This morning, I woke at 4:30 am, to go stand in the middle of a road.
About 6:00 am, I looked east from the middle of this Steuben County road, waiting for them to come to me, and I knew I needed to stand in this one particular spot, because I knew that they were also looking for me.
Soon I saw the first of them. Two beams of paleness in the fog, with bright yellow eyes glowing above.
As the dew-drenched yellow school bus pulled along side me, standing and shivering in the middle of this road, I delivered my opening line from the prescribed script for this human drama unfolding before me: “Turn here and unload your passengers by the fuel tanks under the lights. Then exit by coming again past me to return for more of them.”
As the red rear lights of this bus vanished into the mist, another set of light beams materialized from the distance. Soon a train of radiant buses of various description was upon me, each driver awaiting my helpful speech.
By 7:59 am, the buses were long gone, not even a distant memory of the inhabitants that used them. These 2,700 individuals, from 48 U.S. states and 10 foreign nations, now stripped of a layer or two, or three, of warmer clothing, stood elbow to elbow facing west.
In 60 seconds, they would begin to move forward, together. Those in the front at a faster rate than those in the middle of the pack – those in the rear inching together until having room to take walking steps. Then jogging steps.
They would all continue west, uphill for about 1200 feet, then follow one another south, for the time being, a little more downhill.
One would lead the way. The others would follow. They would do this, mostly heading southeast across a relatively flat and beautiful landscape, from Bath, NY to Corning, NY, for an exact distance of 26.219 miles.
By the time many of you are reading this, the winner of the 36th annual Wineglass Marathon will be giving interviews to inquiring reporters. Listening to the answers, you would think you were listening to Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott at a mid-week presser.
“It’s a process.” “I focus on what is in front of me.” “I just try to get better from one race to the next.”
For the Buffalo Bills, this week’s race takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. The Bills are 2-1, sharing first place in the AFC Eastern division, coming off an energy charging victory over a legitimate NFL contending Denver Broncos team.
How excited is head coach Sean McDermott? “We’re just trying to get better.”
To McDermott, the 2017 NFL season is a marathon. The team did not start at the beginning of the line, racing off to a pack-leading pace as the gun sounded. The Bills began back in the middle of the crowd, slowly inching forward.
At milepost 4, the Bills find themselves picking up the pace, but still following “the process” – the marathon style training their racing coach has implemented.
Of the 2,700 participants in the Wineglass Marathon this morning, a few of them are no-doubt still on the course as you read this. Most of the participants have as a goal to “just finish the race”. They are the Buffalo Bills of the last 17 seasons of the NFL.
Some participants of course, are expected to be in contention to win the race, seemingly every year. These are the Patriots, Packers, and Seahawks of the NFL.
But there is another group of runners that made up the racing crowd this morning. This is the crowd the Buffalo Bills hope to become in the NFL world. These runners did not expect to win this year’s race, but they did hope to attain a personal goal…to qualify for the playoffs of marathon racing.
Can they run a race time that will qualify themselves for an invitation…to the Boston Marathon?
Can the Buffalo Bills win enough regular season games to qualify them for an invitation…to the NFL playoffs?
The answer to that question might be found at milepost #4, today, against the Atlanta Falcons.
Musings From Around the NFL
Essentially, without any legitimate starting NFL quality offensive tackles, Aaron Rogers and his passing attack can still win games. Has he passed Brett Favre as the best quarterback the Packers have ever had?
Oh, Miami Dolphins. Just when we thought you were a bonafide contender…wow. There are still 5 teams in contention to go 0-16 this season, but the N.Y. Jets are not one of them. The N.Y. Giants though, are.
Did you survive your Survival pool last week? At the end of the 1pm starting time NFL games last Sunday, within a span of about 20 minutes, favored teams like the Broncos, Steelers, Dolphins, Ravens and Panthers all went down. If the Patriots and the Packers, both losing at that moment, had not pulled out victories (both in unimaginably, yet characteristically typical ways), it would have been a Survival Pool bloodbath across the NFL landscape.
Fantasy Football Tips
You didn’t listen to any advice I gave here last week, did you? Wow. My predictions were so off.
So, why would you listen to me this week? Maybe you shouldn’t.
But, if you need some help, and you have nobody else to turn to, here are my thoughts…
Play Aaron Rogers and Jordy Nelson against the Bears. These guys are guaranteed to get you points. Trust me.
What a victory. Am I right?
The defense proved it belongs in the discussion with the best units across the NFL landscape, The defensive backfield, especially, has taken everyone by surprise. The defense has become what Rex Ryan was supposed to do with them, as head coach, the backbone of the team.
Rick Dennison did exactly what I called for in last week’s article…he came with a plan. They got Tyrod Taylor out of the pocket, put him in open space, and let him do his thing.
The victory over Denver did more than improve their team standings. It provided much needed legitimacy, to the rest of the NFL, and for themselves.
The 2-1 Buffalo Bills are one play away from being 3-0.
The 3-0 Atlanta Falcons are two plays away from being 1-2.
And those two plays, by the way, helped prevent the Falcons from losing to…the Lions and the Bears.
Atlanta is beatable.
Yes, this is a road game for the Bills – advantage Falcons.
But, Atlanta’s defense has not been been consistently good, and they are entering this afternoon’s game with three starters absent.
The Falcons offense is hoping to score enough points to overcome the leaky defense. But Julio Jones, already less impressive this season than his reputation holds, is injured, also.
That means the Falcons offense will need to depend on a good game from their two stalwart running backs, Freeman and Coleman. And this plays right into the Bills hands. The Buffalo front seven have been shutting down opposing team running games. This, will be the key to any possible victory for the Bills.
I am 1-2 for my Bills game predictions so far this season, and I am glad I was wrong last week.
What I wrote above is encouraging thoughts for the Bills, so let me consider them here.
The “process” is moving faster than everyone thinks. The Bills continue to impress their FAMbase, and shock the NFL pundits.
Buffalo 24 – Atlanta 17
Read me next week.
Editor’s babble: Many thanks to Rick Bates for his contributions to our blog. You can follow Rick on Twitter @MyHammock.