Sunday, December 4, 2016
Bills Try Authoring Different Ending To Same Old Story
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The editorial staff of We Want Marangi has been been busy for much of the fall promoting the campaign of its favored presidential candidate and coming to terms with that candidate's shocking loss on Election Day. Time to get back to work.)
Please, stop me if you've heard this one before.
The Buffalo Bills may not have participated in an actual playoff game since Frank Wycheck launched that alleged lateral nearly 17 years ago, but this afternoon's contest in Oakland serves essentially the same purpose.
Upset the 9-2 Raiders, the AFC's biggest surprise so far, and the competitive portion of the 2016 season continues for at least another week. Lose a crucial December road game, as the Bills have been wont to do through the Phillips/Williams/Mularkey/Jauron/Gailey/Marrone/Ryan Era, and everyone can start looking forward to the draft and trying to find someone willing to pay anything for tickets to that Christmas Eve game against the Dolphins.
At 7-5, the Bills would come home for three winnable games at New Era Field, followed by the season finale on New Year's Day, 2017, in New Jersey against the smoldering ruins of the New York Jets.
OK, you've definitely heard this one before. Like nearly every year since Home Run Throwback, save the handful of truly execrable seasons in which the Bills spared everyone the torturous math required to see a path to the postseason and eliminated themselves by Thanksgiving, or before.
But this is where we are, and this is what we do around here.
It's not all that tough to talk yourself into a win over the Raiders, either. Oakland's run defense ranks 26th in the NFL and will be missing three regulars up front. The pass defense has been better, rating an impressive-looking fifth, but will be without cornerback D.J. Hayden, their primary slot defender in pass coverage.
Given Tyrod Taylor's inability or unwillingness to throw the ball over the middle, the absence of Hayden might not mean much. But the battered line should further weaken a pass rush that has managed an NFL-low 17 sacks.
Buffalo won't be especially well-equipped to exploit holes in coverage, with Robert Woods out and Charles Clay missing the trip in order to be present for the birth of his child (as a side note, if you have a problem with the tight end's decision, you either don't have any children or shouldn't).
The Bills' three primary playmakers -- LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins and Taylor -- are all healthy, though, or at least as uninjured as anyone can be at this point in the season. This is the sort of situation where seven-figure contracts are earned.
It is also where coaching reputations are bolstered. Or debunked. Derek Carr has produced most of Oakland's offense, carrying the Raiders to their last two wins despite a marginal running game and, last week in a wild 35-32 win over Carolina, a mangled hand.
Carr's dislocated pinky is reportedly fine, but if Rex Ryan's defense can take away the run, it makes it easier to pressure a quarterback who has been sacked an NFL-low 12 times.
At this point, it doesn't much matter how the Bills win, just that they find a way to pull one out in the stadium where their 2014 playoff hopes imploded against a relatively feeble opponent.
Otherwise, this season starts to feel even more like most of the 16 that came before it.