Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another WWM Holiday Classic: Thanksgiving, Marangi Style

(Originally posted Nov. 22, 2012)

Chris Brown of looks at five of the team's most memorable Thanksgiving performances, not including the 1968 game in Oakland we explored earlier.

Pete Gogolak (pictured) starred in two of the featured games. And this blog's namesake played a prominent role in No. 5, Detroit's 27-14 win over the Bills in 1976 at the Pontiac Superdome, when O.J. Simpson broke his own NFL single-game record by running for 273 yards.

Thanks to the bizarre workings of my brain, I remember watching that game. Even though I was eight, I remember thinking, "They're not even trying to stop O.J."

That was because the Lions led 20-0 in the third quarter and had absolutely no worries about Gary Marangi leading a comeback through the air. The one-time fan favorite did nothing to shake their confidence, completing four of his 21 passes for all of 29 yards.

So the Lions sat back in a prevent defense and let O.J. eat up the yards and the clock. Head coach Jim Ringo apparently decided to give up on trying to win and focused on getting the purely superficial record for Simpson, who never had a problem putting himself ahead of the team. Either that, or Ringo, who had taken over when Lou Saban quit earlier in the season, could not bear to watch Marangi try to throw any longer.

I was really hoping to find the NFL Films highlights of this game, largely to see Marangi in action. No such luck, but the WWM research department will keep looking.

WWM Holiday Classic: Thanksgiving 1968

(Originally posted Nov. 22, 2012)

The Bills haven't played on Thanksgiving Day since 1994, but they were once an after-dinner staple.

Back in the American Football League days, the Bills made an annual late-season swing to the West Coast. This was partly to save on travel costs, and partly to avoid Buffalo weather in late November and December. Three straight AFL Championship Game appearances in the mid-1960s made the Bills attractive to network programmers, as well.

So it was that Buffalo took part in five Thanksgiving games over a six-year span. In 1968, the Bills took a miserable 1-10-1 record into Oakland, where the Raiders were rolling towards the playoffs and a shot at defending the AFL title they had won in 1967 behind Daryle Lamonica.

Having traded away Lamonica and with Jack Kemp and every other quarterback still on the roster sidelined with injuries, the Bills were left with Ed Rutkowski at quarterback.

We have written about this dark period in Bills history before, but it's worth revisiting for a couple reasons.

For one, an extended highlight originally embedded in this post before someone got all copyright-y and had it yanked from YouTube, provided a nice taste of 1968, from the jazzy soundtrack to the shots of people dressed like grown-ups in the stands.

It also showed that, as much as times and fashions change, the Buffalo Bills do not. You can imagine your turkey-and-Genesee-laden ancestors settling in front of their 19-inch Philco and seeing the underdogs outplay the ominous Raiders for much of the afternoon.

Then they fall behind, only to rally to the brink of a stunning, nationally televised upset.

Finally, just six feet away from victory, they blow it, with their would-be hero fumbling the game away.

The defeat did help the Bills secure the draft rights to USC running back O.J. Simpson. And despite the fumble, leading Buffalo to a hollow moral victory with most of the area watching on television helped Rutkowski to a long career in local politics.

Since it's a holiday, we'll leave you to come up with your own cynical remarks about all that.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'We Just Lost To The (Expletive Deleted) Buffalo Bills'

Mrs. We Want Marangi was stunned upon returning from a quick Sunday-afternoon trip to the store.

"Holy crap," she said after seeing that what had been Buffalo's field-goal lead over the New York Jets when she left had mushroomed into a blowout in progress.

After managing all of 16 points over the previous two weeks as their season seemed to slip into the sub-mediocrity all too familiar in these parts, the Bills put up 17 in less than three minutes, wiping away the futility of outplaying Kansas City in every phase of the game except activating the scoreboard, then coming up short in every area in Pittsburgh.

Holy crap, indeed.

Buffalo's second-quarter outburst included T.J. Graham finally demonstrating that he does have some awareness of what is going on around him on a football field, Kyle Williams nearly severing the hand of Geno Smith, Frank Summers showing an ability to accomplish something other than illegally blocking on kick returns and Jairus Byrd justifying his stated desire to be one of the game's highest-paid safeties.

The avalanche was triggered not by a Buffalo big play, but an incredibly ill-timed Jets mistake.

Looking to build on that 3-0 edge, E.J. Manuel had guided the Bills to a third-and-4 at New York's 36-yard line when Sheldon Richardson, Kiko Alonso's main competition for the NFL's top defensive rookie honors, stuffed a screen pass to Fred Jackson for a 1-yard loss.

A promising drive ending in a punt made it appear Buffalo would have all of six points to show for Manuel's first six quarters since returning from the knee injury that kept him out for a month. And a defensive breakdown of the sort that doomed the Bills in each of their three straight losses would prove a direct route to a fourth.

Not that the increasingly demoralizing defeats to the Saints, Chiefs and Steelers had created a pessimistic air around the WWM offices, or anything.

It was perfectly naturally, however, for anyone who has watched Buffalo play football over the past 13.6 seasons to expect a game-breaking punt return from the Jets. Or, failing that, a wind-aided bomb from Smith to Santonio Holmes, whom the Bills secondary has shown a severe aversion to covering.

Either way, the anticipation of New York finding its way to a halftime lead or tie that would negate all Buffalo's good works to that point grew as the punting unit lined up.

Then Leger Douzable jumped.

As referee Bill Levy emphasized while making the call, the Jets defensive lineman's neutral-zone infraction did not result in a Buffalo first down. It did, however, make it fourth-and-1 from New York's 33.

The down, distance and field position may have triggered unpleasant memories of coaching decisions past. You would have expected Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey or, especially, Gregg Williams to send out the punt team. Dick Jauron might have taken an intentional delay-of-game to give back the five yards before punting.

Doug Marrone's Bills, though, not only went for it, but dusted off the near-forgotten -- in these parts, at least -- quarterback sneak.

For the second time on the drive.

And it worked. By half a football, but it worked.

Two plays later, Manuel lofted one down the left sideline, into a gusting wind to create a twisting pop-up that thoroughly flummoxed Jets rookie Dee Milliner, just as it had Stephon Gilmore on a Smith lob to Holmes in the first quarter. And, for once, T.J. Graham DID know where the ball was, coming back to grab it and angle into the end zone for a 10-0 Buffalo lead.

Buffalo's first touchdown carried a fluky flavor, but the rest of Manuel's day did not. He was accurate on his short throws early, when the Jets' coverage dared him to throw short, and on deep balls after New York tightened things up and challenged him to go long -- particularly the 43-yard strike to Marquies Goodwin that made it 27-7 and effectively ended the competitive portion of the contest.

Even the running game did its part, despite a rather gruesome stat line: 38 attempts for 68 yards, or 1.8 yards per try. Buffalo's persistence kept the Jets stacked to stop the run, leaving the secondary exposed for Manuel to exploit.

The defense made it possible for that offensive patience, with turnovers forced by Kyle Williams and Byrd fueling that 17-point outburst and Da'Norris Searcy's leaping, twisting interception producing the final Buffalo touchdown in a 37-14 runaway, the first of Marrone's tenure.

By that point, Smith looked thoroughly lost, thanks to a pass rush that posted four sacks, as well as a disorienting hit by Marcell Dareus on his first attempt.

The Jets on the whole were pretty flustered during, and after, the game.

"Right now, we just lost to the (expletive deleted) Buffalo Bills," said a dismayed Willie Colon in response to a question about New York's playoff prospects after falling to 5-5.

The 4-7 Bills, meanwhile, head into their bye week with Manuel (who outplayed Smith by a significantly larger margin than Smith bested him in New Jersey in September), Graham and Goodwin coming off their best days as professionals, and Byrd (two interceptions and a sack) having made his biggest impact since returning from his holdout and seemingly overcoming a nagging case of plantar fasciitis.

After that, they return to complete a schedule that includes Atlanta (in Toronto, where WWM fervently hopes Mayor Rob Ford makes an appearance, perhaps running across the field clad only in a very large l'Unifolie), Tampa Bay and Jacksonville -- the top contenders for next spring's first overall draft pick -- and a home game against the wildly inconsistent Dolphins.

Two days later, Buffalo's complete reversal of form against the Jets is no less remarkable, even if it has gotten buried by a thoroughly fabricated non-story about what visitors did the night before the game and how some genius managed to somehow not kill himself and an unsuspecting fan below.

We're a couple of more wins away -- by a team that has not won two straight since the second and third weeks of 2012 -- from even contemplating playoff scenarios. But with a week off after a game in which the punter dropping a wind-blown snap was their most serious mistake, the final third of the Bills' season is suddenly a lot more interesting than it appeared a week ago.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Come On In, Let's Huddle Up, Talk About The Buffalo Bills'

We'll be honest -- we haven't watched a moment of New York Jets football since the rather heinous Week 3 game in New Jersey.

So We Want Marangi asked the greatest Jet of all to break down today's rematch at Ralph Wilson Stadium for us (and by "asked," we mean "found this clip on YouTube").

OK, so Joe doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know -- New York would like to run the ball, newly signed Ed Reed will probably play, and coming off a bye week lets players rest and heal.

But it's worth watching for Broadway Joe's animated enthusiasm, which survives despite his recent strained relationship with the franchise he led to one of the great upsets in sports history, as well as the array of screen caps from his other ventures into the realm of online video.

He does not mention a Jets defensive line that keys the NFL's top run defense, as well as a pass rush that sacked E.J. Manuel eight times in September.

New York picked up Reed after he was waived by Houston to help a secondary that has not been nearly as dominant. Any chance of Buffalo exploiting that relative weakness relies on Manuel remaining upright, a group of receivers missing starters Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods getting open, and Manuel overcoming the forecast wind and rain to get them the ball.

Interestingly, the greatest quarterback ever to wear the green and white (and there really is no No. 2), does not mention Manuel or the second quarterback taken in last spring's draft, Geno Smith.

Thanks to New York's defense and revived running game, which carried the Jets to a 26-20 upset of New Orleans in their last game before their bye, Smith hasn't had to do a whole lot. And he hasn't, going 8-of-19 for 115 yards against New Orleans.

Manuel was even less effective in his first game back after missing a month, and the Jets don't figure to make things any easier, especially with starting wideouts Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods sidelined, leaving the pass-catching to an array of rookies and underachievers.

So while the Manuel-Smith rematch might be the most obvious story line going in, the outcome will probably depend on a bunch of factors neither of them can control (especially if the Jets match Pittsburgh's success in keeping Spiller and Jackson from getting loose).

Which, given Buffalo's matchup problems today -- explored in greater detail here by Niagara Falls native, former WWM colleague and Gang Green devotee Lyle Fitzsimmons -- might be the Bills' best-case scenario.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Manuel's Inglorious Return

After spending a good part of the last three days trying to come up with a simple explanation for what went wrong for the Bills in general, and E.J. Manuel in particular, on Sunday in Pittsburgh, We Want Marangi's investigative team has reached an inescapable conclusion.

There isn't one.

There are a number of reasons that Manuel, making his sixth professional start after missing a month with the second significant injury of his rookie year, was not ready to mentally digest and physically react to the defensive schemes devised by Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator for the better part of the last two decades. (Jeremy White of WGR offers a breakdown of the various looks LeBeau threw at Manuel, as well as the generally grim results, using the coaches' film now available at to members of the general public with way too much time to spend on such things.)

Aside from LeBeau's strategizing, there were the cold, windy conditions at Heinz Field, generally a pretty brutal place for much more accomplished quarterbacks and teams to get much of anything done offensively.

And a battered receiving corps that, after Stevie Johnson hobbled off with a sore groin, offered Manuel the following array of targets for much of the fourth quarter: wide receivers Marques Goodwin (eight NFL regular-season receptions before Sunday), Chris Hogan (three) and Marcus Easley (zero), as well as tight end Chris Gragg (also zero).

Not to mention a running game that never got going, even with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson the healthiest they have both been at the same time in a couple of months.

A defense that got worn down by a previously feeble Steelers running game and had trouble getting off the field (the Steelers were 6-of-9 on third-down conversions in the first half as they took a 10-3 lead, as well as physical control of the game) did not help, either, putting additional pressure on an already-shaky Manuel.

This being the internet, where even the most reasonable of explanations for just about anything get summarily dismissed as excuses, it is easy to forget all those other factors when Manuel looked as bad as he did.

No question, Sunday was Manuel's worst day since arriving in Buffalo. He missed badly on a fade to Johnson from the 1-yard line, turning Jairus Byrd's 57-yard interception return into a field goal that felt like a turnover. He also missed low and wide at various times, and too many of his completions required the receiver to reach back or come to a dead stop, negating any chance of breaking free after the catch.

As noted by Doug Marrone after the game, Manuel's footwork was a big part of the problem. Rather than setting his feet in the pocket, he appeared to be running in place from the time he took the snap until making a throw, robbing his passes of accuracy and zip, both particularly crucial given the blustery conditions and diverse coverage schemes they had to travel through.

Those issues are especially troubling with the New York Jets coming to town Sunday. The Jets, you may recall, sacked Manuel eight times while harassing him into his previous worst day as a pro when the teams met in New Jersey.

If there's any consolation to a display that triggered memories of departed Buffalo quarterbacks we would rather not mention, it's that several of his more acclaimed and/or experienced peers had pretty lousy Week 10s, as well.

Neither reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of Baltimore or Ryan Tannehill, in his second full season as Miami's starter, completed a pass that traveled more than 15 yards downfield.

Last year's other Super Bowl quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, didn't hit on a throw more than 10 yards past the line and got sacked six times (stats on the collective futility of Flacco, Tannehill and Kaepernick gleaned from ESPN's weekly power rankings) in San Francisco's 10-9 loss to Carolina. At home.

Even Andrew Luck, the 2012 first overall pick with a 17-7 record as a starter heading into Week 10, threw four interceptions and took three sacks in Indy's 38-8 loss to the Rams. Also at home. (Yes, Luck also completed 31-of-52 passes for 421 yards, which proves only how empty passing statistics can be when compiled while trailing hopelessly.)

None of which is meant to rationalize Manuel's struggles. But even the best quarterbacks have terrible days J.P. Losman had some pretty good ones, while Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick put together extended early-season stretches -- in 2008 and '11, respectively -- strong enough to make you think the Bills finally might have had the position figured out, before reality set in.

When you consider Manuel has yet to take first-team reps for more than a month straight as a professional, it would be pretty short-sighted to think Sunday is as good as he is going to get, or that there is any point in discussing any other options in the immediate or longer-term future.

Marrone -- who might want to talk to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about designing some goal-line pass plays that don't so obviously look like pass plays before the snap -- seems ready to give Manuel every possible chance. The rookie coach chose to stick with his rookie quarterback with the outcome still in doubt in the third quarter, rather than give relative veteran Thaddeus Lewis a shot at sustaining Buffalo's already wishful playoff hopes.

Either Manuel, Marrone and Hackett will work things out, or not. If they don't, it won't be for lack of opportunity, and that decision won't be made until at least a year from now.'s Marc Sessler offered a list of 12 teams that will or could be looking for a new starting quarterback in the offseason. The Bills, having invested so heavily in Manuel, were not among them.

Unless Manuel experiences a career-threatening injury, change of heart over his career choice or alien abduction, they won't be in that market any time soon. No matter how ugly things get Sunday against the Jets.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

E.J. Returns For Bills' Turning Point

This could be really good.

The Buffalo Bills visit Pittsburgh today with their first pick from each of the past two drafts, their most explosive offensive weapon and their highest-paid defensive player ever all operating at full strength -- or as close to it as possible in Week 10 -- for the first time in 2013.

Now the Bills get a shot at the staggering Steelers, whose resemblance to the team that won two Super Bowls in The Aughts extends only as far as the presence of Ben Roethlisberger, their historically scary uniforms and the hair sticking out from under Troy Polamalu's helmet (at least until Monday).

This could be terrible.

Buffalo has not won a game in Pittsburgh since the week after The Comeback -- 20 years and 10 months ago -- and the 2-6 Steelers figure to be desperate to salvage their season and atone for the worst statistical defensive performance in the franchises 81-season history.

It's Sunday morning, so let's look at the bright side first.

After a month of hoping for anything but complete disaster every time one of the quarterbacks nobody else wanted takes a snap, the development of E.J. Manuel resumes just as C.J. Spiller seems to finally be finding his stride. That's especially helpful with Pittsburgh's run defense ranking as the league's second-most-permissive and showing an uncharacteristic knack for yielding big plays.

The Steelers haven't been able to run much themselves, averaging just 73.6 yards per game on the ground. So they are left to rely completely on Roethlisberger, a strategy that has produced just two wins against six losses. In the last two weeks, he has thrown four interceptions and been sacked 10 times in losses to Oakland and New England.

And they haven't been particularly valiant in defeat. It's one thing to get torched by New England. That happens to everyone. Giving up a 93-yard run to Terrelle Pryor and getting smacked around by the likes of Chicago (at home, no less) and Minnesota (anywhere with a yellow sun) really could not be less Steeler-like.

Meanwhile, Buffalo beat division rival Miami with Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback and dominated the NFL's last unbeaten team everywhere but on the scoreboard despite Jeff Tuel. So Manuel's return -- along with the Buffalo secondary gelling around a healthy Stephon Gilmore and behind a pass rush led by a full-value Mario Williams -- means the Bills start converting all those widely loathed moral victories into real ones.


Let's check ourselves here for a moment.

As promising as Manuel looked at times, his two regular-season road games as a professional resulted in a performance that bordered on the Losmanesque against the Jets and a sprained knee in Cleveland. Manuel has yet to show that he's capable of going into an environment as hostile as Pittsburgh and remain ambulatory, much less win. It can't help that Robert Woods' ankle injury not only means Manuel's emerging favorite target will probably not be on the field, but also that emerging bust T.J. Graham probably will.

And as good as Buffalo's healthy defense looked against Kansas City's no-risk offense, Roethlisberger will give the Bills more opportunities to make big plays -- and to give them up.

Losing today negates much of the good, and good will, created through the first nine games of Doug Marrone's tenure, when each of the three wins were cause for mini-celebration and the six losses could be explained away one way or another, if you try hard enough.

A win in Pittsburgh, though, puts Buffalo at 4-6. Then it's the Jets (1-3 on the road) at Orchard Park, the bye week, the flailing Falcons in Toronto, a swing through Florida to face the equally winless Jaguars and Buccaneers, and back home for a rematch with the Dolphins -- who, you might have heard, have some issues of their own -- before traveling to New England for the season finale.

The first five remaining games look highly winnable, and given the state of the AFC East, there's a good chance the Patriots won't have much, if anything, to play for in the sixth.

Yes, expecting a team that hasn't reached the postseason since 1999, or even had a whiff in nine years, to go on a run like that is an exercise in nearly delusional optimism.

A loss to the Steelers, though, means it is time to start talking about next year, nearly three weeks before Thanksgiving.

And that can't be good.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kiko For Everything

In case you can't read the fine print in the write-in spaces, a Buffalo man looked at the candidates offered up for election by the local political bosses yesterday and said, "No. I can do better."

Instead, he wrote in Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso for every office, from State Supreme Court to the Mayor of Buffalo. Seems like the rookie has been everywhere for the Bills this season, making a team-high 81 tackles and leading the NFL with four interceptions, so maybe he could handle some additional civic duties, as well.

Given the quality of candidates available in most races, he couldn't do much worse.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stay Classy, Incognito

(Note: Monday's news that E.J. Manuel has been cleared to play next weekend in Pittsburgh invalidated much of We Want Marangi's planned post on Sunday's rather bizarre loss to Kansas City. So here's a little something to tide you over in the meantime.)

In these divisive times, when formerly mundane topics like the weather, health insurance and whether or not to run the ball on third-and-goal are fodder for unyielding debate and contrarian punditry, we thank the National Football League for giving us something we can all agree upon:

Richie Incognito is an asshole.

So's his old man, it seems.

Incognito's indefinite suspension by Miami after the revelation that he sent racist, threatening voice and text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin gave credence to the rumors of serial harassment swirling around the Dolphins since Martin left the team last week.

Dolphins officials released a statement tacitly defending Incognito early Sunday, but reversed themselves after learning of a voicemail that has been transcribed as follows in numerous reports:
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of [expletive] . . . I saw you on Twitter, you been training ten weeks. [I want to] [expletive] in your [expletive] mouth. [I'm going to] slap your [expletive] mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face (laughter). [Expletive] you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
Kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? We're not going to chronicle Incognito's previous crimes against sportsmanship and basic human decency, since that has been taken care of elsewhere.

Interestingly, the only stop in his professional and collegiate football career in which his behavior did not make the news was Buffalo. That could be due to the brevity of his time with the Bills, who signed him for the final three games of the 2009 season -- after he had been waived by St. Louis after he was penalized for head-butting twice in the same game.

Incognito started at guard in all three games with Buffalo, including Fred Jackson's 212-yard eruption against Indianapolis in the season finale. But when he became a restricted free agent a few months later, Buffalo did not even try to keep him by making a qualifying offer, allowing him to sign with Miami.

That's right. The 2009-10 Bills, at one of the lowest points of the franchises's post-postseason era and desperately in need of help on the offensive line (and everywhere else), decided Incognito was not worth the trouble.

It took three-and-a-half seasons, but his treament of Martin -- or, to be accurate, the fact his treatment of Martin became public knowledge -- forced the Dolphins to reach the same inescapable conclusion. It also forced the NFL to launch an investigation into the workplace environment fostered by coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland, for whom character is such an important issue in player evaluation that he infamously asked soon-to-be-first-round-draft-choice Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute a few years back.

Perhaps Ireland should include something like, "Is your father, in fact, an asshole?" in future player interviews.

The piece linked above builds a pretty convincing case that the elder Incognito spent at least part of the weekend defending his little boy on a Miami fan message board, rolling out the incredibly weak "BUT RAPPERS SAY THAT WORD!" defense to justify the use of racial slurs while accusing Martin of being a drug addict and wishing death by AIDS on Miami's coach and general manager.

And you thought your parents were embarrassing you on the Internet.

After landing in Miami, it seemed Incognito may have mellowed slightly, tweeting a school picture of himself in a pink turtleneck a few weeks back (which, as you can see for yourself below, is pretty sweet) and winning some award that the Dolphins media gives out in an apparent effort to kiss the behinds of the players it covers even more lovingly.

His messages to Martin suggest plenty of darkness remained, though. Incognito talked about his inner turmoil and attempts to quell it through medication -- prescribed and otherwise -- in an feature story, and also discussed the value of therapy.

The piece offers a gauzy view of Incognito, which is contrasted by a video released yesterday by TMZ, recorded around the time the league's official online outlet was reporting on his maturation and attainment of inner peace.

I'm probably not qualified to dispense psychiatric advice, but it looks like Richie may want to give therapy another shot.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Get Well Really Soon, Thaddeus

Due to circumstances beyond our control, We Want Marangi officially retracts our rather mealy-mouthed prediction that the Kansas City Chiefs will cease to be the NFL's last unbeaten team Sunday in Orchard Park.

The news that Thad Lewis was unable to throw in practice Wednesday, due to having his ribs all but crushed last week in New Orleans, broke about an hour after we made that wildly optimistic call.

When Lewis still could not throw on Friday, that Bills downgraded Lewis' status to doubtful, which in NFL parlance means there is a 25 percent chance he plays Sunday.
Lewis returned to practice on Friday on a limited basis. He participated in drop backs with his fellow quarterbacks during the portion of practice open to the media but did not throw any passes. 
"It's a point of the soreness of the ribs, really just being able to turn and throw and that's the one thing that's holding him back," Bills coach Doug Marrone said. "If he can get by that, then he'll be able to play."
That leaves a 75 percent likelihood that rookie free agent Jeff Tuel, last seen in Cleveland, looking thoroughly lost, makes his first professional regular-season start against the Chiefs, who happen to lead the league in sacks, one of the main reasons they have allowed the fewest points through eight weeks.

A schedule that has included Jacksonville, Oakland, the New York Giants and Tennessee (Ryan Fitzpatrick Edition) has not hurt either, but it is tough to argue the Bills will be any more dangerous with Tuel or the frequently released Matt Flynn flinging the ball around.

To be fair, there are a couple of things working in Tuel's favor.

With Lewis out, Tuel took the majority of snaps in practice this week, meaning he should be much better prepared, or at least appear less terrified, than when he was forced into action against the Browns after E.J. Manuel went down with the knee injury that has kept him out since.

And, although the forecast suggests the predicted early-morning snow and wind will subside by kickoff, the accuracy of meteorological prognostication ranks somewhere below Tuel's completion percentage. So there's an outside shot at an impromptu mini-blizzard disrupting all passing by anyone, leaving the outcome thoroughly to chance.

Then there's the slimming possibility that Lewis' rib muscles heal enough and/or he is legally provided with enough painkillers to keep Tuel and Flynn sidelined.

With a 3-5 record at the halfway point, that's what this Bills season has come to -- hoping a guy with his fourth NFL team who was on the practice squad a month ago can play if he takes the needle, or an unexpected snowstorm on Nov. 3.