Buffalo Bills Mid-Season Report (Part I)

By Connor Byrne  |   Wednesday, November 02, 2005  |  Comments( 0 )

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The Buffalo Bills came into the 2005 season with a lot of expectations. Those expectations came from the team's second half of the 2004 season when they went 6-2 and narrowly missed the playoffs. Through the first half of this season, they have failed to meet their own expectations and those of the fans. The Bills have stumbled out to a 3-5 start, good enough for third-place in the AFC East. 3-5 is exactly where they were at this point last year, but the difference is that their schedule is much harder in the second half of this year than in 2004. Any run at a post-season berth is incredibly unlikely. In the first entry of a two-part mid-season report, I will hand out mid-season awards, name the players that have disappointed, and give my outlook for the remainder of the season. Without any further adieu, let's get it going...

Best Victory: Week 1, a 22-7 over the Houston Texans. In this game, the Buffalo Bills totally dominated and it certainly excited the team as well as their fans. Second-year quarterback J.P. Losman looked great in his first career start. However, it would be his only good performance. Running back Willis McGahee rushed for 117 yards and the offensive line dominated. As for the defense, they forced 5 turnovers and had 5 sacks. The performance by the defense prompted Texans quarterback David Carr to say that he's never been more helpless in a game and he's never been that dominated by a defense.

Worst Defeat: Week 8, New England Patriots defeat the Bills 21-16. This was actually Buffalo's best performance of the year. On both sides of the ball, they showed guts and lacked fear in Foxboro. They put up a season high 263 pass yards courtesy of quarterback Kelly Holcomb. Eric Moulds had his best game of the year, Willis McGahee was terrific, and the offensive line was good. However, the line's performance was far from flawless as left tackle Mike Gandy blew a blocking assignment that led to a turnover late in the game. As for the defense, they did a nice job of holding down the two-time defending champs but just couldn't come up with that crucial turnover late to put the game away. This was a bitter loss for the Bills as they failed to take first-place in the AFC East and they blew a 16-7 lead with under ten minutes to play.

Offensive MVP: Running back Willis McGahee. He is currently second in the NFL with 790 rushing yards and is certainly turning into a premier player in the league. He has had some difficulty inside the red zone but a lot of that can be blamed on the offensive line. He is the only real star on the offense and has put the Bills on the map in some respects.

Offensive Disappointment: Quarterback J.P. Losman. The Buffalo Bills organization led everyone to believe that the 2004 first-round pick was ready to take the reins from Drew Bledsoe. However, Losman struggled to a putrid 55.8 quarterback rating and a 1-3 record for the Bills. He was benched in favor of veteran backup Kelly Holcomb. Many are now clamoring for Losman's return as any chance of a playoff run seems like a major pipe dream.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Terrence McGee. By no means is McGee a shut-down corner but he is definitely above average. He has intercepted 2 key passes this year that were both instrumental in wins for the Bills. Nobody on the defense has really been spectacular and neither has McGee. However, he's been the best of an average bunch of players.

Defensive Disappointment: The entire defense (excluding Terrence McGee). After finishing 2nd overall in the NFL last year and leading the league in forced turnovers, the unit was talking about carrying this team to a title and going down as an all-time great group. Well, the 2000 Ravens they are not. Their run defense has been an absolute killer as they are currently ranked 31st in the league. It doesn't help when your best player goes down in week three with a torn Achilles tendon. I'm talking about outside linebacker Takeo Spikes. He's the heart and soul of the defense and a back-to-back Pro-Bowler. Although his backup, Angelo Crowell, has stepped in and done a really good job, he can't replace the intensity that Spikes brought to the table.

Special teams MVP: Kick-return man Terrence McGee. Not only is he the defensive MVP of this team, he is also the special teams' best player. He leads the NFL in return average at 32.0 yards per return. He's yet to find the end zone but it seems like it's just a matter of time before he starts. He has set up many of the Bills' scores on offense by giving the team terrific field position. Over the last couple of weeks, teams are starting to kick away from #24. Last week, the Patriots avoided him at all cost as they opted to kick to Josh Reed instead.

Special teams Co-MVP: Kicker Rian Lindell. Prior to the 2005 season, many wanted Lindell cut from the Bills because he couldn't seem to make anything over 40 yards. Well, so far Lindell has gone an impressive 6/8 from 40+ yards. Overall, he's 17/19 and is currently second in the NFL with 62 points. Lindell could very well make the Pro Bowl this year. He has probably been the most pleasant surprise on the entire team this season.

My outlook on the remainder of the season:

The Buffalo Bills are currently on their bye week and will come off of it to face the Kansas City Chiefs at home on November 13th. That's a somewhat winnable game but there aren't many others on the schedule. After the Chiefs game, the Bills go to San Diego, stay home against Carolina, go to Miami, stay home against the Patriots, stay home against the Broncos, go to Cincinnati, and close the year in New York against the Jets. That will certainly be among the toughest second half schedules in the NFL. Realistically, the Bills need to beat the Chiefs to have any chance at making any sort of run. However, I just don't see it. They will lose to Kansas City, lose in San Diego, lose to Carolina, win in Miami, lose to the Patriots, lose to the Broncos, lose in Cincinnati, and defeat the Jets to conclude the 2005-2006 campaign.

Thus, my second half prediction doesn't hold out much hope for the Bills. They will go 2-6 and close the year 5-11. Head coach Mike Mularkey should just forget about any sort of playoff run and start J.P. Losman for the final eight games of the season. Losman must develop immediately so he can be ready next year. If the coaching staff moves to Losman, it could pay dividends in 2006. In each of their first year's starting, Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer both struggled. However, they are now among the elite quarterbacks in the league and their teams are currently among the NFL's best. The Bills need to take the same approach with Losman so they can be successful in 2006 and beyond.

On the bright side of what could be a 5-11 finish, the Buffalo Bills will have a high pick in next April's draft and could choose from what will be a bevy of terrific college players. Bills' President and general manager Tom Donahoe, currently in his 5th year with the team, needs to be held accountable for his mistakes at the end of the season. The Bills have gone 29-43 under his rule and that is unacceptable. The great fans of Buffalo deserve better from this organization and they haven't gotten it. Since Donahoe has done such a masterful job of selling tickets and marketing to the fans, he will likely stay on in Buffalo and you can expect the ineptitude to continue.

Any comments on this article? E-mail Connor Byrne at byrnecj@sbu.edu
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