have played some really good offenses; the Patriots, Eagles and Raiders all have really good offenses but are doing a terrible job of stopping teams from picking up too much yardage. Consistency stopping the run remains the biggest issue but pass rush also is a concern. However, we did a much better job against the Eagles as far as pressure and blitz packages so I think the lack of pass rush against certain teams (Patriots, Raiders) were because of our game plan.
Every NFL team has flaws and the Bills are one of them. I'm not suggesting that the Bills fix everything but they really need to come out and show me they are a more solid, fundamental team than what i'm seeing right now. These road games are going to be key to our season. The next 6 weeks really are what is going to make or break our season, not the past 5 weeks. If we can come out and win on the road while picking up 2 or 3 divisional wins then i'll re-evaluate.
Right now though they've played some of the most entertaining football that i've seen in a long time. I really like this team from the coaches down to the players. I think it's time that this team takes the next step and that is more workman like type victories on the road and against divisional opponents. I think the Bills can do it but right now i'm not so sure. It's time for the Bills to put on their hard hats and get to work.