How, after an offseason of such hope and optimism, after spending so much of Ralph’s cash, after seeing all the rookie and 2nd-year QBs on the schedule......how in the world did this happen? And so quickly?
Sure, we’ve been used to this so many times before. Used to settling in on Thanksgiving knowing every Bills game from there on out would have no impact on anything except April’s draft order.
But this year was supposed to be different. Yet, here we are. Staring at, essentially, a situation where the Bills have to win seven games in a row to finish the season in order to get to the playoffs. Unlikely, of course, but not impossible. I write “essentially” because there’s also that tiny sliver of a chance they could lose one more game and still get in. It’s happened three times before. Three times in 22 seasons since the 12-team playoff format was introduced in 1990. Three teams – out of the 264 to make the playoffs since then – did it after starting 3-6. That's 1.1% of the playoff teams over that time who've been where the Bills are now that same season. Like I said, not (gulp) impossible. But Tom Cruise, Orchard Park is on line one.
"This season will self-destruct with one more loss"
The three teams who’ve done it previously? Ironically, all in successive years:
· 1994 New England Patriots. Started 3-6, finished 10-6, earned a wild card berth, lost in the wild card round.
· 1995 Detroit Lions. Started 3-6, finished 10-6, earned a wild card berth, lost in the wild card round.
· 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars: started 3-6 (and 4-7), finished 9-7, earned a wild card berth, lost in the AFC championship game.
That 1996 Jags team beat the Bills in their wild card game. It was Jim Kelly’s last game, and the last playoff game played at Ralph Wilson (then Rich) Stadium.
Last playoff game in Buffalo: Red endzones, hard turf, Kelly's last game, VCR video
It’s been sixteen years since a playoff game has been played The Ralph. It’s looking very likely that stretch will hit seventeen years, even if this team runs the table and makes it, because they’d most likely be on the road even in that case.
But, really, would any Bills fan care WHERE the team played if it made the playoffs? Of course not. They just want to see it happen. And to do it, it’s going to take going 7-0. At the very least 6-1. But that one on the right column absolutely can’t be Thursday night against Miami.
More on this game below, but first…..
3 Other Must-See NFL Games For Week 11:
Colts at Patriots: Tom Brady isn’t ready to pass any QB torch to Andrew Luck just yet. But we all know that’s the man who will take it soon. This is the first meeting between the two. On field or even in real life! There may be a lot of points scored here, and it should be an aerial show. The Colts have attempted the 4th-most passes in the league. The Pats the 5th-most. And, of course, Bills fans have twice this season seen up-close and personal just how bad New England’s secondary is. It’s also a chance for Bills fans to get a good look at Luck before the team travels to Indy to play him next week. Even though these two teams aren’t in the same division, this will be the tenth straight year they play each other in the regular season.
Ravens at Steelers: A lot of reasons to check this one out. First, especially if the Bills win their game Thursday night, they’ll be 2 ½ games back of Pittsburgh (which is still a lot) BUT the Steelers have to face their immediate future – and possibly a lot longer – without Ben Roethlisberger. So, this game, against their arch-rivals and division-leaders, will give everyone a good idea of what the Steelers will look like and how good they’ll be until Big Ben comes back. It’s also the first of two games in three weeks between these two teams. The Ravens aren’t what we’re used to seeing. And that’s not a horrible thing. Their former great defense is older and now banged up, but they’re still allowing a league-low eight TD passes and their offense is carrying them through, averaging 28.2 points per game (4th in the NFL). Joe Flacco’s played well in Pittsburgh. In his last six games there, he’s thrown 9 TDs, 2 INTs, and has a 92.3 passer rating.
It's now The Byron Leftwich Show in Pittsburgh
Bears at 49ers: It looks like Jason Campbell will be the Bears QB. And it’s not certain who will be the 49ers QB yet. Alex Smith may come back after suffering a concussion last week, or Colin Kaepernick will get the nod instead. But no matter who’s under center, this game was never going to be about the quarterbacks. It was always – and will still be – about the defenses and old-school, physical football. San Fran is 1st in points allowed per game (14.1) and 3rd in yards given up. Chicago is 2nd in points allowed (14.8) and 5th in yards allowed. And, of course, this game could determine where these two teams meet if they play again come January. Because of the their tie last week, San Francisco (6-2-1) is ½-game behind Chicago (7-2) in the overall NFC standings.
Come meet Bryan Scott and Arthur Moats…..(oh. and Me!)
We’ll be taping this week’s Out of Bounds TV show at JP Bullfeathers, 1010 Elmwood Avenue in the heart of the Elmwood Village in Buffalo. Bills LB Arthur Moats is my co-host and this week’s guest is safety Bryan Scott. The show tapes Monday night at 7pm and afterward, both Arthur and Bryan will stick around to take pictures with and sign autographs for fans. We’ve had some nice crowds the past few weeks and everyone’s had a great time. So, hope to see you there Monday night!
Bryan Scott and Arthur Moats
NFL Fact Hopefully Not Only I Find Interesting:
Denver linebacker Von Miller has 21.5 sacks and will play in his 25th career game on Sunday against San Diego.
With two sacks this weekend, Miller can tie 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (23.5), who played in his 25th game last week, for the second-most sacks through a player’s first 25 games since 1982. Here are the players with the most sacks through their first 25 games since sacks became an official stat in 1982:
1. Derrick Thomas – 25
2. Aldon Smith – 23.5
3. Shawne Merriman – 22.5
4. Clay Matthews - 21.5
5. Von Miller – 21.5 (24 games so far)
I had a losing week in my “3 Dog Saturday” selections on Sports Talk Saturday. Not a horrible week, but 1-2, which puts me at 18-12 on the season and still six-games over .500 and pretty good overall. I’ve had four 3-0 weeks this season and am looking to have another one of those this weekend. You can hear the picks every Saturday during the 1pm hour of the show, which runs 11am-2pm.
3 College Games Worth Your Time:
Stanford at Oregon: Everything is right there for the Oregon Ducks. They have a great chance to not only get to the BCS title game, but win a national championship. But these next few weeks won’t be easy at all. Their next two opponents, Stanford and Oregon State, are a combined 15-4 overall and 11-3 in PAC-12 games. Then, they’ll either have to face USC for a second time or an underrated and resurgent UCLA. The next two months will probably be Chip Kelly’s last as head coach. He wants the NFL and the NFL wants him. But Kelly will leave making his mark as an innovative offensive coach. The Ducks have scored 42 or more points in every game this season, and have scored at least 50 in seven out of ten games, including their last three. But the Ducks biggest strength – running the football – is what the Cardinal are best at stopping. And by best, I mean “best in the nation.” Stanford is ranked first in all of college football allowing only 58.8 yards a game on the ground. Oregon averages over 325 yards rushing per contest. Something’s gotta give.
That Duck must be jacked by now
Ohio State at Wisconsin: Don’t tell Urban Meyer’s kids they can’t play in the postseason. They’ve been playing all season as if they are in the national title hunt. The Buckeyes are 10-0, eighth in the nation running the football, and 16th defending the run. They can’t play in the Big Ten Championship Game, so their championship is the next two weeks. This game at Wisconsin and next week against arch-rival Michigan. Winning both gives them an undefeated season. Because neither OSU nor Penn State can play in that title game, Wisconsin has already clinched the spot as the “Leaders Division” representative in the conference championship. But they play both those teams the next two weeks and would love nothing more than to prove they belong in that game on merit, not just because of eligibility issues.
USC at UCLA: If I told you before the season started that one of these teams would be 7-3 and the other 8-2, I’m sure you’d be surprised. And you’d probably assume the 8-2 team would be USC. But it’s not. UCLA has had a tremendous season, and a resurgence, under Jim Mora, Jr. They’re 12th in the nation in total offense and have a dynamic QB in freshman Brett Hundley. He’s looking at pre-season Heisman hype next year. This year, USC QB Matt Barkley had plenty of that. He won’t win the award, but he’s still had a great year statistically. But his team was supposed to walk into the PAC-12 title game. A loss here and they may not even get there. This game could very well determine who represents the PAC-12 South in the conference championship game in just a couple of weeks.
NFL Fact Hopefully Not Only I Find Interesting Part II:
Since entering the NFL in 2008, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan has a 30-4 (.882) career regular-season record at home, the best home winning percentage of any NFL quarterback who began their career in the Super Bowl era (minimum 25 starts). Ironically, the top three are all still active.
Here are the best records at home among quarterbacks who began their career in the Super Bowl era (minimum 25 starts):
1. Matt Ryan 30-4 (.882)
2. Joe Flacco 32-5 (.865)
3. Tom Brady 72-12 (.857)
4. Terry Bradshaw 67-12 (.848)
5. Roger Staubach 49-10 (.831)
Now back to......
Dolphins at Bills:
It will be great to see the NFL return to Ralph Wilson Stadium for a primetime, national television game. Of course, the results of the last several haven’t been good and the way the games have played out have been heartbreaking for the Bills and their fans, but there aren’t many places – if any – that have the electricity and excitement of The Ralph for these kinds of contests. And that’s all translated well onto TV, too.
I’m still not a believer in the Dolphins or their rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He and they have played much better than expected coming into the season, but I think they’re getting too much credit for what they’ve actually done.
Tannehill has been a good game-manager at times, and he even has a 431-yard passing game to his credit already. But he has only 5 TD passes (last in the NFL amongst regular starters) and has thrown 9 interceptions. He’s near the bottom of the league in almost every major statistical category for a QB. In most cases, all of that may be just bad enough to lose your job. But the Dolphins didn’t have high expectations coming in and he looks to have a bright future.
That said, the Dolphins won’t put a primetime national TV game on the road on their rookie QBs arm, which means this game will probably come down to the running games of each team. Reggie Bush and CJ Spiller had two of the greatest careers of any college running backs ever, and now they’ll be featured against one another on the same field in the NFL. Spiller will get his shot at the lead role with Fred Jackson out, and Bills fans are anxious to see that.
Two of the best ever in college now with lead roles in the NFL
Personally, I’m worried about the loss of Jackson. Whether he should or shouldn’t be the main back, and no matter how many touches he’s taking away from Spiller, he’s a huge part of the Bills offense running the ball, catching passes, pass protecting, and just as a great leader on and off the field. The Bills are a much better team with both Jackson and Spiller than just one of them.
But Spiller will get all the carries now (except when Tashard Choice spells him) and the rest of the country will get to see what we in Buffalo already know – just how dynamic he is with the ball in his hand. On the surface, he’ll have a tough time against the Miami run defense. They’re 5th in the NFL, allowing less than 95 yards a game and only 3.75 yards per carry. But they’ve been shredded lately. The first five games they allowed a terrific 61.4 yards a game. The last four they’ve given up 135.25 yards a game!
Bush ran for over 60 yards each of the Dolphins first four games. But even before last week’s game when he was benched after only four carries and 21 yards, Bush was averaging only 41.25 yards a game on the ground the previous four. It seems both the Miami running game and run defense is going in the wrong direction.
All that, on top of it being a very short week and having to travel 1400 miles and playing in (most likely) sub-40-degree temps, everything plays into the Bills favor here. I think they’ll play with the desperation they need and take full advantage of all those factors. If they don’t, Thanksgiving Day becomes Groundhog Day next week. Again. .... Bills 27-13.
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