The Buffalo Bills have lost three games in a row - by a combined score of 106-26, mind you - and are now 5-5 after a surprising 5-2 start. Bills fans with even a remote sense of history are now pointing out the similarities between this Bills team and the 2008 version of the Bills that collapsed in epic fashion after a 5-1 start. The comparisons are valid.
Those 2008 Bills were the toast of the league after their hot start, as exemplified by the ESPN.com screenshot following a Week 4 win over St. Louis. Trent Edwards was a legitimate MVP candidate (pause for laughter). The 2011 Bills, as you're well aware, were AFC East leaders just three weeks ago, and Fred Jackson was in the conversation for MVP.
It all went downhill from there. For both teams, it started in much the same way: injuries, contract extensions and poor divisional play.
Edwards took a vicious hit against Arizona and was concussed; he played well at times after that, but always seemed to be even more hesitant and skittish behind center. Aaron Schobel suffered a Lisfranc foot injury and was lost for the season. This year, the injury list is longer, with prominent sidelined players including Eric Wood, Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman, among others.
Then-head coach Dick Jauron signed a contract extension on October 27, 2008; he'd barely get through a year of that deal. This year, it's Ryan Fitzpatrick's $59 million extension that, at least early on, is looking like an albatross.
The manner in which the two teams lose is even similar. In finishing 7-9 in 2008, the Bills were absolutely pounded by division rivals, ruining a 7-3 non-division record with an 0-6 in-division finish. This year's Bills have an incredibly rare against New England in hand, but were pounded by New York and Miami. A 1-5 divisional finish is looking likely.
Here's the major difference between the 2008 Bills and the 2011 Bills (so far), however: the '08 club didn't get crushed the way this year's team does. Their largest margin of defeat in their 2-8 finish was 13 points, which they did three times. They lost by a score or less in three of those eight losses. They were not blown out in the way that the Bills have been blown out in 16, 37 and 27-point embarrassments in the past three games.
Just like the 2008 team - which was also 5-5 at this point in the season - this year's Bills are still in the thick of the playoff race. Unlike that '08 outfit, they have a big win under their belts, rather than exclusively beating up on league lightweights. Right now, the comparison looks very legitimate. Here's to hoping that this year's Bills break out of their funk and put 2008 back where it belongs: as a distant, unpleasant memory.