God bless Peter King. His ability to remain objective while writing less than 24 hours after the last Sunday game is remarkable. It's difficult to view games in an objective, unemotional way that soon after the finals are tallied. I deliberately wait until Monday night to write, giving me time to digest Sunday's game. I do this in an attempt to remain objective, and not get too high or low. King is obviously a better writer.
Miscues. The Buffalo Bills put on a clinic on how to ensure a loss. Receivers dropped two passes that ended up in the arms of the Miami Dolphins, charged as interceptions to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The offense went 0-for-12 on third down, and 0-for-2 on fourth down. The Bills were uncharacteristically 0-for-3 in the red zone, and the normally sound special teams unit had a punt blocked. Adding insult to injury, Andy Levitre couldn't get the ball to Fitzpatrick in the shotgun, contributing to four Buffalo fumbles, though none were lost. This also kept Fitzpatrick out of sync while attempting to field the snap. Overall, Buffalo beat themselves far more than Miami beat the Bills - and Miami played pretty well.
Receivers. I'm usually not a big believer in Colin Cowherd theories. He's maintained for weeks that he didn't buy into Buffalo's success because they didn't have a lot of large-school, high-round picks on the team. For the most part, I think his opinion is not well-researched and mostly a hunch. In context of the Buffalo receivers, though, I think his point is well taken. The "Goon Squad" hasn't covered themselves with glory in the past three weeks. David Nelson has gotten open in spurts, but hasn't been the target he was in September. Donald Jones isn't getting open, and Brad Smith has been ineffective. Buffalo's best receiving options right now are Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson, and neither player is the type you want at the top of the receiving box score while trying to establish a vertical passing game. Steve Johnson's injuries aren't helping, but this group isn't getting open.
Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has proven over the past three weeks that he isn't the next Kurt Warner cinderella story. He's more Matt Cassel. Fitzpatrick is what he is: when given a good running game, protection, and receivers getting open, he'll make the right choices and move the team. He isn't an elite quarterback, nor is he ever likely to be. With everything crumbling around him on Sunday, he crumbled as well. Elite quarterbacks can carry their teams. Fitzpatrick hasn't delivered when his team needed to be carried.
Rush Defense. Only one positive this week. Buried in the blowouts is that Buffalo's run defense is improving. It should be. It was the team's most glaring weakness for years. Buddy Nix has acquired two defensive tackles, two 3-4 ends, and three inside linebackers in free agency or high in the draft over the past two off-seasons. The commitment of organizational resources is starting to pay off. After factoring out Matt Moore's totals, Miami called 32 runs and gained 93 yards, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. While the Dolphins aren't among the league's rushing juggernauts, they rush for the 14th-most yards per game, gaining 112.3 yards per contest. The league average is 114.3 per game. While Miami's offense was efficient, they didn't get much on the ground, being held 20 yards under their per-game average. Nix built the defense from the football out, and we're starting to see a return on investment.
Buffalo has to run the table to make the playoffs. That's unlikely. They've two very tough games on the road against the Jets and the Patriots, and neither game looks winnable. The Bills have winnable games against the Titans, Dolphins and Broncos, all at home. San Diego on the road is a pick'em.
The Bills are probably staring 9-7 or 8-8 in the face. While that's a hard pill to swallow after starting 5-2, it's about right for this team, and realistically, it's a better record than what the talent on the team indicates. Reality is settling in that Buffalo is still in year two of a rebuild, and are at or exceeding expectations. It's up to these Bills to fall in line with this assessment, play worse, or show everyone that they are better than this recent stretch of games, starting Sunday against the Jets.