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A Few Thoughts About the AFC East Run, in no particular order

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© Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

 

Expectations might just be the worst part of being a sports fan. With a team that literally stopped punting, expectations couldn't be higher. Every win was by double-digit points, and we've been favored to win every single game. It's honestly crazy if you think about it. I've argued for years that one of my most enjoyable seasons was when the Bills went 3-13. There was no doubt the Bills were rebuilding, we expected to lose every game, and the three wins felt like playoff wins. You relish in those wins longer than you do when you are expected to win, and somehow, even after the drought, we can get too comfortable too fast. I say this as part of my excuse for not writing these as much recently, but that's not entirely it. I'm also trying to adjust the way I enjoy Bills' games. At first, I thought taking notes throughout the games was diminishing the fun for me, but then I realized I was watching each game way too skeptically. I wasn't sitting back and enjoying the ride. I was instead looking for moments that would be interesting to write about, thus making basic plays seem pointless. I don't know what the future holds for me and these reviews, but it's been a nice little break.

 

1 - The Allen/Miami Effect

Similar to the no-punting streak, Josh has had Miami's number for the majority of his career. There was a stat out today that he's won AFC Player of the Week 10 times, 4 of which were against the Dolphins. And against the Dolphins last Saturday, he was equally brilliant. I thought he did a much better job of taking what was given to him, using check downs, but also looking deep when he could. We may never know how much the elbow injury affected him, but since the Pats game, he's looked much more confident and comfortable throwing the ball. What I did learn was that the Jets' defense is for real, the Dolphins are a very well-coached team, and the Pats have become Josh's seven-iron. That one club in the bag that straightens out your swing. If I told you on Josh's draft Day that the Pats would become Josh's "easy" games, I think we'd all sign up for that.

 

2 - Hero Ball

I do not consider any of the AFC East QBs to be elite. I'm sorry, but I'm just not sold on Tua. With that being said, it's noticeable how much better-scripted plays and open routes these other teams are able to generate on the field. On almost half the offensive plays, it seems like the opposing QBs are able to find their receiver within their first two reads while Josh is out there making things up on the fly. Granted, the red zone play calling has gotten much better, and we've been playing with a busted offensive line, but Josh seems to be working a lot harder than he should have to. Is that the skill set of our receivers or the play calling by Dorsey? I'm more inclined to lean toward Dorsey, as we've seen all of these receivers show enough spark to make a difference.

 

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© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

3 - Rushing Attack

The final drive against the Dolphins was impressive not only because of the weather and time used but because of how efficiently we ran the ball. I call out that drive because it feels like the only one over three games where we had a respectable rushing attack. For a team that passes so much that teams play cover two or drop 7 in coverage, how are we not better at running the ball? I can't believe it's just on our running backs anymore because it feels statistically impossible for them to all suck. But with five linemen, sometimes 7, versus four defensive linemen and two linebackers, shouldn't the basic numbers mismatch work in our favor? It sure seems to be for other teams against us.  

 

4

There's some reason why I can't sit still

Every waking moment I feel so unfulfilled

I try to lie down, but I don't know how

Baby, when I'm sleeping, it feels less like I am dreaming

 

5 - Receivers

As referenced before, the struggles of anyone besides Diggs to have a dominant game is another mystery to me, but it does seem to be trending in the right direction. Knox finally played a game that is worthy of his new contract and hopefully affects future game planning against us. More importantly, Gabe did a great job of finding space on 3rd downs, as well as some nice sideline catches. Beyond that, I have no idea what's going on. We will never truly know what happens in practice or what drops someone down the priority chart, but somehow McD believes that Smoke and Beasley are better than McK and Shakir. I'm not saying that's wrong, but it really makes you wonder what's going on here. While McK has his share of drops, we also barely use him for jet sweeps or other open-field plays to take advantage of his speed. Shakir is out on the field quite a bit but seems only to get 1-2 targets a game. When you watch the Chiefs, everyone seems to get the ball, but we seem to live or die by Diggs or whoever else gets open while Josh is scrambling to keep plays alive. Again, maybe Knox will start to open things up, but it's almost impressive how this offense still scores when only Diggs and Allen seem to be a threat.

 

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© JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK

6 - Hamlin

How many games starting for a player until you stop using the "back up" excuse. I'm calling it now, and I hope I'm wrong, but I feel like Hamlin is going to be the reason we don't win a Super Bowl this year. Don't worry, our defensive line is a strong second reason. In every game, there seems to be at least one play where Hamlin takes the wrong angle, doesn't drop back into coverage, or simply is a step behind. The touchdown to Hill was beyond frustrating because Hamlin was responsible over the top and didn't support Tre. The only touchdown by the Pats was a bad angle by Hamlin. I get that we run a defense that's meant to confuse the opposing QB, but Hamlin is beyond the point of making these types of mistakes to me. With Hyde and Poyer's age and contracts, I wonder if Safety doesn't become a big off-season priority.  

 

7 - Defensive Line

I get it, Von is hurt, but this is also the same defensive line that we've poured numerous draft capital into. Groot has been solid overall, and Lawson has shown some nice flashes. However, the way we are getting gashed in these outside zone runs and the hit-or-miss pressure we get is beyond frustrating. Frazier's been dialing up more blitzes as of late to compensate, but it's hard not to view the overall unit as a letdown. Jones has been solid in his play, and there have been numerous injuries at the tackle, but the lack of push up the middle is noticeable. The lack of closing speed on the edges also is a concern. It's going to be interesting to watch them contain Fields this week, and I worry about Mahomes just picking us apart when he has all day to throw.  

 

8 - Linebackers

To his credit, Edmunds has been really picking up his play this season, and I am less on the train of letting him walk this offseason. However, with that being said, I still don't understand how we got gashed against the Dolphins' rushing attack. We got very lucky that the Dolphins got away from the run, or else that game could have ended very differently. What's worse is the runs weren't creative. All of them appeared to be zone runs off inside the tackle, where the back didn't make contact with anyone until 8 yards downfield. If there was contact, we missed the tackle or got a piggyback ride for five additional yards. Fortunately, the power-run teams don't seem to be making the playoffs this year outside of the Titans. But still, the tackling and run defense is a big concern.

 

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© JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK

9 - Special Teams

While we took a lot of pride in not having to punt or kick a lot of field goals, it's nice to know that unit can be relied on when needed. Bass has been fantastic on this run, and I have complete faith in him regardless of distance and situation. For the nightmare that was the punt god, things worked out well with Martin as both a punter and holder. And while we don't use him enough overall, I have to say I get a little amped when we return punts with Hines' speed back there. This is a unit that I feel could actually help us win some big games coming up.

 

10 - McD

The man we are too spoiled to appreciate. We are playing one of the toughest schedules in the league, dealing with multiple injuries, have a huge target on our backs, and still are in first place in the AFC. Take the Safety out of the equation against Minnesota (not a coach's fault), and we have a full extra game lead on the one seed. Everyone, including myself, wants to armchair quarterback and second-guess all decisions, but the Bills have won big games, close games, and games against all other division leaders. We locked up a playoff spot with three games left to play. Say whatever you want, but results matter, and McD has done nothing but get results for this team.  

 

 

Side note: If Cam Lewis makes one more dumb play, I want to see him cut mid-game.

 

Go Bills!!

 

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A Few Thoughts About the Ravens Game, in no particular order

A Few Thoughts About the Dolphins Game, in no particular order

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