No reason for Bills fans to panic.....yet

November 6, 2017
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We’re a few days removed from that hideous Buffalo Bills loss to the New York Jets, but many Bills fans are still dealing with the hangover. I put up a Twitter poll the day after the Bills smoked the Oakland Raiders and asked people if they thought the Bills would make the playoffs this season. 68-percent of those responding chose yes. I put up that same poll on Monday and with the Bills still in a playoff spot despite that loss to the Jets, only 43-percent think they’ll end the drought this season.

It's not surprising there would be a drop in the yes votes following a loss, but the way the Bills were dominated in defeat seems to have killed the buzz that existed amongst Bills fans. I said it on Friday and it still rings true. As bad as that game was, and it was the Bills worst performance of the season, it only counted once in the loss column. The Bills aren’t “in the hunt” as they head into the second half of their schedule, they are in a playoff spot. In addition, the Bills are at least two games up in the loss column on all of the non-division leaders in the AFC except the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) and Miami Dolphins (4-4).

I’m still optimistic about the Bills' playoff chances, although that optimism is more a result of the teams behind them in the standings as opposed to how good the Bills might be.
I’m also doing my very best to not let history affect my thinking. When I asked the Twitter world why they might be less confident in the Bills, even though they are still in a playoff spot, the basic response was "we’ve been down this road before”. If the Bills collapse and don’t make the playoffs this season, it won’t be because of the drought and it won’t be because of 2004, 2008 or 2011. This is a different team and a different coach. I’ll admit this may be the Charlie Brown in me coming out as I run to the ball confident Lucy won’t yank it out of the way before I kick it.

Typically when we go into the season, we try and figure out how to get the Bills to 10 wins. It's a win total that can usually get you into the postseason. Good news Bills fans - you might only have to get them to nine wins this season thanks to the less than spectacular AFC. According to the New York Times playoff machine, if the Bills beat the Chargers, Colts and sweep Miami and finish with a 9-7 record, they have a 75-percent chance of getting into the playoffs.

Look at the teams behind the Bills right now and tell me who you think can go on a good enough run to secure one of those two wild card spots. Miami? The Bills play them twice in December so they can take care of business in head-to-head matchups. The Dolphins play at Carolina on Sunday, and play New England two times before they even see the Bills. The Dolphins could be at seven losses already by the time December 17 comes around.

Baltimore, Oakland and the Jets are all 4-5. Have you seen the Ravens offense? It's terrible (says the guy who talks about a Bills team that is 26th in total yards and 16th in points). The biggest concern about Baltimore is their remaining schedule. They will face only one team with a winning record, Pittsburgh and their final three games are Cleveland, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The Jets are better than I thought they’d be but its still Josh McCown at quarterback and an average receiving corps at best, so I don’t expect a run from them. I still worry about the Raiders even though they are one of the bigger disappointments this season. However, if you take a look at their schedule you’ll see they play New England this week and have a very difficult closing stretch that includes Kansas City, Dallas and Philadelphia. 

I think you can write off Houston (3-5) after the DeShaun Watson injury. That leaves Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos in the 3-5 group. Denver is dropping like a stone, the Bills can help bury the Chargers one week from Sunday, and I don’t think the Bengals' offense will be good enough to bring them back from the pack.

See, don’t you feel better? Now, for potentially bad news - the Bills could lose each of the next four games and be sitting at 5-7 after a 5-2 start. New Orleans is much better than expected thanks to an improved defense and balance on offense. The Chargers still have Phillip Rivers, which could be a problem considering the Bills' pass defense is having some issues and the pass rush isn’t making enough of a difference. After that come games with Kansas City and New England, so it could get dicey if the Bills don’t at least split the next two contests.

There are a number of areas in which the Bills need to show improvement in the second half of the season. We are still waiting for some consistency from the running game, the offensive line remains a work in progress, the aforementioned pass defense isn’t where it was during the first quarter of the season and the next four games are against Drew Brees, Rivers, Alex Smith and some guy named Tom Brady.

This is where I will add the old fall back. If I told you before the season started the Bills would be 5-3 and in a playoff spot at the half way point, you’d be pretty happy. So keep your chin up and use whatever home remedy you use to get rid of a hangover.