Whatever Buffalo Bills fans thought being 5-1 would feel like, it doesn’t feel exactly like that. It’s less savory than expected.
No one knew at the beginning of the 2019 season that the AFC would be such a top- and bottom-heavy conference. Only four AFC teams currently sit within one game in either direction of .500. That feels odd, although it may not be (I’m not digging through the record books to find previous years’ Week 7 standings). The point is it’s hard to know who you are in comparison of those around you if they’re all bad.
The Fitzpatrick Fish
The Miami Dolphins found some serious life with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. The previously dominant Bills defense was pushed around in the run game and Levi Wallace was taken advantage of in the passing game. An offense that was expected to be tepid at best was frustratingly effective and went into the fourth quarter with a 14-9 lead. It would have likely been even worse if Tre’Davious White didn’t come up with an exceptional interception to stop the Dolphins’ 10-minute opening drive of the second half.
Why did Miami move the ball so much better than we expected? Why was their run game so effective? Why did Ryan Fitzpatrick have a better day against this team than Tom Brady did three weeks ago?
These are the questions that stain the minds of Bills fans as they reflect on another fourth-quarter comeback where the Bills put up 22 unanswered points to walk away with a win on Sunday.
So what are the Bills?
5-1 is great; it’s literally damn-near perfect. No one wants to give any of the wins back. But the issue is that in previous years when Bills fans would look at another team with a record similar to 5-1, they’d almost certainly be thought of as a “good” team. But now when looking in the mirror to see that same record, it’s harder to feel like that title really sticks to this team.
The offense can move the ball but struggles to finish in the end zone. The defense was great until today when they suddenly seemed mortal (or worse) against the worst talent they’ve faced all year. Josh Allen has made progress, but there’s so much more needed.
So what are the Bills? Well, as Bill Parcells would say, “you are what your record says you are.” Somehow it doesn’t feel so simple for the Bills. Partially that’s because their opponents to date have been a combined 12-26. How good are you when you’ve beaten teams with a combined record of 6-26 and lost to a team that is 6-0? Perhaps even more importantly, how good are you when you win and lose the way the Bills have?
What will we learn next week?
Ultimately the Bills came out flat and uninspired from their bye but still got the win. Now they move on to prepare for a far more formidable challenge in the Philadelphia Eagles next week.
Each week, Bills fans find themselves saying “if we do _____ this week, then we’ll know if they’re good.” That week then comes and goes, the Bills accomplish some semblance of the requested thing from that game, and fans are still unable to commit to an opinion about the team.
There is no end in sight for this cycle. The Bills haven’t been here often and all this mental muscle memory is being built within the fan base for the first time in nearly two decades. It’s safe to say it’s going to be a slow go of it until either the Wild Card is virtually clinched or the offense shows up in a way they haven’t yet in 2019. The opportunity for the latter will be there again this Sunday at New Era Field. And the Sunday after that. And so on.
You can follow me on Twitter @NickBat and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.