It’s time to take a breath...
The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 heading into the bye. They are 3-1 in the AFC and in sole control of the first wildcard spot and the five seed (if the season ended today). They’ve beaten the teams they “should” and only lost to the New England Patriots, the defending champs who may be the only other team that possesses a similarly dominant defense as the Bills.
Prior to the season, any prognosticators who went through the Bills’ schedule and tried to forecast the path to the playoffs would have picked these games to go exactly as they have gone. And that would have been tinged with a pinch of optimism.
Surely special teams would be inconsistent. Surely the offense would have put some things on tape for how they can be shut down. Surely the defense’s weaknesses would have been stumbled across for all opponents to review. Surely poor time management was going to leave us all rolling our eyes straight out of our heads and into our Labatt.
To some extent, all of these things have happened. The difference is none of them contributed to a trademark “Billsy” loss. The sort of loss that gives lifeblood to the WGR callers and Twitter trolls alike. And the fact that over a month into the season this team has found ways to overcome its own inadequacies and allow other teams to be the ones to beat themselves is some kind of “new” for Bills fans.
There have been brief moments of hope and confidence. 2008. 2011. 2013. They all came crashing back to earth in ways we dare not outline here.
So what will come in 2019?
It seems different this time. The brain trust is in robust lockstep. Just kidding, but seriously.
The salary cap is not about to fall off a cliff. The draft capital pantry is well stocked. The owner, GM, and coach all seem to get along. The locker room is free from almost any controversial personalities. The media isn’t clamoring for any heads on spikes.
So what now? The only potential other shoe to drop seems to be the on-the-field product. Will Josh Allen regress? Will Brian Daboll’s offense lose its edge? Will the discipline of McDermott start leaking from the heads of his players? The reasons to confidently believe that those things will happen remain evasive.
Could this team backslide? Absolutely. Is there a 20-year team history of PTSD that generates those insecurities at the speed of cookies coming from the Keebler elves? Of course. But even this team’s inadequacies are not the obvious sort that prevent any optimism from creeping into the fan base.
State of the team
Josh Allen has shown progress, especially in reigning in the “hero ball” plays against the Tennessee Titans. The defense is suffocating. The offense has shown its ability to move the ball, especially against less-than-top-tier defenses.
The team is not without blemishes: The offense consistently stalls out after halftime, the offensive line seems less settled than desirable, and the pass rush could be more consistent. There are more complaints that could be listed, but you get the point.
So where do we go from here?
“Just enjoy the ride” seems to be the timeless sage advice one hears every time they voice concerns or anxieties about something good they’re afraid to trust. Sound familiar?
There’s reason to be excited and that optimism is running through Bills Mafia full force. So much so that it filled Nissan Stadium with seemingly as many Bills fans as Titans fans on Sunday. Even still, worries, anxieties, nit-picking, and naysayers abound.
The Bills have given their fans everything they could want through their first five games. How fans handle actually getting what they want is what we will all stew with for the next two weeks until the Miami Dolphins come to New Era Field on October 20th.
You can follow me on Twitter @NickBat and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.