There’s not much time for the Buffalo Bills to feel haunted. The best way to clear the mind after somehow blowing an entirely winnable game against a comparable foe is getting right back to action. The NFL’s decision to hold games before the weekend is particularly welcome right now even if it hasn’t always led to better football. Players should still change into street clothes, as it’d be challenging to go to the bank or eat a bowl of soup without removing helmets. But they shouldn’t get too used to not wearing them.
Except for a few scarring moments, the Bills looked fine. I’m sure the playoff committee will take their mostly good performance into consideration. For one, an exciting adversary was rendered boring until it really counted. Jamaal Charles came in gaining 4.4 yards per handoff this season, which is only low compared to the remarkable 5.5 yards average over his career. There aren’t many rushers where, if one asks if he’s powerful or speedy, the answer is “Yes.” They were so close to containing him. But he got to 6.5 yards per carry against the Bills, as nothing spikes an average like a few gashes. Thanks to a few successful efforts against the Bills, he left Orchard Park with three-tenths of a yard improvement per carry.
While facing formidable competitors like Charles, the Bills can’t afford to beat themselves. Our favorite immolating franchise went beyond basic mistakes. This was another week where they felt compelled to initiate the self-destruct sequence despite no outward signs of distress. The offense’s fourth down capers were almost as irksome as four shaky throws 15 yards from the end zone.
Meanwhile, Bryce Brown’s fumble on the end zone’s border might define this century’s team. A moment where you think you’ll be elated instantly decays into the maddening reality of a crushing error: welcome to life as a Bills fan. And Leodis McKelvin is still making errors that at this point are a reflection of coaches who keep playing him.
Reality again ignores the script. Buffalo ruined Fred Jackson’s Willis Reed moment. Superman wonders how he does it. The eternally youthful stalwart serves as an inspiration to 33-year-olds everywhere who feel washed up. Gaining 49 yards on seven touches was fairly remarkable considering he should have been watching from his couch. But his groin heals when he tells it to do so. As with the defense hitting Alex Smith like he owed them money, a good effort by some was squandered overall.
A relatively short interval before a chance to reset should be more exciting. The league somehow made an extra game day less enjoyable. Treating every Thursday like Thanksgiving hasn’t been as fun as anticipated, as the NFL stuffed the schedule beyond capacity. There have been many poor-quality contests, as if not having much time to prepare while recuperating affects the sport’s quality. I wonder if there’s a connection. Every baffling course chosen on Park Avenue is a reminder that fans watch football despite the way it’s run, not because of it.
Without Friends, Seinfeld and whatever show was on in between to pass our Thursdays this decade, viewers settle for NFL games with a tendency to get out of hand. Occasionally, we’ll get to see the Jets somehow almost keep up with the Patriots. But it’s more likely that the superior team controls momentum. Buffalo won’t be perceived as the bully to beat until they prove they can consistently deliver wedgies.
The Bills get the perfect opportunity to demonstrate they have a killer instinct that wasn’t there a little over 100 hours ago. Specifically, the defense should be looking to meet or exceed their four-sack Week Two outing against Ryan Tannehill. Until other parts of the roster clean up their games, the quarterback attackers may have to win games singlehandedly.
A short week could play to the advantages of an instinctual team. Doug Marrone has gotten in trouble when he’s tried to overthink circumstances. But his lieutenant has shown a knack for getting down to business. Jim Schwartz’s straightforward approach should serve the defense well without the time available to anticipate countless permutations by foes.
We wait so long to find out so quickly where this team stands. Months of planning and waiting leads to a moment which passes in a blink. The season could come down to two games held in less than a week, specifically in what their record is relative to .500 by midnight Friday.
This is the odd schedule portion where a review and a preview occur simultaneously. It’s not much time in football terms: by comparison, Terry Pegula’s hockey franchise gets 10 breaks of three or more days between games this season, which they can only hope to use to lower the Corsi gap. Similarly, the Bills need to pour on shots.
Buffalo can dispense with contemplation and just line up for snaps. Two weeks to prepare for the Chiefs ultimately didn’t help. They can get back in the cockpit like Maverick to forget about the last accident. Making Miami the victim of a lousy Thursday outing for neutral viewers is the best way to pretend we can move past a Sunday that will sting indefinitely.