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Bills must conquer themselves before opponents

That look from Terrell Owens, pictured right? That just about perfectly sums up some of the problems that the Buffalo Bills have exhibited through three games in this still-young (which is important to remember) NFL season.

In Dick Jauron's first three seasons as the head coach of the Bills, the teams were a lot of things - inconsistent, incapable of finishing games, and all the rest of those things that need no mention.  One thing we could always count on, however, was Buffalo not (routinely) killing themselves with bad mistakes.

Buffalo chose to get younger in several key areas this off-season.  Two of those critical areas were along the offensive line and in the depth department.  One of the league's least-penalized teams over the past three seasons, the Bills - thanks mostly to their youth - are the league's worst in that department this season.

Bills are the most-penalized team in the league.  Buffalo has been flagged 28 times in three games.  That's the highest total in the league.  So, too, are their 242 penalty yards.  The Bills did a rather remarkable job of rebounding from these mistakes in their season-opening loss to New England and in their Week 2 victory over Tampa Bay.  They didn't come close to it in yesterday's loss to New Orleans.

Think about that for a second - the Bills are committing over nine penalties per game.  They had a round dozen in yesterday's loss.  Buffalo's opponents are giving back as much as they've been taking - the Pats, Bucs and Saints have been penalized 28 times in the Bills' three games.  In the land of all things equal, the Bills are just as sloppy as their opponents.

And that's sort of the point.  Buffalo is talented, but they're young - and to beat more talented, more veteran teams, you have to make fewer mistakes than your opponents.  The Bills aren't - and it's killing their chances of making the most of their opportunities to win football games.

Bills are struggling to make up the difference.  Penalties are harmful, yes, but they don't lose football games for you - it's an inability to recover from those mistakes that ultimately harms you.  Buffalo has been extremely hit-and-miss - mostly miss - in this department.

Chew on this stat for a second: Buffalo's offense has been faced with third-down situations 36 times in three games.  They've moved the sticks on just 10 of those opportunities.  Their 27.8% conversion rate puts them at No. 27 in the league in sustaining drives.  They're also -1 in turnover margin; Buffalo's defense has done well to force four turnovers from some pretty solid offenses in these games, but Trent Edwards and the offense have turned it right back over five times.

Buffalo has forced its opponents to make mistakes this season.  They've made far too many themselves to adequately take advantage of their opponents' blunders.  Add in an inability to consistently move the ball, and several missed opportunities (mostly dropped passes from numerous receivers), and the team's 1-2 record is hardly surprising.

It's desperation time, folks.  That's a tough spot to be in heading into Week 4, but it's true.  Buffalo is playing mistake-laden, youthful football, they're really banged up, and they're heading to Miami in the midst of a seven-game losing streak against AFC East foes.  A loss to the 0-3 Dolphins would leave Buffalo at 1-3 and dead last in the division.

If ever there has been a must-win game for this football team, next week is it.  If we're 1-3, all hell could break loose.

The real question isn't whether or not Buffalo will play with a sense of desperation - and yeah, we know the Dolphins definitely will be - but whether or not that desperation will lead to more mistakes as our young guys press to make plays.  A sense of desperation would be nice, but it could lead to even sloppier play.  These young Bills have a lot of growing up to do.  The maturation process needs to start next week in Miami.