Monday, October 11, 2004


In the NFL's AFC Eastern Division, there are two teams that haven't lost a game and two that haven't won one. The Buffalo Bills, bless 'em, are in the latter category. A bad start is about to officially become a bad season, and there's the real possibility that the Bills' first-round draft pick next year will be a high one, maybe even in the top five. That would be the only silver lining to a disastrous season, if not for the fact that General Manager Tom Donahoe traded that pick to Dallas last year so he could take JP Losman. Ouch.

The Bills lost another close game yesterday to the undefeated Jets (and man, did my fingers just now rebel against the act of typing out "undefeated Jets"). They fell behind 13-0, but then they scored twice in the fourth quarter to take a 14-13 lead. And then their defense allowed the Jets to march calmly down the field for the game-winning field goal. Final score, 16-14. So the Bills have lost each of their first four games by an average of 5.5 points. Throw out last week's 14-point loss against the Stupid Patriots, and their average margin of defeat is just 2.7 points. It would be easy to take solace in the fact that they're losing close and hard, but it's still losing, and they're not showing signs of improving in the areas I keep harping on (offensive and defensive line).

Drew Bledsoe looked good again, making few really bad decisions, a few good ones on the fly, and completing a few big passes downfield. He threw one interception on the day, but that was when his Hail Mary heave-ho pass on the game's final play was caught by a Jet, so I don't really count that. On Hail Mary's, there's basically no way for a quarterback to control any aspect of who catches the ball, so if I had my way, INTs on Hail Mary's shouldn't even be counted against a quarterback's stats.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Bills played, on the road, against an unbeaten team, with some significant injuries knocking out starters like Lawyer Milloy. But it was still too little, too late.

As for the rest of the league, some observations:

:: God, can we stop with the comparisons of the StuPats to the 1972 Miami Dolphins? That team posted a 17-0 record for an entire season. If the StuPats pull that off, fine, but this babbling about their streak over two seasons is annoying. I mean, before the Pats took their streak to 19 games, how many people even knew that the old record was 18 games? How many knew who held that record, or tied it last? Great teams are measured by championships. If the StuPats win another Super Bowl this year or next year, then maybe they can be considered a dynasty. But not until then. (And quite frankly, I don't think the current StuPats are remotely as good as some other great single season teams I've seen, like the 1991 Redskins or 1993 Cowboys or 1994 49ers. They're the best in the NFL right now, but I don't think they look as good as some of those teams.)

:: Now that it's October, and enough games have been played that the standings are starting to be meaningful, it's time to compare my preseason predictions to reality. Here are the current standings, with my division picks in perentheses:

AFC East: TIE -- NY Jets, Stupid Patriots (Stupid Patriots)
AFC North: Steelers (Bengals)
AFC South: Colts (Titans)
AFC West: Broncos (Broncos)

NFC East: Eagles (Eagles)
NFC North: TIE -- Lions, Vikings (Vikings)
NFC South: Falcons (Panthers)
NFC West: Seahawks (Seahawks)

So, thus far five of the teams I picked to win divisions are actually leading their divisions. Yay, me! But I seem to have been not only wrong, but disastrously wrong in the other three cases: not only are none of those teams leading their divisions, but all three currently stand with records of 1-3, and two are at the bottom of their divisions (with the Panthers avoiding the cellar by virtue of the Buccaneers' 1-4 record). But I did pick the Colts to be a wildcard, so that one's turning out well; ditto the Ravens, who are at 3-2 and are in the thick of whatever race exists right now. In the NFC, I took the Cowboys and Redskins to be playoff material as well. Neither seems particularly good, with Dallas at 2-2 and the Redskins at 1-4.

(I know that the two divisions that I list as tied aren't really tied, since the NFL's tie breakers have the Jets over the StuPats, for example. But for my purposes, identical won-loss records are a tie.)

Next week brings the Dolphins to Buffalo, so one of the AFC East's winless teams will notch up win number one. I suspect it will be the Bills, but you never know.

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