In grading the Buffalo Bills through nine weeks of the 2014 NFL season, I’m taking a look back at how I’ve graded the team on a week by week basis (how I would have graded them in the case of the week 5 at Detroit) and trying to get a better sense of how the team has performed in comparison to expectations and the rest of the league.
To refresh your memories, I’ll first review each grade.
Week 1 Offense: B-, Defense: B-
Week 2 Offense: B+, Defense: A
Week 3 Offense: C-, Defense: B-
Week 4 Offense: D+, Defense: A
Week 5 Offense: B, Defense: A (How I would have graded them)
Week 6 Offense: C-, Defense: C-
Week 7 Offense: B-, Defense: B+
Week 8 Offense: B+, Defense: A+
As you surely know just from watching the games, but as my grades illustrate as well… the defense has been a consistent strength of the Buffalo Bills through nine weeks. The team grades out as a B+. That accurately depicts where they stand in regards to the rest of the NFL as well, allowing just 92.3 yards on the ground, good enough for 8th best in the NFL. Through the air they’re only slightly worse at 12th best in the NFL – allowing 233.8 yards per game.
The aspect of the defense that is my personal favorite and which factors into their high grades on a regular basis is the turnovers created and QB pressure. Through nine weeks the Bills have 28 sacks, in other words an average of 3.1 and a projected total of 49. That’s below their incredible 57 in 2013, but it is still good enough to be first in the NFL as of this writing. They also have a total of 19 INTs and fprced fumbles through 9 games for a pace of 34 to finish the season. Again this is lower than a season ago, but the defense overall has been improved because they are allowing fewer yards and points, while still getting the turnovers and sacks at a high rate.
For as solid and consistent as the defense has been, the offense has been anything but. As all Bills fans know, there was a QB change after week 4 and things have certainly gone better as the Bills are 3-1 since Kyle Orton was named the starter. That’s why I’ll break down the Offense grades into two sets. Through weeks 1-4 they come in at C+. Since EJ Manuel was made a backup QB, the overall grade is a B-. While it might not seem like a huge difference, when we look at the production numbers it becomes much easier to see the overall improvement with Orton under center. His 9 TDs are 5 more than Manuel managed, he’s put up 290 more yards through the air and he’s helped Sammy Watkins become the game-changing offensive weapon the Bills were hoping to land when they traded up for him.
So while the Bills haven’t been amazing, yet, an overall grade of B- and winning record of 5-3, good enough for second place in the AFC East, just a game behind the Patriots, are all more than I expected heading into the season. I think the sky continues to be the limit for Watkins and with Orton at the helm the offense will continue to be enjoyable to watch more often than not. Also if the defense continues on the track they’re on, they’ll finish the season as one of the ten best units in the NFL. Realistically I think the Buffalo Bills could finish the season grading out at B+ or higher for both units and go 9-7.
What do you think though Bills Mafia? You agree with the grades? You think they can do even better than I’ve projected? Let me know in the comments.