Well, that was nice while it lasted. It was fun having fun, wasn't it? Let's do that more.
If you’ve seen as many years of Bills football as I have, last Sunday made you want to vomit. Not out of sickness, so much as to feel something more appealing than yet another mental gut-punch from Tom Brady & Bill Belichick.
It's not that we lost. It's that a season that once seemed different suddenly looked so familiar. For five weeks, we were allowed to think about the postseason without the slightest hint of irony. Now those thoughts are gone. Did anyone watching that game see the playoffs as anything more than an abstract idea? Because nothing about the team’s performance showed they were ready for this important moment in their season. A good defensive effort couldn’t keep the energy up thanks to an ineffective running game and an average quarterback. Even the defense had its moments (DUKE!! WHY!?!) that left me thinking “The season may as well end tomorrow if this is what we’ll see every week.” I’m not saying it’s time to put your Zubaz back in storage. But it’s time to dial down expectations again.
How many times have the Patriots left us feeling like this?
Side note: With all due respect, to the people who keep reminding me that “Yeah, but they were a doormat in the ‘90s.” Shut up. They went to the Super Bowl in 1996. They have more titles than anyone in the AFC East and they’ve routinely smacked all of us around for almost 15 years. Enough with that “fact.” You look like an idiot.
Let’s recap: We got excited when we beat the Bears, stayed excited when Pegula bought the team, tried to hold onto the enthusiasm when Orton became our starter, and somewhere around 4:30pm last Sunday, started making plans to do literally anything else, every Sunday, for the rest of the season.
The god damn plane hasn’t crashed into the mountain, but it’s certainly taken a bit of a nose-dive. Yet Minnesota could be the perfect palate cleanser to get that bad New England taste out of our mouths.
The Vikings are in a bit of a tailspin themselves. Adrian Peterson is on a forced sabbatical. (I don't like saying suspended, because that sounds like he's not getting paid, which he is... SPORTS!) Teddy Bridgewater is currently their quarterback, but if he keeps playing like a guy who wants to get back on the bench, we might have a Christian Ponder sighting sooner than later. Yes. That Christian Ponder. Last but not least, they're averaging 17 points a game while giving up 24 to their opponents. So a 2-4 record sounds about right.
Coach Mike Zimmer doesn't seem to know how to fix this mess. I’m basing this assumption off the fact he hired George Edwards and Norv Turner. Clearly not big on original ideas. He’s threatened fines and playing time (which are two different ways of saying their money), but unless Adrian Peterson figures out a way to make being an awful father legal in the next 3 weeks, their season may have ended already.
Dear God, Bills. Please don't fuck this up.
THREE THINGS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT:
1) It's Not New England!
Minnesota sucks. Not the state. Well, not as far as I know. Never been. No idea. But this team looks terrible. Aside from an opening win against St. Louis when AP was still there and another against Atlanta where they inexplicably ran the ball 44 times for 241 yards (oh, wait, Norv), this team has lost 4 of their opening 6 games to the tune of 109-29. Oops.
Simple as that. Not gonna needlessly fluff this part out. Their best player is out with a bad case of being an asshole. They're not good. Win, Bills. Win.
2) Kyle Orton
Usually Kyle Orton and exciting are words I could never fathom putting in the same sentence. But I've had to swallow crow (oh right, we weren't speaking, I hated this move ... still do) over the last few weeks as the 'stache has put up a 90.9 passer rating with 607 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games. He's also got three bad turnovers and some awful sacks, but damnit, he's all we've got.
What a rallying cry. Seriously, I'm this close to scrapping the rest of the "excited's" and just writing "DAMNIT, THEY'RE ALL WE'VE GOT!" a thousand times like Jack Torrance.
This weekend Kyle faces one of league’s better pass defenses. Despite all their issues, Minnesota has a decent pass defense on paper. Opposing QB's throw a high completion percentage, but the Vikes have the 6th fewest yards against in the league. Of course, then you see their defense ranks 20th in points. Translation: they hired George Edwards as their defensive coordinator. HAVE FUN WITH THAT, MINNESOTA! But seriously folks, this plays into the Bills’ strengths, but Kyle will need to make a few big plays to push the offense over the top and the lead out of reach.
3) Run Defense
Teams are averaging 68 yards on the ground against the Bills. SIXTY-EIGHT!! What is going on?
Remember last year when we played the Patriots and LeGarrette Blount ran up, over, and around us for 60 minutes? Apparently the front 7 decided they had finally had enough. Some of the credit has to go to Jim Schwartz. But how hard was it for someone to finally walk into the huddle and say, "Hey Marcell? Kyle? Can you guys just keep standing next to each other? Thanks!"? He probably expanded on that idea, but it makes life easier when you've got the talent (HOW AM I ALLOWED TO WRITE THIS?) that we've got on our defensive line. People will tell you Mario Williams is overpriced and overrated, but when your line is playing like this, you don't dissect it. You don't question it. Let's not talk ourselves into trading or cutting one of these guys because "THAT JERRY HUGHES LOOKS LIKE HE DOES IT ALL HIMSELF!" Just go with it.
Of course, only the Bills would finally master the art of run defense just in time for their secondary to fall apart, but we take what we can get with this team. Say it with me: Damnit. They're all we've got.
THREE THINGS TO BE TERRIFIED ABOUT:
1) C.J. Spiller
What the hell is wrong with Clifford, Jr.? There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on this. Only an agreement that something is wrong. This argument breaks two ways: Either you think C.J. is purposefully holding back to make it through his last season under contract healthy or you think Marrone & Hackett simply have no idea how to use him properly.
If you want my opinion, and if you've made it this far you must, this one lands squarely on the coaches. Every league is a player's league now. The days of forcing a player to play your way because of respect/loyalty/other buzzwords is over. C.J. should try to stay healthy. The second he gets hurt, he's worthless to the Bills and every other team in the league. No one pays running backs anymore. And since Marrone & Hackett seemingly have no interest in running him anymore (6 carries against New England ... 6), why would he go all out for them?
And before someone says, "Yeah, but he's running like shit," quick - who's the leading rusher on our team? I'll give you two guesses, but you only need one - C.J.
But clearly something is wrong. A guy doesn't lead the team in carries and then suddenly stop getting the ball unless there are issues on the field or issues in the locker room. Is he hurt already? Did he have a fight with Hackett? Is it simply that they've been throwing the ball more and C.J.'s a bad blocker (a flaw that is admittedly lame on his part)? Who knows. But that's not the point. The point is it's the coach's job to get the most out of their players and put them in the best position to succeed. Through the first four games, it looked like Marrone & Hackett had finally figured it out. C.J. had 52 carries, 207 yards, for an average just shy of 4 yards a touch (not to mention averaging around 9 yards a catch). Last two games? 16 carries for 27 yards. W. T. F.
2) Nathaniel Hackett
I'll admit that I'm probably wrong about Orton. It was probably time to give up on E.J. given that he had shown no improvement of any kind thus far and looked like he was starting to regress against the Texans. But the more we've watched this team since his benching, the more it seems like there's a deeper problem and many of us suspect it's the guy holding the clipboard.
Maybe he doesn't trust his blockers. Maybe he doesn't trust his running back. But the Bills have gone from a balanced attack, to a predominant passing game with a quarterback who didn't spend training camp with the team and wasn't even on the roster before the last preseason game. I don't care what film or stats he's looking at. Don't ask Kyle Orton to throw the ball 40 times a game. It's not going to work. For the love of God, please stop. Our best players are in the backfield, but you wouldn't know it from the way we gameplan. The minute we cut C.J. loose, 20 other teams will start bidding on him. Don't believe me? Donald Brown signed a 3-year, $10.5 mil deal with the Chargers. Donald. Brown.
3) Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson was an exciting player to watch last year in his rookie season. He was used mostly as a return specialist and spell back with impressive results. This season? Not so much. Since moving into a regular spot as a receiver, Cordarrelle (whose name I've misspelled EVERY time I've attempted writing this) has only caught four passes in any one game. But this is exactly the kind of guy that worries me whenever we play a team that we're supposed to beat. Because this is the guy who will look like he suddenly figured out the position before kickoff and light us up for 200+ yards and 3 touchdowns. Until last week, I don't think even Brian Tyms knew he played for the Patriots. These are the kinds of moments the Bills give up even when they're good. Just brace yourself for when it happens. It might be an end-around that works at the worst time. It might be a kick return. But this guy is going to make a big play this weekend. Mark my words. Then curse me for it later.
WHY YOU SHOULD HATE THEM
The Minnesota Vikings quietly have one of the shoddiest organizations in football. Their star player thinks beating a child with a switch is good parenting. They STILL employ a well-known bigot. (The NFL totally cares about character, you guys.) And their owner was just ordered to pay $85 million after being convicted of fraud. The same owner that just convinced Minnesota to pony up over $500 million for a new stadium, because, oh right, the old stadium literally imploded. If this team played in a major market, you would've been forced to read/hear/watch something about them every single week this season.
Not that these sorts of things are new to Minnesota. This is the team that gave us the infamous sex boat on Lake Minnetonka. You remember that, right? Ninety people on two boats all havin themselves a good ol' time. And by good ol' time, I mean, the players were having sex with women who were being paid to lay there, and in fact had been flown in for the privilege of being peed on by seven guys. AMURICA!
But honestly, who really cares about this team outside Minneapolis? Half the state roots for Green Bay. There's really only one reason to ever think about Minnesota. And it's when you watch Fargo. Which you should watch once every other month, because it's awesome. So just hate them for the usual reasons, I guess. Because you've had a few too many Chardonnays and you just really want to punch that guy in the Jeff George jersey.
And seriously, watch Fargo after the game.
THE JETS JUST TRADED FOR PERCY HARVIN!!!
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! THAT'LL FIX IT!!!!
God, I love the Jets. I don't know why people bother hating them. Since that finger wag, they've done nothing but suck hard. This season has been no different. Geno's terrible, the defense took a step back, and Rex knows his firing is imminent. Idzik's answer? An over-priced, often-injured wide receiver. Seeing as how the quarterback situation is best described as somewhere between a shit sandwich and a total clusterfuck, I'm sure this will fix everything.
Why bother wasting hate on the team that tried to woo back Fireman Ed when you can just sit back, relax, and wait for them to shoot themselves in the foot? Seriously, the fact that Burress wasn't a Jet yet when he shot himself in the leg is one of the life's great mysteries.
FUN FACT: Plax was suspended by the Giants for four games for that stunt. Meanwhile, the Vikings tried only benching AP for one and apparently are getting away with only suspending Mike "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows" Priefer with two. Because, sports, right guys?
This one scares me. If we win, it's almost meaningless, aside from pushing us back over .500. Most weeks that'd be significant. But improving to 4-3 against this Vikings team doesn't mean we won't finish 6-10. But if we lose... oh boy. Please God, don't let me find out what that feels like.
Vikings 10, Bills 30
Bounce back, Bills. Good luck, everyone.