Since the turn of the century the changing colors of autumn each year signals one thing, and one thing only for Bills fans… it’s the time when hope turns to despair, and the reality of missing the playoffs for another year moves from a significant possibility to a stark reality.
Cue in the ritualistic outbursts of anger, cries of despair, and endless drivel from the likes of anyone and everyone with a keyboard and a penchant to opine (myself included). Each of us has our own preferred method of coping. The years of hardship taught most of us to temper our expectations no matter what the team record is at any given time.
As the last few hours unwind before the Bills play the Jaguars in London, I’m finding myself at a familiar, albeit odd juncture with respect to my mood regarding this team. It seems we’ve been down this road one too many times over the last decade and a half, and it’s not a stretch to be completely disgusted with the team’s overall performance to date.
Of course injuries are a big part of the equation. However, we’ve had teams in the past that had less talented starters with no depth who played beyond what their record showed.
I’m thinking specifically of Gregg Williams first year as head coach. That team played close games with a lot of heart. They went 3-13 that year, but played to the best of their ability, despite their talent level being far below the Bills in 2015.
This Bills team is a hot mess at the moment, and we all know it. Lose this game to the Jaguars and the likelihood that the Bills can pull it together for three straight divisional games becomes slim to remote.
Win the game, go into a desperately needed bye week at 4-3, and the narrative completely changes for the Bills. It doesn’t matter a fig what the Jaguars record is, or their talent level.
We’ve read all season about how superior the talent level is on this Bills team. Yet, they have only put one relatively complete game together (against the Dolphins) this year.
The Bills are the most penalized team in the league by a mile, and they have players that are currently doing anything from contemplating retirement to being stuck in a concussion protocol keeping them off the field.
At this point, anything can happen. There’s plenty of time for this team to get its act together. It’s anyone’s guess whether that will in fact materialize, but if it does happen, it has to start by soundly beating the Jaguars.
Bills fans didn’t survive this long by being wishy-washy about their fanhood. We know how to cope with chronic disappointment, arguably better than any fan base in sports. Hopefully most of us tempered our expectations somehow, while still allowing part of our psyche to go “all-in”.
As an individual, it’s my nature to let my heart rule my head to a point. However, once that point is reached, whenever that point is operationally defined and determined, my brain will take over and guide me through any challenge beyond that point.
So… what my brain has determined at this point is that there is nothing to gain from reacting one way or another to the latest foibles of the Bills. The outcome of the Jaguars game is that “line in the sand” for me.
I don’t think this team has the mental fortitude to sustain a loss to the Jaguars and then go win three games in a row against division opponents… including that unnamed team that just won their fourth Super Bowl since our Bills last sniffed the playoffs.
A win over Jacksonville changes the entire narrative by heading into a bye week with a winning record. This Bills team has proven to be mercurial in nature, so it’s hard to know which team will show up to play the Jaguars.
Another Bills loss would result in an insurmountable amount of negativity that this team frankly does not have the mental fortitude to overcome. The most likely result would be another horrible November getting slaughtered by division opponents, and then limp our way out of the season with another year tacked on to our playoff-less streak. Sigh…
At least the Bills fans that traveled and those that live in the UK can meet and share a pint whilst commiserating about the game. The rest of us outside Buffalo and Jacksonville will be counting on (and praying) that Yahoo sports will keep us all from being buffered to death while plying ourselves with caffeine instead of alcohol.
If the Bills hold true to their win-lose-win-lose-win-lose pattern, the matchup at Wembley should favor Buffalo. On paper, despite a MASH unit masquerading as a football team, the Bills do have the more talented roster.
However, the Bills had a more talented roster than several opponents already this season and it didn’t result in a victorious outcome. So, if the Bills are going to make a big run for the playoffs this season, it will have to start in London against the Jaguars.
If this is to become a November to remember instead of a fall to forget, the narrative starts will have to start in a few hours when they play the Jaguars. Will Wembley become Bills Country, or will the ‘Jaggers’ put the daggers to our season once again?