As often happens to me, I sit down to figure out how to express this point with a scene from The West Wing in mind.
I won't lay the entire history of the series on you but at one point the White House Chief of Staff is before an investigatory committee and a committee member sloppily asks him, while under oath, to give up some information. "I don't know," Chief of Staff Leo McGarry says coyly, and then he asks the committee member to rephrase the question. The congressman obliges, after which McGarry says, "Yeah, I don't know." Ask me and ask me, I don't have your answer.
I've been pondering the 2013 Bills season for weeks, unable to pinpoint where I think they're headed. The fan consensus was something like 6-10, their record last year. Well I wasn't sure about that, and since I have an ingrained aversion to the Most Predictable Outcome I knew I wasn't going there. So I, somewhat, rode the fence:
If EJ Manuel is good they'll win nine games, I said. If he's not or if he gets injured, just three.
Now we are two games in. That's not many, but it's some peek into where the season is going. They played a traditionally great team close, and they pulled out a win against an allegedly decent opponent in Carolina.
My updated sense on where we're headed?
Yeah, I don't know.
The Bills certainly don't seem over their heads through two games, and that most importantly of all players can be said of their rookie quarterback. They should be competitive most weeks. Their schedule doesn't look easy but they also don't play anybody that has looked great in the first two weeks.
I think their offense can get better this year. I see Manuel as being constricted so far. In time he should develop a finer sense of spreading the ball to different outlets, to different areas, than he has. And he's yet to run the ball on his own. All that should come, which should make the Bills' offense better.
Manuel must stay healthy.
The defense for me could go either way. I'm encouraged by how the secondary has held up without Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd. I'm assuming their returns will make the Bills' pass defense better. There's also been good pass pressure through two games, even very good, and while running backs have racked up yards none has done too much damage. I'm not calling my shot here though because some of New England's and Carolina's inability to do more against the Bills was self-inflicted. Pretty good so far though.
Coach Doug Marrone deserves credit for his approach and attitude -- it struck me how unimpressed he and key players sounded after Sunday's thrilling comeback win -- but I don't trust him yet on game strategy. So far he's too conservative for my taste, and he was fortunate that his adversary on Sunday was as conservative or more so. Carolina being as kick-happy as it was was a big reason the Bills won the game.
Overall I feel good. Is it a team ready to win nine games, or even more? Are they ready to make the playoffs?
Yeah, I don't know.
I think I know this: If they're going to do that, they should look superior to the Jets this Sunday, and win. That outcome would put them at 2-1 with the Ravens coming in, and that my friends would be an interesting game. Then it's Cleveland and Cincinnati. If they are good enough to do this, shoot for a 4-2 record after six games. 3-3 would be respectable for sure.
The West Wing has been off the air for years now, and I miss it. I remember how much I looked forward to the next episode, like we all do with any great TV show, waiting for the drama to unfold.
Right now, that's how I feel about the Bills season.