They've been who we thought they'd be.
One-quarter of the way through the 2015 NFL regular season, the Buffalo Bills are 2-2, and find themselves among nine teams in the AFC that are currently .500 or better. They'll probably stay in that pack for the remainder of the regular season, keeping themselves in the conference playoff chase for at least the bulk of the regular season, which is sort of what everyone was expecting from them, anyway.
Sure, we missed on some of the details. We always do.
In the pleasant surprise category, Ronald Darby has not only managed to avoid completely flaming out as a rookie starting cornerback, he is playing well enough to earn league-wide recognition for his hot start. Tyrod Taylor is still trying to establish a modicum of consistency under center, but has played well enough thus far to spark a bit of hope that his position might not be the team's biggest hindrance in their bid to end a 15-season playoff drought. And while the performances did occur against two of the more dysfunctional organizations in the AFC, the Bills' two wins have been of the dominant, comfortable variety.
On the flip side, the Bills have already lost the vast majority of nine games played between critically important starters - namely, LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, John Miller, Marcell Dareus, and Aaron Williams - and more are coming. Rex Ryan's defense hasn't been bad, but they haven't been great, they have yet to find a counter-punch for the quick-strike passing game, and they certainly aren't posting the expected gaudy statistics or challenging for consideration as the best defense in the league. For all of the time Ryan spent talking up the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills have already dropped two of their first three games in Orchard Park, with as-yet-undefeated Cincinnati next up in two weeks. Most distressingly, in two ugly losses, Ryan's team has melted down under pressure, with a slew of yellow flags serving as proof of the trend.
A year ago at this time, the Bills were 2-2 - but instead of dealing with this year's story lines centering around injury concerns and a frankly unbelievable amount of penalties, those 2014 Bills were muddling through a quarterback change. The year before that? They'd just beaten the defending Super Bowl champions at home with a rookie quarterback under center to hit the 2-2 mark. That small sample size is more than enough of a reminder that perspectives after Week 4 are barely ever relevant when the season reaches its conclusion.
The Bills are 2-2. They've been there before, just with less hype and without the roller-coaster emotions. They've had two immensely satisfying games, and two that have been incredibly frustrating. As the banged-up squad enters the second quarter of the regular season, they'll try to even things out - and not just in terms of their on-field production. Fewer lows; more highs. Fewer mental breakdowns; smarter play. Better game plans; savvier in-game adjustments. They're capable of all of these things, and they're talented enough to stack up a bunch of wins if any number of them occur.
They've been who we thought they'd be - at least for the most part. The 2-2 Bills will begin their drive to be more on the road this coming Sunday, when they take on the 1-2 Tennessee Titans in Nashville.