I never thought I’d be so excited to see the Buffalo Bills play this Sunday. I know all football fans are sharing this feeling with me, no matter how loudly they proclaimed they’d never watch another game back in February/early November. But after a summer that had the whole world asking, “Seriously though, is this the End of Days?” I don’t think America’s ever been more ready for the return of football. Sure it’s barbaric in every sense of the word. Yeah, you can get suspended longer for being a drug user than a wife abuser. Ok, so it’s literally killing the players before our eyes, bu-HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE HOW HARD HE JUST HIT THAT GUY?
Moving on, the Bills are back and they are quite possibly better than they have ever been since the turn of the century. Of course, this might only mean they’re as good as you can be while not making the playoffs. Somehow Year 2 of Manuel/Marrone/Whaley seems less stable than it was a year ago today (FUCK BON JOVI), which is probably a bad sign. But one thing is for certain. We won’t find out how good they are on Sunday.
No team with as many question marks as the Bills figures themselves out in one game, particularly if said game is the opener. Double that if the game is on the road to a team with serious playoff aspirations. This Sunday, every Bills fan you see will be sharing your thoughts of “Oh my God, I’m about to watch the Red Wedding in football form, aren’t I...” But then you’ll shake your head laugh, and remember this is a time to celebrate and enjoy the return of a game you’ve loved since childhood. At least wait until mid-October to get depressed.
1) Sammy Watkins
2) We might actually win!
Bear with me now (BOOM, WORD PLAY, I'M BACK BABY!). The opening game of the season usually means a great deal of optimism followed by half a case of beer and no dialogue besides curse words. But this is a team, aside from a few lost free agents, that almost beat the Patriots in last year’s opener.
Oh, who am I kidding, we’re probably gonna get destroyed. But it’s the beginning of the year! I'll save the cynicism for after the game! For now, let's just enjoy the sunny outlook. Their quarterback is a tantrum waiting to happen. Their run defense is terrible. Their coach looks like he does their taxes in his spare time for fun.
What’s that? Bad groin? God damnit.
I said it before but it bears repeating. Holy shit, thank God football is back. This year has been fucking awful. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers are gone. War is in nearly every corner of the Middle East. We’re witnessing a power trip of Napoleonic levels in Eastern Ukraine. Our own country is broiling with global warming and racial tension. It’s like a Michael Bay movie, except less charming, you never get to leave, and even more things are exploding. And yet somehow, we’ll all sit down on Sunday, have a few drinks, laugh at the FOX robot, and pretend like none of it is happening.
(Seriously though, how is FOX still trotting out that ridiculous animation every week? I feel like someone must have tried to get rid of it, but were overruled by the unbeatable logic of “Yeah, people always say how stupid it is, but they’re still talking about it!” If someone charged $50 a week to watch games without any commentary or graphics whatsoever, just one camera and an occasional scoreboard, we’d all sprain our wrists getting our wallets out.)
Even with my favorite baseball team, the Orioles, headed to the playoffs (KNOCK ON ALL OF THE WOODS), I’m far more excited about the Bills right now than the Birds’ first division title since 1997. (Yeah, I just called them the Birds, want to fight about it every other Avian team fan?) When you check back with me in a few weeks, I’m sure I’ll sing a slightly different tune, but for now the optimism is humming in my ears and I’m loving every second of it.
THREE THINGS TO BE TERRIFIED OF:
1) Jim Schwartz
Oh my God I can’t believe we hired Jim Schwartz. The guy who somehow made Jim Harbaugh look like the bigger man is now our defensive coordinator.
But seriously folks, the biggest bright spot last season was our defense. I’m usually not one to deny statistics, but it just looked like they had finally crossed the hurdle from “wide-open highway” to “competent defense gameplanning.” Of course then the Browns went with their second second-choice coach in two seasons and stole Mike Pettine away from us. Maybe you thought he was overrated, but it seems obvious that his defensive schemes are vastly different than Jim Schwartz’s. And before people tell me all about how good his defenses were, once upon a time, and how he’s going to adjust his schemes, remind yourselves that that’s what every coordinator ever says right before they do things the way they always have and will.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we’re doomed for the rest of his tenure. But I am saying that defenses always need an adjustment from one coach to the next regardless of how much the playbook changes. And when you’re headed on the road to a team with one of the better offenses in football, there’s not much time to work out the kinks. We won’t find out definitively how good they can be this Sunday, but we might see how poorly they can play.
2) Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery
Dear Lord, have you seen these guys? (Cut to the 1:20 mark and enjoy the Lil' Jon)
We all know the deal here. The Bills haven't had a reliable quarterback since "that one year with Drew Bledsoe" and last season didn't exactly tell us what kind of quarterback we have. And rather than bring in a backup who might threaten to take E.J.'s job and provide a little extra motivation, we went the keep scrubs around until you realize they're not legally allowed to be considered NFL quarterbacks and hire Kyle Orton route. Of course I don't blame them. Having someone even as mediocre as Orton opens up the eventuality, not the possibility mind you, but the inevitable moment this season where someone at the bar says they should bench E.J. and quote "see what (insert any QB who's ridden our bench for the last 15 years name) can do!"
I know you all had the same thought I did when they started praising Jeff Tuel (Trent Edwards 2.0) during training camp: "Holy shit, they're grooming him to start." Never mind that Thad Lewis actually won a couple games for us, as did E.J., while all Tuel managed to do was exist in a uniform, but THE GUY'S GOT GRIT AND I LOVE HIS ATTITUDE. Vomit, rinse, repeat.
The worst thing that can happen to E.J. is to have an epically bad game to open the season. And this game could certainly be that, particularly if our running game looks as woeful as it did for large chunks of last season. The Bears run defense is bad, but our offensive line could be worse. And with Jared Allen coming off the edge, E.J. won't have time to simply wait for his first read to get open. He's going to need to show improvement or he's going to get annihilated.
WHY YOU SHOULD HATE THEM:
On paper, we consider ourselves very similar to Chicago. Mid-west blue collar towns that give guys like Mike Ditka a forever career because they gave us warm, fuzzy feelings when we were kids.
What? The guy loved hunting and he's from Chicago. #nailedit
Seriously though, for a fan base that likes to complain as much as the rest of us, outside of Wrigley Field, none of them have anything to complain about. Even when something epically awful happens to them, say losing a superstar player like Derrick Rose, which admittedly sucks, their team responds by going to the playoffs every year. Rough life.
For years, their biggest problem was they never ever had a decent quarterback. Now that they have one (arguably a great one), some of them seriously wonder if they let the future walk out the door in Josh McCown because the guy was a "Grabowski." Which is a word they actually created and use to describe less talented, blue collar guys who play extra hard, cause that's what they gotta do, aka the 2000-2014 Buffalo Bills. We actually have the kind of team they say they want. It sucks. You don't actually want those guys. You want prima donna assholes like Jay Cutler who marry Kristen Cavallari, deny the validity of vaccines, and then go out and throw 4 touchdowns every Sunday. We get to complain because we're perennially awful and players openly take shots at our city. (There's a 98% chance that a DGWUS tweet will get trolled by Donte Whitner this season.) Meanwhile, some in Chicago feel constantly disrespected by other major cities, even though everyone on the planet has nothing but good things to say about Chicago. Fuck you, Bears.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Hey, did you guys hear the one about the wide receiver who went to the Kentucky Derby and his friends were like, "Hey, have you ever tried Molly?" and the receiver was like, "What's Molly?" and his friends were like, "It's a drug. It makes you feel awesome" and the receiver was all, "Ew, gross, you guys. I'm a professional football player and my body is a temple and I don't do the drugs, unless my doctor tells me to, I don't want to hang out with you guys anymore... HOLY SHIT, I JUST WON $50,000 GIVE ME ALL THE DRUGS!"
My gut tells me there's just no way the Bills win this one. Every key position is either suspended or nursing an injury already and the Bears' offense is ridiculously stacked. IF E.J. shows the potential that One Bills Drive has been promising us for the past year, then we've got a shot. But ultimately, I see this one slipping away late like so many others have. UNTIL E.J. LEADS A LAST MINUTE NO-HUDDLE TOUCHDOWN DRIVE!
Bills 30 - Bears 24
Please just let me enjoy this optimism while I still can. Go Bills.