If you'd given me the option to take 2-2 before the season started, I probably would have taken 2-2 before the season started - putting aside my not insignificant pipe dream of a world ablaze with a nice 1-9 run, of course. I would not have been able to predict the breakdown of wins and losses that have come with the 2-2 start, though; such is the nature of this particular football club at this particular sixteen-year-long-moment in human history.
The rad thing about this Sunday evening reality is that no matter if you are buying in on the possibility that these two improbable wins are the start of some great run (I have not bought in, and am a ways off yet, my hyperbole herein notwithstanding), these two improbable wins are nevertheless really fucking improbable. This Bills team was left for dead by this fan base, and quite fucking right that they were. Dreadful is not a strong enough word for it when it was a thing we've seen enough before; enough big talk during off-season PR pushes and enough capable rhetoric paired with highly suspect play. The Bills team we saw through Weeks 1 and 2 were fucking bad and deserved all the scorn they got and more.
And now they're, well, not bad at all. At least not now, not yet, not still. They were so bad and then with a token firing and a drastically scaled down offense relying on proficient execution of straightforward concepts, they've moved the pendulum far enough the other way to make even the most jaded fan (read: all of us) give a polite golf clap and tip of the cap.
As with everything, as for always, the salient question is "how long can this possibly last?," and the joyous answer is "we can't tell, but this team suddenly looks capable of beating a lot of squads." At worst, our resort to the fallout shelter of pessimism has no immediate justification beyond "because it's Buffalo" and, perhaps more relevantly, "because most teams fail." Which is all well and good. Four weeks in, for this particular football team in particular, it feels pretty ok.
As with everything, I want more. Gimme some more.
1. Rex Ryan. Credit where credit is due. I still think this guy is an absolute jabroni and has reprehensible politics and generally evinces no real optimism for this Bills team's future. Of course I do. But he coached a patient, well-executed game yesterday, and yes, he deserves a world of credit for (a) firing Roman and deciding to pursue a running game that exploits the team's talent at key positions (obviously running back, but also run blocking talent on the line and among the tight ends/receivers), and (b) producing a scheme for the defensive unit leading to some big improvements from Week 2's debacle, not to mention last year's disappointing campaign. Rag on him all you want, and I know I will before too long, but his guys had a really good day for the second week in a row, this time winning in very different fashion, and he deservedly gets the accolades.
2. FIFA17. I confess that many parts of the game are fuzzy, particularly after the Bills went up 13-0 and the Pats again punted. There are a few reasons for this arguable ambivalence - work, booze, and the reason for the season: the newest member of EA's FIFA series. It is tremendous. One of my key gripes in prior years was that the Career Mode, while fun in many ways, lacked realism in many respects (the AI would routinely sprinkle the plot with talk of international debuts despite my player having multiple caps for his national team, for example) and didn't contain any of the kind of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style personality and/or life choice moments that have been common place for years in other sports games (most notably the NBA 2K series). Even though FIFA has routinely been my favorite sports game and, most years, video game of any title, this was a deficiency that I was really looking forward to seeing cured.
Enter FIFA17. 'The Journey' fixes a ton of these annoying quirks of prior iterations of the game: you control dialogue, you get an animated backstory that fills out your experience of each game and training session, you're able to be subbed into games (in prior years if you didn't get picked for the starting XI, you would have to sim the entire game, which I found especially stupid), and the rest of the stuff about career mode that EA had been getting right seems to have been left good enough alone (i.e. training drills, ability to control either your one player or the entire team, etc).
On gameplay generally, the mechanics of player control are more difficult and have a more realistic feel. On the level of difficulty, I assume it'll feel like second nature after I log 50+ hours of gametime, which I will most definitely be doing over the next couple weeks, but all the same the game looks fucking gorgeous. EA has knocked it out of the park again, it seems, and getting a few games in while streaming Bills on a laptop next to me was an immensely good call. So fucking what if I don't know what happened each play while Rex was orchestrating the first Pats shutout at Gillette ever?
The horse jumped over the fucking fence.
3. All the random good things happening. I did watch enough of this game to know that, generally speaking, the Bills were enormously lucky and rarely had a moment where we were left thinking "Dear God, Why Us?" This does not happen a lot. It was a day where everything seemed to be going right while everything for the Pats was going wrong. New England played like fresh ass dogshit and played some GD undisciplined football, Gostkowski was bad, Tyrod was atypically on point with his decision-making, and the officiating crew seemed to get most things right over the course of the game.
This is a perfect storm of happy things for these Bills, and while I know we can't assume every game will be like that, and indeed we should assume the exact opposite, it was real hilarious and weird and at times a little creepy how good things just kept happening.
- Tyrod Taylor. Last week he was fun. This week he was commanding and virtually error-free.
- Shady. He is exactly who we hoped he'd be at the moment and is why firing Roman has worked out so well.
- Nick O'Leary and Jerome Felton. Neither of these guys lit the world on fire, but I really like that they're making the most out of their opportunities to re-sign with the club after having been cut. O'Leary put a block on Hightower (I think?) in the first half that made me giggle like a child. I was not sober.
- Defense. A massive effort in a game where they simply had to make Jacoby Brissett look like the red meat he most certainly is simply by virtue of being a third-string NFL QB. Also, the defense made me look hella prescient here, so that's nice.
1. Richie Incognito.
2. The endless excuses being rattled off by Patriots fans. Yes, your beloved Tommy is coming back next week and, yes, obviously a Tom Brady-led team will fare much better than anything Brissett is ever going to be capable of, regardless of the opponent, but has there ever been a fan base that is so willing to get into a self-congratulatory wankfest while it points out the super fucking obvious implications of their best player being available after having not been? We get it. We really do. All of us. Brady is a fucking masterclass athlete and jaw line and football player, but he's a fucking suspect human, just like the coach of the Bills, and even that aside, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is overflowing with awful drivers and meth, so fuck right off. Brady's forthcoming return doesn't change the fact that Maine's Governor is a raging boner of a bigot, or the fact that y'all got run off the fucking field by a team as maddeningly poor as the Buffalo Bills. History got made at your house. All the masturbatory takes about the best football player on the planet (at least until JJ Watt is playing again) can't change the fact of how New England got sniped by my squad. Yikes.
Addendum: I actually love this shit, just kidding.
3. The Apologist is a chump ass chump. I got no real gripes otherwise on the game; even my illegal stream worked really well throughout and didn't even require reloading at all, and I'm not really bothered by Rex calling a conservative game plan when the Bills could have put their boot right on New England's pimply sun-baked throat, so I'm taking the opportunity to take some well-justified potshots at one of my best friends and DGWU compatriot, Samuel.
This is Friday:
But, not too fast! As it happens, this was Sunday less than 30 minutes before kickoff:
- Zach Brown Band jokes from the booth. Wretched calls for such a great game from Brown.
- More stories on Russian hackers. Red Scare or not, fuck you this is different. Maybe.
- Sammy is hurt and it's terrible news but if the Bills can manage more consistent success with spreading the ball around like they did today, maybe it's not the worst thing. Does he being out help Tyrod explore his options more? (Certainly it helps guys like Clay and O'Leary more touches, and they flourished.
Television to Lay Your Eyes On:
Luke Cage. Obviously. There is nothing else that matters right now, because this shit is, as advertised, substantially banging. Also they got Ortiz from Sons of Anarchy and Winston from The Get Down, and Frankie Faison who is amazing. All of it is good, and this is fire unquenchable.
Barrister's Reading List: Girl on the Train.
This movie comes out this week, and I'm going to go ahead and tell you to read the book first. I am frequently 'that guy' who tells you this. However, it's true in this case, and even apart from that, I want people on my side of being bothered that they'd take a perfectly good setting for the book (outside of London and on the commuter rail to and from) and moved it to Long Island, which isn't a good thing for any plot unless it's The Amityville Horror or other similar tale regarding the mundane life led by the people that live there - a weird combination of wealth and trashiness that make for the ugliest Venn Diagram on Earth. I freely admit to being an Anglophile, so there's definitely some of that going on here, but the character arcs from the novel rely heavily on the landscape operating as an equally important character, and for suburban London that means quintessential English gardens sitting behind tightly-quartered houses, all on display for the fraction of a second in view of the passengers riding past on the commuter lines. This is basically what the story is about, and replacing "some of the most beautiful shit ever" with "Long Island" is poor form.
I also freely admit to having more strong opinions about this particular adaptation that I ought. All the same, the book is fucking excellent and sits right in the upper echelon of fiction thrillers. As a fan of the genre, I cannot recommend this one highly enough.
Go Bills and whatnot. Give me 5-2 and you'll have me getting beyond hype. Until then, enjoying our time in the Upside Down.