ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — I’m going to take a leap of faith and say that my stratospheric-high expectations for the Buffalo Bills weren’t and still aren’t misguided.
I’m also going to say that the leap isn’t all that great.
The Buffalo Bills are a good team. They’re one of the best and most talented clubs in the NFL, even if their 5-3 record gives them plenty of company in the AFC.
Many of us believed that before the season and have every reason to continue to, that putrid loss against the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday notwithstanding.
All of which leads to this: The time for fooling around is over.
The Bills need to go to New Jersey this weekend and take care of business. Once again, they’re facing a weak opponent. Once again, they’re an overwhelming favorite. They need to play the sort of game against the New York Jets they were supposed to have played against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Though mid-November is obviously too soon to be talking about “must” wins, it’s not too early to discuss the absolute need for urgency as the Bills enter the halfway point of the season. If they’re to maintain a realistic chance of securing home-field advantage in the playoffs, they can’t afford a fourth loss in the AFC. They also can’t squander what should be a reasonably easy layup to improve their division record to 3-0.
Anything else will, understandably, raise serious questions about where the Bills are and, more important, where they’re headed. It would legitimately create concern as to whether they have what it takes to win another AFC East title, let alone snag the top postseason seed in the conference.
For now, that’s something more appropriately addressed at a later date – if at all.
A fair amount of troubling questions came up after the 9-6 debacle at Jacksonville. The one still demanding an answer is this: What is up with the Bills’ offense?
There’s no satisfactory explanation for the inability to score a single touchdown against the Jaguars, whose defense was vulnerable to big plays.
Remember when the Bills used to make them in droves? That’s what defined their 2020 season, which finished a game shy of the Super Bowl. That’s what drove all of the over-the-top optimism through the offseason and preseason.
There’s no reason for the Bills to be lacking the big-play dimension that routinely showed up on the way to a 13-3 finish last year. The line has been banged up, but still shouldn’t be as inept as it played last Sunday. The running game was awful, but it wasn’t great a year ago and that hardly impacted the effectiveness of the offense.
When the line did give Josh Allen time to throw, he often was holding the ball, struggling to find an open receiver. Some of that was on Allen. Some of that was on his receivers.
Allen used an expletive to describe his performance, which included two interceptions and a fumble (and a second fumble that the officials missed). No argument there.
But here’s the thing. Quarterbacks who are being paid elite money don’t have the luxury of describing too many of their games that way, win or lose. Allen will be the first to recognize he can’t get away with another such showing Sunday.
For that matter, none of the long list of problems that plagued the Bills last weekend – including an unconscionable 12 penalties – against the 2-6 Jets, who are:
- Last in the NFL in total defense.
- Last in the NFL in scoring defense.
- Twenty-seventh in scoring offense.
- Twenty-fourth in total offense.
Add it up and you have zero room for excuses for the Bills.
They’re still a good team. Now, go play that way.