Last weekend in Nashville, the Bills desperately needed a win. It didn’t matter how they got it (luckily). They were missing their two best playmakers on offense along with their second best running back. But a loss would’ve meant a week of trying to explain a season circling the drain. The Titans aren’t as bad as their record might suggest, but they’re bad. Fortunately for Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor decided to have his breakout moment as a Bill. It wasn’t his best game, but we may look back on it as his most defining. Leading an offense with no rhythm, no protection, and seemingly no other options, Taylor put everything on his back and ran head first into the Tennessee defense. The result was a gutsy, if ugly, 14-13 win. The only QB to run for more yards in a single game so far this season is Russell Wilson. On the season, he trails only 3: Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton. I’ll take it.
Of course one of those runs resulted in a sprained MCL, an injury we’ll clearly all be wondering about for the rest of the season. Taylor finished the game on the damaged knee and has already proven himself as a capable pocket passer. He doesn’t have to run to be effective. But this issue is clearly the biggest come Sunday. We saw what happened with LeSean McCoy when he tried to hurry back from a hamstring injury. If Tyrod could be the quarterback of the future, do we really want to risk his health against a team tied for fourth in sacks? Just how much does this one game matter? Then again, I’m sure the question the Bills are asking themselves after that last game is: can they win without him?
A couple weeks back, I read an article about how the Cincinnati Bengals deserved more respect for their 3-0 record. The writer, Andrea Hangst, made the argument that the Broncos, Patriots, and Packers were getting far more credit for their identical starts, but… well… I really don’t know what she was talking about because it’s THE BENGALS!
Seriously, has there ever been a less intimidating 5-0 team in the history of football? I actually tried to look it up. And I was reminded of another team in recent history that actually went 6-0 before failing to even make the playoffs. Can you remember who that was? I’ll give you a hint…
There are plenty of teams that started 3-0 in the last decade and didn’t make the playoffs. The Bills were two of them. (Dammit.) This isn’t to say that the Bengals are a bad team. In fact, they’re quite good. Andy Dalton has thrown 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The defense is in the top 10 for points per game. They’re the clear favorite to win their division. So there’s a chance the Bills could lose regardless of who plays on Sunday. We won’t know for sure until kickoff, so let the speculation begin!
THREE THINGS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT:
1) A Sammy Watkins Sighting? Maybe?
Please. I miss him so much. I just want to see him do something amazing again. Sometimes when I’m watching I forget he’s on the team and when I remember it makes me so depressed. Every time I see Robert Woods complain about a flag that’s not coming or Charles Clay run a bad route, all I can think is PLEASE GOD, LET SAMMY HEAL!
And I could care less about him whining about the way he’s being used. Shit, I feel the exact same way. If he wants to play, let the guy play! If he wants it thrown his way, I don’t care if he’s out there on crutches, throw that man the ball! The passing game has been atrocious, E.J.’s back under center, and we’re down to our FIFTH string running back… make it happen.
2) Marvin Lewis
Over a decade with the same head coach. Can you imagine that? The Playstation 3 hadn’t been invented yet when he was hired. John Kerry was considering a run for President. Gay marriage was still a pipe dream. How do you make it 11 seasons as a head coach and not luck into a playoff win or get fired?
Last week, Ken Whisenhunt made some questionable decisions that helped keep Buffalo in the game. This week, Marvin has insisted that he wants to keep the focus of his offense on the running game (2nd in the league in rushing attempts). So far this strategy has translated to 5 straight wins. But they’re only 7th in total yards and 21st in yards per carry. If he continues this strategy against the league’s 3rd best run defense? Maybe we’ll get the upset we’re craving.
Yes, I know. I just used the word “upset” in reference to a game against the Bengals. Without looking at the records, it would seem like an oxymoron. But they are one of the only undefeated teams left in the NFL and the Bills haven’t exactly been setting the league on fire with their performances so far. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that we’re starting a quarterback who hasn’t played since last September. So this qualifies as a game the Bills aren’t expected to win.
And really, what’s better than a big upset early in the season? Obviously, we would’ve loved to shock the league against the Patriots, but it’s too late for that. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that the Bills have worked out the kinks of their new systems and are ready to unleash them on a Bengals team that has yet to beat a team with a winning record. If we see the E.J. that nearly beat the Patriots in his very first game, well… that’d be pretty damn exciting.
THREE THINGS TO BE TERRIFIED OF:
1) E.J. Manuel
2) The Pass Rush
I spent nearly all of the offseason gloating about how we were going to annihilate every quarterback we faced. I bragged to anyone that would listen that the only quarterbacks on the schedule that scared me were Luck, Brady, and Manning. So, yeah… I don’t know why you should be listening to me about any of this.
I don’t watch game film and I’m not smart enough to tell what is so different between last year and this year. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lack of hustle and we seem to blitz enough as far as I can tell. Part of it is surely that last year teams weren’t expecting Jerry Hughes to be quite the force that he turned out to be and now they’re ready for him. And we’ve definitely seen more gameplans featuring extra blockers and quick throws than I remember seeing last year. The secondary has been a bit leaky with at least two members being injured or ineffective every week, so that has to account for some of it. But still, 9 sacks through 4 games simply isn’t good enough for this defense. To win tomorrow, the defense has to make Dalton feel pressured from the very beginning. If they can force him into a couple turnovers, then maybe we can get out of Ohio with a win. If not, get ready for Scott Farkus to make us look really, really bad.
As fun as an upset is, a blowout is a far stronger feeling in the opposite direction, particularly with where our expectations were to start the season. Since the season opener, nearly every game has been painful to watch aside from the final quarter. And yet another lackluster performance against a team we’re capable of beating is something I’m dreading more than anything else. I really won’t care all that much if we lose. But if we get thrashed… Oh boy.
3-3 isn’t a nail in the coffin, by any means, but it certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence going into our last 10 games. Especially when that 3rd loss comes against the Bengals.
WHY YOU CAN’T REALLY HATE THEM:
Seriously. These are still the Bengals. Unless they win a Super Bowl, no one will ever respect them. Ever. A team has to actually have accomplished something in the last 20 years to be hateable. Andy Dalton is the perfect example of what make this team meh. Not great enough to be elite, not bad enough to be laughed at. And as I said, this is a team whose head coach has been around for over a decade with NOTHING to show for it.
They’ve never won a Super Bowl. Their best quarterback is Boomer Esiason, aka, one of the greatest quarterbacks to not be in the Hall of Fame. Their most memorable players from recent history are Pacman Jones, Akili Smith, and Chad Ocho Cinco. That’s right. The most recognizable player since the early 90’s is most known for legally changing his name to the Spanish numbers of his jersey. You might not like this team, but you really can’t hate them.
But you can hate their chili. That shit is gross.
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH & FUGAZIS
I told you Latavius Murray was a Fugazi! Hope the readers used my DFS lineup again because the Cash streak is up to 5 weeks in a row! Who else is gonna give you Doug Martin when he goes for 30+ points?!? Peep these Diamonds and Fugazi’s for week 6…
Diamond 1 – Sam Bradford. I’m officially the last one off the bandwagon. Philly has started to piece it together and believe it or not they can actually be in 1st place with a win Monday night at home against the Giants. These are the same Giants who are dead last in the league against the pass. Bradford has thrown for over 17 fantasy points and 2+ TD’s in his last two games and I look for that streak to continue – too bad he still has that “nobody’s home” look in his eyes…have you ever seen him next to James Holmes?
310+ Passing Yards, 2+TD’s
Diamond 2 – Duke Johnson. In this RB wasteland with byes, busts, and injures you need to look to receiving backs for a safe floor. Cue Duke Johnson, his 25 targets and increasing role in Cleveland. Pettine has made no secret of the fact that he has no faith in the running game that ranks 28th in the NFL, and McCown threw the ball over 50 times last week! This week the Browns host Denver and I expect a ton of garbage time catches from the Duke. Not sure if he’d throw at his own son at a charity softball game, but the Broncos corners will shut down any threats on the outside so welcome to check-down city!
8 Catches, 80+ Total Yards, TD
Fugazi 1 – Antonio Brown. AB is a beast, there’s no disputing that. But this is an incredible case study to prove that WR stats are tied to QB play. That insane streak over 5 catches and 50+ yards is long gone (as I predicted) and he’s built another one with 2 straight disappointing efforts. The key here is Michael Vick – he just hasn’t been with the team long enough to master the audibles and hand signals they use with Big Ben. Having a QB to “get you in the right play” is huge these days, so without that and with a sad level of inaccuracy instead you need to stay away from Brown until Big Ben comes back to inspire more memes like these. Oh, and this week the Steelers face Arizona and Antonio will see a bunch of Patrick Peterson. He’s a Fugazi!
5 Catches, 62 Yards
Fugazi 2 – Andre Johnson. Don’t be fooled by his “breakout game” last week. That was completely fueled by revenge against his former team with the coaches and scheme trying to get him into the end zone. The Colts O-line is still horrible, and there’s no telling when they’ll get lucky again. (The Russian Police Choir loves that song). Now they face the Pats on Sunday night, and it’ll be New England looking to prove an inflated point. Belichick usually runs the ball down Indy’s throat to control the clock, and I see this playing out no different. Oh, and Andre Johnson still looks like he’s done. Stay away.
3 Catches, 28 Yards
I want to believe the Bills are gonna pull off the upset so much that I've actually talked myself into it. E.J. SHOCKS THE WORLD!
Buffalo 24, Cincinnati 21
I'm so dumb. Go Bills.