One, maybe two weeks ago the primary focus for many Bills fans was April. After an uninspiring loss to the Texans and a heartbreaker to the Pats, the Bills were in better shape for a high draft pick than a playoff berth.
Yet, the Thursday night victory over the Dolphins suddenly reinvigorated the internal optimist throughout Bills Nation. The Bills are certainly on the outside looking in, but are very much in the conversation in a watered-down AFC playoff picture.
Considering that this weekend’s head-to-head with Indianapolis offers a two-game swing in either direction and the health concerns under center in Pittsburgh, the two Wild Card berths are surprisingly available. Buffalo’s schedule is certainly favorable to close the season, but teams like Tennessee and Cincinnati each have a few cupcakes along the way.
What is surprising is that the army of Bills fans has almost forgotten about the nasty medicine they’ve been taking for 12 years. Stunning rallies to 8-8 and 9-7 annually perpetuate the Bills’ culture of mediocrity, sliding their draft pick to the middle portions of the first round.
Although there is likely to be plenty of value anywhere in the first 32 picks, many have pointed to the need for an elite player to buoy the depth that is being built in Buffalo. A top-10 pick in 2013 would do just that. But what would Bills fans prefer?
Would a 5-1 end to the year truthfully inject optimism to the fan base? What happens if 9-7 isn’t enough to lift the Bills into the playoffs? What happens if the perfect storm of winning games combines with a missed playoff spot and the inability to snag one of the draft’s best players? This represents the most negative of all the scenarios, but there is a good chance that the Bills manage to improve their record with the only result being to slide down the draft order.
Understand that Matt Barkley won’t be available to the Bills. In fact, with the Chiefs and Cardinals flirting with the top-five, at least two quarterbacks will be off the board before the Bills select. There could be additional QBs taken if the Raiders, Jaguars and Eagles continue to lurk towards the top of the draft. Of course, those latter three teams could go in multiple directions.
The philosophical argument here is to either root for losses or for wins that may not ultimately breed the long-term success fans are starving for. Any person with a lick of an athletic or competitive background will tell you that wanting to lose isn’t an option and I agree. I can’t in my right mind sit down on Sunday and root for the Colts. I can, however, take solace in the fact that any loss brings the Bills closer to their QB of the future.
Why bother asking?
When Aaron Williams is healthy, will he replace Ledois McKelvin in the starting line up? Is there any point is posing this question? Williams has been good for a once-a-week roasting down the sideline and was only able to defend those passes when Brandon Weeden criminally underthrew his targets. McKelvin was drafted as a speed corner who was able to make plays for a fairly average Troy team. He hasn’t adjusted well to the NFL which could be due, in part, to his football IQ.
That being said, McKelvin has always been tremendous at blanketing receivers with coverage before inexplicably brain farting upon the arrival of the football. Point being that McKelvin has been victimized at times in his career but has shown plenty of flashes of strong cover ability.
Hot Read: McKelvin’s big play ability has always been evident. He has five return touchdowns for his career between interceptions (1), kickoffs (1) and punts (3). McKelvin has six interceptions over his five-year career; a career in which he has not been an exclusive starting corner. Add in his three career fumble recoveries to his turnover total.
After a summer in which two high-priced defensive ends were signed, there was little attention paid to the bit players at defensive end. While Mario Williams play is steadily improving after his recent wrist procedure, Mark Anderson’s average play and subsequent knee injury has made him look like a poor investment. In the meantime, Kyle Moore has become the Bills’ darkhorse pass rushing phenom and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Moore’s recent effectiveness has erased the loss of Anderson and suddenly he is being joined by Shawne Merriman in the offensive backfield. Merriman appears to be healthy, but not the same player that terrorized the NFL earlier in the 2000s. However, the Moore and Merriman combination have been major contributors to the Bills pass rush as a whole lately. Their continued improvement will make the edge rush even more menacing as Mario Williams continues to draw extra attention.
Hot Read: Mario Williams, despite the heat he has caught, leads the Bills with 5.5 sacks. He is trailed closely by Kyle Williams (5.0). The two Williams’ have combined for just under 50% of the Bills sacks this season. Marcell Dareus (2.5), Nick Barnett (2.0), Chris Kelsay (2.0) and Kyle Moore (2.0) are the other defensive players with multiple sacks.
This version of the Bills has plodded its way towards being the same type of broken record that so many recent teams have become. As this season wears on the same storylines are appearing. With the stretch run upon the Bills, and a sterling record required to sneak into the playoffs, don’t expect much to change.
In order to remain successful, CJ Spiller will need to continue to be a pivotal part of the offense and the coaches will need to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick’s involvement relatively low in order to minimize mistakes and maximize the big play ability of the players around him. Of course the defense will need to have an effort similar to their showing against the Dolphins if any sort of win-out mission is to be completed.